Easy Vanilla Syrup & Vanilla Iced Coffee

February 7, 2015 | Posted in Recipes | By

We are winding down #VanillaWeek hosted by our friend Terri at Love and Confections. So many great recipes have been posted this week by bloggers across the country! Be sure to look at the list at the bottom of this post for more creative recipes and your last chance to enter the #VanillaWeek Giveaway.

We started out with Vanilla Cream Puffs and Vanilla Butter Shrimp Rolls, both which highlight the rich and complex flavors in Nielsen-Massey vanillas. Today, I wanted to incorporate vanilla into something I consume every day, coffee. Shauna Sever, author of the Pure Vanilla cookbook from Quirk Books, inspired me to make vanilla syrup from scratch. Like many, I’ve bought plenty of bottles of vanilla syrup to enjoy a vanilla latte, vanilla coffee or vanilla iced coffee at home. Shauna uses a whole vanilla bean, which requires 1 day of steeping in the simple syrup before using, you can bet I’ll be enjoying her version on those days when I’m proactive.

When making syrup, use Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste or whole vanilla beans for an upgraded

When making syrup, use Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste or whole vanilla beans for your own “Barista in a bottle”!

Because you can easily substitute Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste for whole vanilla beans, I gave it a try. The result: delicious, intensely vanilla flavored syrup, without the wait. Using Dixie Crystals Extra Fine Pure Cane Sugar cut down my stirring and cooking time significantly, as the extra fine sugar crystals dissolved almost immediately. After making this quick and easy recipe, I’m hooked! See if you don’t feel the same.

Easy Vanilla Syrup
1 Cup

Ingredients

1 Cup Water
1 Cup Dixie Crystals Extra Fine Pure Cane Sugar
2 Tsp. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Directions
Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan over high heat. Stir gently until mixture comes to a low boil, continue stirring and boil for one minute. Mixture will be clear and sugar will be completely dissolved. Remove pan from heat and cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste until incorporated.

When the Vanilla Syrup is completely cool, pour into an airtight bottle or jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Use Easy Vanilla Syrup in cocktail recipes, marinades, salad dressings and pour over seasonal berries to quickly macerate. (Tip: Double the syrup recipe, to have plenty on hand!)

Vanilla Iced Coffee
1 Serving

Ingredients

8 oz chilled coffee or cold brew coffee
1/2 Tsp. Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract*
1-2 Tsp. Easy Vanilla Syrup using Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
Creamer of choice, optional
Iced Vanilla Coffee Cubes (See below)

Directions

Pour chilled coffee into large glass, stir in Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract*, Easy Vanilla Syrup and creamer, if using. Stir to incorporate. Add Vanilla Coffee Ice Cubes and enjoy.

*Due to the delicate nature of Tahitian Vanilla, please make sure the coffee is completely cool or chilled. This special vanilla is very heat sensitive and should only be used for cold preparations

For your next gathering set up an iced coffee bar- a pitcher of chilled coffee, creamer, bottle of Easy Vanilla Syrup and glasses filled with Iced Vanilla Coffee Cubes is an easy and elegant drink station.

For your next gathering set up an iced coffee bar- a pitcher of chilled coffee, creamer, bottle of Easy Vanilla Syrup and glasses filled with Iced Vanilla Coffee Cubes is an easy and elegant drink station.

Iced Vanilla Coffee Cubes

In an airtight jar, chill any leftover brewed coffee. Add 1 tsp Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract to 8-16 ounces of cold coffee and pour into ice cube tray. Freeze. Use Iced Vanilla Coffee Cubes in place of regular ice cubes for iced coffee, slushes and cocktails. Enjoy!

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 #VanillaWeek Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway runs from midnight 2/2/2015 – 11:59pm 2/7/2015

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. All entries for the winner will be checked and verified. By entering you give the right to use your name and likeness. Number of entries received determines the odds of winning. Three winners will be selected. The prize packages will be sent directly from the giveaway sponsors. Lisa of Taste Cook Sip not responsible for the fulfillment or delivery of the prize packages. Bloggers hosting this giveaway and their immediate family members in their household cannot enter or win the giveaway. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.

Please visit these other delicious #VanillaWeek Blogger recipes:

Vanilla Pineapple Margaritas from Pineapple and Coconut
Tomato-Basil Soup with Vanilla from Take A Bite Out of Boca
Vanilla Bean White Hot Chocolate from Love and Confections
Snickerdoodle Waffles from It’s Yummi
Bourbon Vanilla Brownies from Take A Bite Out of Boca
Chocolate Vanilla Macarons from {i love} my disorganized life
Fudgy Vanilla Bean Brownies from Love and Confections

Disclosure: Nielsen-Massey, Dixie Crystals, Bob’s Red Mill, Silpat and Quirk Books provided items to test, use and giveaway. All opinions are my own.

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Vanilla Butter Shrimp Rolls #VanillaWeek

February 4, 2015 | Posted in Recipes | By

We are continuing on with #VanillaWeek, hosted by our friend Terri at Love and Confections. My first recipe, Vanilla Cream Puffs, is a classic dessert which showcases the depth of flavor in Nielsen-Massey vanilla. I decided to go savory with my second recipe, a satisfying shrimp roll that comes together less than ten minutes.

Vanilla Butter Shrimp Rolls

Use Langostino (left) or shrimp (right) poached in vanilla butter for this quick and easy recipe!

Vanilla and shrimp may seem like an odd combination at first glance. However, the natural sweetness in the shrimp is accentuated by the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. You could get fancy and serve the vanilla butter poached shrimp over coconut rice, pasta, or a salad of lightly dressed julienned vegetables. Or, you could be enjoying dinner in under ten minutes and make an average Wednesday night dinner a deceivingly simple and decadent meal. We tested rock shrimp, Langostinos and Gulf Shrimp- all of which can be found at your local seafood counter or freezer case.

Tip: Start by sauteing up the shrimp in the vanilla butter made 1 ½ tsp. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste, depending on the sweetness of the shrimp and your preference, increase by 1/2 Tsp of vanilla Bean paste.

Tip: Start by sauteing up the shrimp in the vanilla butter made 1 ½ tsp. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste, depending on the sweetness of the shrimp and your preference, increase by 1/2 Tsp of vanilla bean paste.

Throughout our test batches, we found that starting with 1 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla bean paste was the way to go. Cook the shrimp and season per the recipe. After the shrimp is cooked through, taste and add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste if you prefer. We found the larger frozen shrimp benefited from the extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste, whereas the fresh shrimp were perfect with the recipe amount of 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Shrimp poached in Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste and butter.

Poaching the shrimp with the tails on, allows for extra flavor. Another flavor boost: remove the shrimp from the pan and toast the bread in the butter for added richness. By the time the bread browns, the shrimp will be cool enough to easily remove the tails.

Vanilla Butter Shrimp Roll
Serves 2

Ingredients

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
8-10 ounces shrimp, 31-40 count OR
8 ounces Rock shrimp or Langostino
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of ground pepper
2 Hoagie Rolls
mixed greens
thinly sliced red pepper

Directions

Cut butter into pats and place in non stick skillet on stovetop over medium low heat. When butter is melted, add Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste and whisk until incorporated. Add shrimp to pan and gently baste with vanilla butter. After 3 minutes turn over and continue basting until shrimp are cooked through and opaque; about 3 minutes per side depending on the size of shrimp. Season with scant amount of salt and pepper, to taste.

Toast rolls in oven and brush with remaining vanilla butter, add lettuce and thinly sliced bell pepper. Divide shrimp between the two rolls and drizzle with any remaining vanilla butter.

Note: Use thinly sliced red bell pepper instead of tomato, to avoid overwhelming the vanilla shrimp with acid. We used a mix of arugula, baby spinach and baby lettuces for a bed of greens on our whole wheat hoagie rolls.

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 preset

Beverage Pairing tip: Enjoy with crisp Champagne, Cava or a dry Riesling. Cheers!

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 #VanillaWeek Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway runs from midnight 2/2/2015 – 11:59pm 2/7/2015

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. All entries for the winner will be checked and verified. By entering you give the right to use your name and likeness. Number of entries received determines the odds of winning. Three winners will be selected. The prize packages will be sent directly from the giveaway sponsors. Lisa of Taste Cook Sip not responsible for the fulfillment or delivery of the prize packages. Bloggers hosting this giveaway and their immediate family members in their household cannot enter or win the giveaway. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.

Please visit these other delicious #VanillaWeek Blogger recipes

Cranberry & Pistachio Pudding Cookies from Take A Bite Out of Boca.
Strawberry Vanilla Smoothies from Life Tastes Good.
Toasted Quinoa Chocolate Bark from Hip Foodie Mom.
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta from That Skinny Chick Can Bake.
Creme Brulee with a Chocolate Ganache Bottom  from Big Bear’s Wife.
Vanilla Bean Grapefruit Curd from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Sparkling Tahitian Vanilla Cupcakes from Pineapple & Coconut
Vanilla Bean Tiramisu from Love and Confections.

Disclosure: Nielsen-Massey, Dixie Crystals, Bob’s Red Mill, Silpat and Quirk Books provided items to test, use and giveaway. All opinions are my own.

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Vanilla Cream Puffs & #VanillaWeek Giveaway

February 2, 2015 | Posted in Recipes | By

Nothing seems fancier than a light and airy vanilla cream puff. While the delicate pastry can seem a bit intimidating to tackle, I was able to make the recipes below in about the same amount of time as a frosted cake. And, my trusty stand mixer did most of the work!

Start by making the pastry cream- which allows plenty of time for chilling, while the cream puff shells are baking and cooling. Fans of traditional eclairs can use the rich and decadent Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, as is, to fill the cream puffs; I prefer a mixture of pastry cream and whipped cream. The full flavor of the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste shines and you can interchange the vanilla bean paste and pure vanilla extract in any of your recipes, using equal measure substitutions.

Specks of vanilla bean throughout the filling are from the Nielson-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste.

Using the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste in place of pure vanilla extract add a depth of flavor and the specks of vanilla bean lend a pleasing visual cue.

Welcome to the first day of #VanillaWeek, hosted by our friend Terri at Love and Confections. I am so excited about this week-long event. Red velvet and chocolate are everywhere this time of year, and the #VanillaWeek Bloggers have come together to focus on one of our favorite flavors – Vanilla. We hope you join us throughout the week where we will be sharing vanilla recipes from breakfasts, drinks, desserts and even savory dishes! Also, don’t forget to enter below for our big #VanillaWeek giveaway so that you can explore all of the wonderful flavors and recipes you’ve seen! 

Thickened Pastry Cream is ready for the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste.

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

Ingredients

5 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
¾ cup Dixie Crystals Pure Cane sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/4  cups scalded milk*
1/4 cup fat free half & half (add to scalded milk)*
1 ½ tsp. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

Directions

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed and add the cornstarch.

With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens, 3-5 minutes. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; until the custard becomes very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla bean paste, butter, and heavy cream.

Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold. Yield: 2 Cups

*Use whole milk for a total of 1 1/2 Cups. (I rarely have whole milk on hand unless using for numerous recipes. Over the years, I’ve used both skim and lowfat milk, with fat free half and half added to make up the final measure.) 

Recipe adapted from Culinate.com Pastry Cream recipe from Ina Garten

The Silpat macaron mat is printed with handy circles to guide you with piping macarons, cream puffs, meringues, cookies and more.

The Silpat macaron mat is printed with handy circles to guide you with piping macarons, cream puffs, meringues, cookies and more.

Cream Puff Shell

Ingredients
3/4 cup lowfat milk*
1/4 cup fat free half & half*
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
Pinch kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
4 large eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the lowfat milk, butter, and salt over medium heat until scalded and butter is melted. Whisk in the fat free half & half and warm through. Add the flour all at once and beat it with a silicone spatula until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time on medium speed until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip, or a gallon zip top freezer bag with a corner cut. Use the Silpat Macaron mat as your guide to pipe dough into mounds 1 1/2 inches wide and 1-inch high onto a baking sheet. With a wet finger, lightly press down the piped swirl at the top of each puff. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating half way through, or until lightly browned. Then turn off the oven and allow the puffs to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from oven, make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape. Set aside to cool.

*Use whole milk for a total of 1 Cup. (I rarely have whole milk on hand unless using for numerous recipes. Over the years, I’ve used both skim and lowfat milk, with fat free half and half added to make up the final measure.) 

Recipe adapted from Foodnetwork.com Profiteroles recipe from Ina Garten

Vanilla Bean Cream Puff Filling

Ingredients

1 Cup heavy whipping cream
1 ½ tsp. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
1 Cup Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream (Chilled)

Directions

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the whipped cream until stiff peaks have formed. Remove bowl from stand, gently fold in vanilla bean paste and 1 cup chilled vanilla bean pastry cream. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip, or a gallon zip top freezer bag with a corner cut.

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Giveaway Collage VanillaWeek
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway runs from midnight 2/2/2015 – 11:59pm 2/7/2015

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. All entries for the winner will be checked and verified. By entering you give the right to use your name and likeness. Number of entries received determines the odds of winning. Three winners will be selected. The prize packages will be sent directly from the giveaway sponsors. Lisa of Taste Cook Sip not responsible for the fulfillment or delivery of the prize packages. Bloggers hosting this giveaway and their immediate family members in their household cannot enter or win the giveaway. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.

 

Please visit these other delicious #VanillaWeek Blogger recipes:

Berry Vanilla and Yogurt Loaf Cake from Take A Bite Out of Boca.
Vanilla Glazed Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits from Frugal Foodie Mama.
I Love You Strawberry Cake from Hip Foodie Mom.
Slow Cooker Cinnamon Roll Casserole from It’s Yummi.
Strawberry Vanilla Cream Pie from That Skinny Chick Can Bake.
Vanilla Balsamic Roast Chicken Thighs from Pineapple and Coconuts.
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake No-Churn Ice Cream from Cupcakes & Kale Chips.
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Fresh Strawberries from {i love} my disorganized life.
Vanilla Cinnamon Candied Pecans from Big Bear’s Wife.
Vanilla Macarons from Love and Confections.
White Chocolate Dipped Snickerdoodles from Life Tastes Good.

Disclosure: Nielsen-Massey, Dixie Crystals, Bob’s Red Mill, Silpat and Quirk Books provided items to test, use and giveaway. All opinions are my own.

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American Gymkhana: Reinventing Brunch Classics with Modern Indian Flavors

January 16, 2015 | Posted in Brunch | By

We had the pleasure of being invited to preview the new brunch being served at American Gymkhana. Located off of Sandlake Road, the theme of modern Indian cuisine shines through the varied menu and craft cocktails being served at this new Orlando restaurant. Enjoy your meal in the chic bar area, one of two dining rooms or the bright and airy veranda which offered a mix of tables and lounge seating.

American Gymkhana Veranda

Brunch is $25 per person, not including tax and gratuity, and includes 2 brunch cocktails, an entree and side. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays, 11:30AM – 3:30pm and a DJ spins live from noon on, both days.

 

The cocktails at American Gymkhana are delicious. Each component is made fresh in house, with a modern Indian twist. The Burning Desire Bloody Mary is seasoned with traditional house blended garam masala, the heat is pleasantly zingy and not overpowering.  (Fans of a well made Bloody Mary should be pleased!) The Peach Bellini is made with fresh peach purée, a hint of fresh ginger and housemade grenadine. Two enthusiastic thumbs up for these tasty cocktails! We also tried the Orange Mango and Lychee mimosas, which were lighter and refreshing. Look for additional brunch beverages to be added as brunch services settles in.

America Gymkhana Mango Orange and Lychee Mimosa

If you prefer to lighten it up- order one of several craft mocktails, which will be equally delicious thanks to the lovely, fresh juices and ingredients. Coffee and tea service are available for an additional charge and are sure to impress. Both coffee and tea are served in a French press and accompanied by sweeteners and steamed milk, a very nice touch as tea and coffee were warm throughout our entire meal.

 

The American Gymkhana brunch menu has a varied offerings of eggs, savory items, sweeter selections and a lunch entrees. Chef Aarthi is quite thoughtful in creating nicely balanced dishes; there was nothing we tasted that was overly spiced, too spicy (heat) or too sweet. We loved the Banjara Chicken & Waffles- juicy fried chicken breast chunks served on top of buttermilk tadka waffle with garlic yogurt. The crisp exterior of the large Belgian-style waffle gave way to a tender and airy center. 

America Gymkhana Chicken & Waffles

Also included with the chicken & waffles was flavored butter, Maple Ginger-Coconut syrup and Honey Zest syrup. We really enjoyed dipping the waffle and fried chicken into the individual syrups, instead of pouring the syrup over the dish. The spices in the chicken played differently with the flavors of each syrup. 

American Gymkhana Syrup

Important to note, neither syrup was overly sweet, a nice change. If diners prefer, traditional maple syrup is available upon request. The Desi Omelette was equally delicious. The generously sized omelette is filled with serrano chili, sautéed onion, cilantro and Amul cheese and served with buttered toast and a choice of micro kale salad or Masala Potato Wedges. The mild heat of serrano chilis combined with the Amul cheese in the omelette was fantastic. Amul is a processed melting cheese, it has a nice creamy flavor and melty texture comparable to melted Brie.

America Gymkhana Omelette

The Masala Potato Wedges were well spiced and satisfying. The flavors complimented the omelette beautifully and the wedges came with a side of scrumptious roasted tomato and onion chutney. (Which, we were happy to dip everything into.)

America Gymkhana Mumbai Frankie

The Mumbia Frankie wrap is filled with tender chunks of Gymkhana chicken (Chicken Tikka), sauteed onions & sweet peppers, appointed with garlic aioli and tucked into a flaky housemade partha. Also served with your choice of micro kale salad or Masala Potato Wedges. The kale and cashew salad was tender and we liked this lighter side paired with this flavorful entree. The Mumbai Frankie is a sharable item or will fill up a hungry diner with ease.

America Gymkhana Bread Service

The Daily Bread Basket is available as an ala carte side and on our visit featured buttered toast, toasted potato rolls and garlic naan. We were happy to have the extra bread to soak up the tempting sauces and chutneys on the table.

American Gymkhana Lamb Bacon

Also available ala carte is the Black Cardamom & Hickory Smoked Lamb Bacon, which we enjoyed as fans of Lamb. It was lighter on the spice notes, we couldn’t help thinking this would be incredibly delicious to all with some kicked up spices or as take on candied bacon.  

We also sampled a few bites of the Warm Spice Granola & Berry Parfait, which was a delicious end to our meal. (Thanks GoEpicurista.com for sharing and the great pic!) For those in and around the attractions area, American Gymkhana is one to put on your list to dine. Save me a seat, as I’ll be visiting the Dr. Phillips area again soon for Chef Aarthi’s delicious and inventive brunch menu. Reservations are recommended, call 407-985-2900 or book through Opentable.com.

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The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014: Not your Grandma’s Thumbprint Cookies with Raspberry Rose Water Jam

December 15, 2014 | Posted in Sweet Treats | By

Christmas Thumbprint Cookies

Christmas was always magical as a child, greatly in part to my grandmother. The whole family would journey to the grandparent’s house in Chicago every year, the annual pilgrimage was a tradition. We arrived to a cheery house filled to the brim with holiday spirit, with three decorated trees and lots of baked goodies. My Grandma & Great Grandma always waited until I arrived to make the Thumbprint cookies.

I started “baking” at a very young age; grabbing a stool to get to counter-height in the large kitchen. My tiny, flour-coated fingers pressed into the soft dough, forming a small divot for the waiting jam. My grandmother would scoop the jam and then slide the sheet pan into the oven. 8-12 min later, the smell of Thumbprint cookies filled the kitchen with Christmas love.

I recently wrote the above passage at the 2014 #FoodFightWrite conference held in Las Vegas. I was completing an exercise in the interactive writing session lead by Kathleen Flinn, author of best selling memoir, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. I’ll talk more about the impact of those sessions in a later post. Writing those words put me on a mission to rework my Grandma’s recipe for my second year participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, to benefit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

This final, final version is a recipe that I’m very happy with and the cookies come together very easily. You can use store-bought or homemade preserves. The Raspberry Rosewater Jam is very simple to make and a nicely tart contrast to the sweeter dough. The chilled dough can be scooped out and filled as is, or rolled into tidy balls. I hope you share some of these cookies with your loved ones this holiday season.

Whether more rustic (right) or refined (left), Thumbprint cookies are a holiday classic.

Whether more rustic (right) or refined (left), Thumbprint cookies are a holiday classic.

Not your Grandma’s Thumbprint cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground vanilla beans (optional)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Raspberry, Raspberry Rosewater or apricot preserves
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar for decoration

  1. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the egg yolk, then stir in vanilla and ground vanilla beans if using. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder; slowly add the dry ingredients into the cream cheese mixture until just combined. Cover, and chill until firm, about 1 hour, or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Using a medium cookie scoop,(2 ¾” cookies) Scoop and place dough 2 inches apart on parchment lined, ungreased cookie sheets. Using your bent index finger knuckle, make a deep indention in the center of each mound of dough, and fill with ½ or so teaspoon of preserves.
  3. Bake for 11 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are golden. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. After cookies have cooled, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, if you choose.

Raspberry Rosewater Jam

6 cups fresh raspberries (about 6-7 .5 pint packages)
1 ¼-1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ – ½ teaspoon rose water (I used Nielson-Massey Rose Water, available online or at gourmet markets.)

  1. Rinse raspberries briefly under water and thoroughly drain. Combine the raspberries, 1 ¼ cups of the sugar and lemon juice in a nonreactive, large, high-sided sauce pan or stock pot. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is melted…(Taste and adjust your sugar by additional ¼ cup if needed, based on ripeness and sweetness of berries!)…until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until the berries have broken down and the mixture is thickened and shiny, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  2. Stir in ¼ teaspoon rose water (taste) and add ¼ teaspoon if needed, based on ripeness and sweetness of berries. Store in the refrigerator for several weeks.

*Store at room temperature for up to 1 year if processed in a water bath.

Interested in last years cookie? Try my Salted Carmel Shortbread Bar.

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Orlando Restaurants and Retailers Honor Veterans With Appreciation Discounts

November 10, 2014 | Posted in Special Offers | By

Veterans Day is Tuesday, November 11, 2014 and businesses across Central Florida and the nation are taking a moment to say thanks. Please check the dates and details listed with each offer, some offers are valid for more than one day or require a stop into the business for a promo card to be redeemed at a later date. Please note that links will take you to the website with full offer details. In most cases, Veteran’s form of ID or Active duty military ID is required to receive special offers.

veterans day 2014

 

A very special thank you to all veterans and active duty military for your service to our country!

Central Florida Restaurants with Veterans Day Free Meals and Offers (2014)

Applebees: Free Meal
On Tuesday, November 11th, veterans and active duty military can choose from a free signature Thank You Meal menu that includes some of Applebee’s favorite items, including a 7 oz. House Sirloin, Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger, Three-Cheese Chicken Penne, Fiesta Lime Chicken, Double Crunch Shrimp, Chicken Tenders Platter or Oriental Chicken Salad. Must present valid Veteran’s form of identification or be in uniform.

Bar Louie: Free Lunch or Dinner
From open to close Monday, November 10th and Tuesday, November 11th every Bar Louie location across the country will offer veterans and military personnel a free meal up to a $12 value when they show valid military I.D. or other proof of service.

Baskin-Robbins donates 10 cents to USO from each ice cream scoop sold 11/11/2014!
Baskin-Robbins will donate 10 cents from each ice cream scoop sold in its U.S. locations on November 11, 2014 to the United Service Organizations (USO), in honor of U.S. troops, military families and veterans.** Baskin-Robbins’support is part of the USO’s “Every Moment Counts” campaign, which calls on Americans to honor and create special moments for troops and their families, who make daily sacrifices as they serve.

BJs Restaurant and Brewhouse: Free Lunch
Complimentary lunch entree, up to $9.95 value. Offer valid to all active duty military and veterans, with proof of service.

Bob Evans: Free (All you can eat) Pancakes
Veterans and active duty military can enjoy free, all you can eat pancakes.

California Pizza Kitchen: Free meal
On Tuesday, Nov. 11, veterans and active military are invited to enjoy a complimentary entrée from a special Veteran’s Day Menu (dine-in only) at all participating California Pizza Kitchen restaurants in the U.S. Please come in uniform or bring your military ID or other proof of service. Offer valid at participating CPK restaurants, excluding Guam, airport, stadium and university locations.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill: Complimentary Appetizer
November 8 -11, 2014
Complimentary appetizer, no purchase necessary for military personnel in uniform or w/Military ID.

Chili’s – Free Meal on Veterans Day
Chili’s is offering all military veterans past and present their choice of one of 7 meals during the dinner hour, or any lunch combo during lunch. Offer only available at participating Chili’s in the U.S. only. Dine-in from limited menu only; beverages and gratuity not included. Veterans and active duty military simply show proof of military service.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores
On Tuesday, veterans get a free Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake dessert, or if you’re not a vet, if you buy the dessert or other retail items, 10 percent of all proceeds will be donated to the USO. Along with the complimentary dessert for veterans, Cracker Barrel guests may purchase the Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola® Cake on Nov. 11, or select retail items from the Red, White & Blue collection from Nov. 1-11, and 10 percent of all proceeds will be donated to the USO.

CraftWorks Restaurants offers free beer for Veterans (Big River Grille, Lake Buena Vista and A1A Ale Works, St, Augustine)
On Tuesday, Nov. 11, veterans and active military personnel can show their valid military-issued identification card with their rank and service branch or come dressed in uniform to receive their complimentary craft beer or appetizer. To locate the nearest restaurant, veterans can visit www.craftworksrestaurants.com.

Denny’s Veterans Day Appreciation Event, Nov. 11, 2014. All active, inactive and retired military personnel are invited to stop by participating locations for a free Build Your Own Grand Slam® on Tuesday, Nov. 11, from 5 a.m. to noon. Offer available in participating locations nationwide.

Einstein Bagels Free Bagel and Shmear
This Veterans Day from 5:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., all active, inactive and retired military personnel are invited to receive a Free Signature or Classic Bagel and Shmear, or any other topping, and no purchase is necessary.

East Coast Wings & Grill: Free Appetizer or dessert
Offering veterans a free appetizer (excluding items off of the Sharables section of the menu) or a free dessert of their choice. The offer is valid at all East Coast Wings & Grill locations nationwide and the veteran must present a valid id in order to take advantage of the promotion.

Golden Corral: Free Meal
On Monday, November 17, from 5 to 9 p.m., all Golden Corral locations in Florida (and Atlanta) will offer a complimentary buffet meal and beverage to veterans and active duty military. Last year, Golden Corral served more than 30,000 veteran free meals. Please visit goldencorral.com/military/ for more information.

Hooters: Free Meal
Tuesday, Nov. 11, Hooters invites all veterans and current servicemen and women to a free meal, up to $10.99 in value with any drink purchase, by presenting a military ID or proof of service at any Hooters location across the country.

IHOP® Restaurants: Free Red, White and Blue Pancakes
Valid to Veterans and Active-Duty Military Personnel on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, 2014, at participating IHOP Restaurants around the nation. IHOP will be honoring the brave men and women who have served, or are serving, in the United States Military by offering them free Red, White and Blue pancakes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Red, White and Blue pancakes, a patriotic twist on a classic IHOP restaurant favorite, features world famous Buttermilk Pancakes with blueberry and strawberry toppings and whipped cream.

Krispy Kreme: Free Doughnut & Coffee
Offering a free doughnut and coffee to all those served or currently are serving. Proof of military service required or those in uniform. Only at participating locations.

Little Caesars: Free Crazy Bread
All United States armed forces veterans and active military members get a free order of Crazy Bread® with proof of military status at participating stores nationwide this Veterans Day, 11/11/14.

Longhorn Steakhouse: Free Texas Tonion and beverage
Enjoy a complimentary Texas Tonion appetizer and non-alcohol beverage with proof of service on Veterans Day. Offer valid for veterans and current service members, show a valid ID.

McCormick and Schmick’s: Free Entree 11/9/2014
Enjoy a complimentary entree from special menu on Sunday, November 9th, 2014- . All veterans must show official verification. Veterans Day entrees must be enjoyed at the restaurant. No to-go orders permitted. Choose from: Salmon Rigatoni, Buttermilk Fried Shrimp, Cedar Planked or Grilled Salmon, Blackened Chicken Fettuccine, Parmesan Crusted Chicken, Beer Battered Fish & Chips, Cashew Crusted Tilapia, Tender Beef Medallions, Romano Chicken Chopped Salad, or McCormick’s Cheeseburger.

Menchie’s: Free Frozen Yogurt
On Veterans Day, Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 Veterans and active duty personnel get a free (up to) 6 oz. frozen yogurt. Show a valid ID or be in uniform to receive.

Panera Bread: Free You Pick Two Combo
On Veterans Day, Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 Veterans and active duty personnel get a a free “You Pick Two Combo”  Show a valid ID or be in uniform to receive.

Olive Garden: Free Meal
All veterans and military active duty will receive a free meal from a special menu on Veterans Day. Show a valid ID or be in uniform to receive.

Outback Steakhouse: Free Bloomin’ Onion® and a beverage
Outback Steakhouse is proud to serve those who serve our country this Veterans Day. On Nov. 11, Outback is honoring all active and retired military personnel with a free Bloomin’ Onion and a Beverage. Plus, to show continued support, Outback is offering all Military Mates, including active or retired military personnel and their families, 15% off their entire check from Nov. 12 through Dec. 31 with a valid ID at participating restaurants.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park Discount
All veterans and military active duty will receive 10% off their purchase on November 11, 2014in honor of their service.

Red Lobster: Free Appetizer & drink
From Monday, Nov. 10 through Thursday, Nov. 13, Red Lobster will be thanking veterans, active duty, active serving military and reservists with a free select appetizer, including the new crispy shrimp lettuce wraps or several other options.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers: Free Burger
In honor of Veterans Day, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. (Red Robin) will offer a FREE Red’s Tavern Double® burger with Bottomless Steak Fries®* to all veterans and active duty military guests on Tuesday, Nov. 11, at participating restaurants.

Smokey Bones: Free Entree
Free entree to all veterans and active duty military guests on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. Choices include 1/2 lb. Premium Burger, Chicken Fingers, Nutty Chicken Salad, Pulled Pork Platter, Tomato Basil Cavatappi.

Starbucks: Free Coffee
Veterans, active duty military and military spouses get a free tall (12 oz.) brewed coffee at Starbucks on Veterans Day.

Texas Roadhouse: Free Lunch
Select from a free special veterans lunch menu including a beverage and sides no November 11th, 2013. Free Lunch (includes choice of Coca-Cola product, Iced Tea/Sweet Tea or coffee) Choose from: 6 oz. Sirloin Steak with two sides, Country Fried Chicken with two sides, Country Fried Sirloin with two sides, Pulled Pork Dinner with two sides, Grilled Pork Chop (Single) with two sides, All-American Cheeseburger with fries, BBQ Chicken Sandwich with fries, Pulled Pork Sandwich with fries, Grilled Chicken Salad, or Chicken Critter Salad.

TGI Fridays: Free Lunch
Veterans and active duty military service members are invited have lunch on T.G.I Friday’s this Veterans Day, Tuesday, November 11, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Travel Centers of America: Free Meal
On Veterans Day, November 11, all CDL drivers who are Military Veterans eat FREE at participating full-service restaurants with proof of service. Must present valid ID.

Village Inn: Free Stack of Pancakes, Belgian Waffle or French Toast
Veterans Day, November 11, 2014 get is offering a choice of free pancakes, Belgian waffle or French toast. Offer valid to veterans and active military. No coupon or purchase necessary; at participating locations.

WaWa: Free Coffee
Wawa Inc. will offer free coffee of any size to veterans, active military members and their families, all day. The giveaway will take place on November 11, 2014, at all of Wawa’s more than 650 convenience stores throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.

Central Florida Retailers with Veterans Day Offers (2014)

7-Eleven
Retired and active military members can stop by participating 7-Eleven stores and receive a free car wash. Offer valid only at locations that operate car washes.

Bed and Breakfasts Come Together to Salute Our Heroes.
A free night stay on Veterans & Remembrance Day. What started with one innkeeper’s act of paying it forward, has turned into hundreds of inns across North America banding together for a great cause and providing complimentary stays in commemoration of Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in Canada. For a full list of inns offering free rooms and discounts to military personnel this Veterans Day, Remembrance Day and beyond, visit http://www.BnBFinder.com/military.

Bed Bath and Beyond – Bed Bath and Beyond is offering veterans 20% off their entire purchase on Nov. 8-11th, 204. This is good for active duty, DoD, reserves, guard, retirees, veterans, and military spouses.

Big Lots
10% off your entire purchase. Offer available to active duty, Guard/Reserve, veterans, retirees and their immediate family members, with valid ID. Call ahead to verify.

Walt Disney World
Disney is offering new military discounts and deals for 2014 and beyond!

Enterprise Holdings Honors Active Duty Military and Veterans Throughout November
Enterprise Car Sales is offering a special 24-month/24,000-mile powertrain limited warranty on each vehicle purchased by an active member of the United States military or a U.S. veteran this month. Enterprise Car Sales is an affiliated service of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. See full details here.

Food Lion 10% discount
In honor of Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, Food Lion stores will offer a 10 percent discount to active, retired and honorably discharged military personnel to show their support and appreciation for those who are serving or have served in the United States Armed Forces.

Free Car Washes around Central Florida (and nationwide) through many retailers for veterans. Visit Grace For Vet’s  for a full listing of participating locations, narrow the search to Florida or your preferred state.

Great Clips: Free Haircut
Shears Salute: On Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, customers who come in for a haircut at any U.S. Great Clips salon will receive a free haircut card to give to an active/inactive/retired military member of any branch, including the National Guard. Military members can also come in on Veterans Day for a free haircut or to pick up a free haircut card to use, with proof of service, any day before Dec. 31, 2014.

Hair Cuttery’s Share-a-Haircut Program to Benefit Veteran Service Men and Women
For every adult haircut purchased on Tuesday, Nov. 11, a free haircut certificate will be donated back to a veteran in communities local to Hair Cuttery’s almost 900 locations. In each market, Hair Cuttery will partner with local veteran’s organizations to reach those in need through the donation of haircut certificates.

Home Depot Veteran’s Day Sale and Veteran’s Discount
The 10% military discount is available to: Active-duty military members, National Guard and Reserve members, retirees, honorably discharged veterans and immediate family members of all those groups are eligible. Discount not to exceed $500. Home Depot offers a 10% discount to all veterans during Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day. Home Depot offers the 10% discount year round to for active duty and retirees. Customers requesting a discount must be able to show a valid military ID card or other proof of military service (a DD Form 214 or VFW membership may qualify).

JC Penny: 20% off  
Veterans and their family members can enjoy an extra 20% off on purchases in-store (some exclusions may apply) from November 3-15, 2014 by presenting a military ID or proof of service.

Lowe’s
All veterans receive a 10% discount on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. The offer is available in stores only. The 10% military discount is available to: Active-duty military members, National Guard and Reserve members, retirees, honorably discharged veterans and immediate family members of all those groups are eligible. Customers requesting a discount must be able to show a valid military ID card or other proof of military service (a DD Form 214 or VFW membership may qualify).

Macy’s: 20% Savings Pass 
Macy’s Veteran’s Day Savings Pass valid through November 11th, 2014 or use code code: VETS for up to 20% off.

National and Florida Parks
The entry fees to United States national parks, including several in Florida, are waived for Veterans Day weekend, November 9 to November 11. The following National parks are in Florida- Dry Tortugas National Park in Key West, Everglades National Park in Homestead, Canaveral National Seashore in Titusville,  Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine,  Gulf Islands National Seashore in Gulf Breeze.

Rabbit TV Plus: Free Service to Troops for the Holidays
Starting December 1st, service members or their loved ones will be able to redeem one free Rabbit TV Plus subscription from FreeCast’s website www.freecast.com. As millions of families come together and give thanks this winter, the Rabbit TV Plus Team is proud to be able to show appreciation to our men and women in uniform.

Seaworld Parks & Entertainment Veterans Discount
Waves of Honor: Veterans get 50% off tickets now through November 11th, 2013. Seaworld properties include Sea World, Aquatica, Busch Gardens, Sesame Place, Adventure Island, Water Country USA and Discovery Cove. Active Duty military members who already used their free admission for the year can also get 50% off tickets

Sleep Number Beds: $700 off
Through Nov. 16, Sleep Number is offering current and past military personnel $700 off on a Sleep Number m7 bed plus 24-month financing and free standard shipping. Other Military deals available, as detailed on website and in store.

The movie “Fury”:  Celebrates Veterans Day And Remembrance Day With Free Admission For Veterans And Military Personnel
Military personnel and veterans are invited to celebrate Veterans Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada with free admission all day tomorrow to Sony Pictures Entertainment’s feature film Fury. At select theaters nationwide, veterans and military personnel who present proper military identification will receive free admission to the powerful David Ayer film starring Brad Pitt.

Sport Clips: Free Haircut
Haircuts for Heros 2013: Free haircuts to active-duty U.S. service members and veterans on Nov. 11 with valid proof of service. For a list of participating stores: http://www.sportclips.com/events-promotions/HAH2013.html

Universal Orlando
Universal Studios Offering New Military Discounts and Deals For 2014

Walgreens Military Tuesday Discounts 
Walgreens is offering 15% off eligible store items and 20% of Walgreens, and W brand products on Tuesday, Nov. 11. This discount is available to all veterans and active duty military personnel.

Westgate Resorts: Free 3 day stay from choice of properties
Beginning November 11, 2014 at 9 a.m., the first 1,500 eligible service members who complete the online military appreciation form at www.westgatedestinations.com/thankyoumilitary will receive a complimentary three-day, two-night vacation at a Westgate Resorts property in either Orlando, Fla., River Ranch, Fla., Branson, Mo. or Gatlinburg, Tenn.

The above listing of 2014 offers has been compiled from various sites and sources, then cross checked for validity. Check Restaurant News, The Military WalletMilitary.com and militarybenefits.info for additional (nationwide) listings and for updated and additional information. Once again, thanks to all servicemen and women for their service. #HonoringVets

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Magical Dining at Kasa Restaurant & Raw Bar in Downtown Orlando

September 27, 2014 | Posted in Dining out | By

Kasa Restaurant & Bar is located in The Plaza Building in the heart of downtown Orlando. The sleek and contemporary restaurant opened its doors last fall and has been making a delicious impression on Orlando area diners ever since. I was invited down to experience their Magical Dining menu, which offers full portions of signature menu items from the Kasa dinner menu.

Kasa Restaurant & Raw Bar Magical Dining

I had a chance to talk with Executive Chef Shawn Kaplan before dinner, who shared his enthusiasm for Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month and Kasa’s participation. “Well,  aside from the fact that all participating restaurants are supporting a local charity, it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to introduce Orlando to Kasa. If they haven’t experienced us already, we wanted to showcase some of our more popular items on our dinner menu, so guests could get an idea of the cuisine they can expect from us on future visits.”

Kasa Ahi Tuna and tostones Magical Dining

The Tuna & Tostones appetizer is made with spicy ahi tuna, house made tostone chips, avocado puree, tropical mango relish. The spicy tuna had a pleasant heat that was balanced by the creamy avocado and mango relish. Additional plantain chips are available, if needed.

Kasa Adobo Pork & Crispy Polenta Cake Magical Dining

Adobo Pork & Crispy Polenta Cake features a tender, chipotle braised pork, pickled red onions, avocado puree, queso fresco and cilantro. Chef Shawn braises the pork in chipotle and Mexican beer, with coriander, cumin and oregano for 6 hours till the meat is tender and infused with the proper level of flavor. The polenta is made and allowed to set up before cut into rounds and fried up to a golden crisp exterior.

Kasa Corn Magical Dining

Kasa Corn: Roasted corn with miso lime aioli, Togarashi spices, Manchego cheese and queso fresco elevating the flavors of Mexican street corn with Manchego cheese and a fusion of Japanese flavors. Togarashi is a traditional blend of chile, orange peel, ginger, seaweed, poppy seeds and sesame seeds that sits on Japanese tables, the way that salt and pepper sits on American tables. Of course, while sitting in the lovely ambiance of Kasa, one might be hesitant to pick up a corn cob and take a bite. Yes, you could take a steak knife and attack the cob in a slightly more gentile fashion…but our table bit into our cobs with gusto and reveled in the moment. The crunch and sweetness of the roasted corn, the creamy and savory aioli blending with the savory cheeses and spices was a delicious and unexpected combination.

Kasa Grilled Chimichurri Hanger Steak Magical Dining

I asked Chef Shawn what the most popular dish for Magical Dining has been and the Grilled Chimichurri Hanger Steak was the definitive answer. Chef Shawn shared one of his secrets to getting the best results from this humble cut of meat, he uses a Jaccard to tenderize the steak. The bladed tool allows the emulsified Chimichurri sauce to deeply penetrate and flavor the meat, the resulting steak was very tender and flavorful.

Kasa Pan Seared Salmon Magical Dining

Pan Seared Salmon rested on a bed of ratatouille risotto in red pepper consomme, topped with sauteed zucchini and roasted tomatoes. The Alaskan salmon was cooked beautifully with a nice sear on one side. Chef Shawn explained that the dish took the traditional flavors of a ratatouille and deconstructed the various flavor components. The risotto was creamy, with roasted eggplant and marscapone flavoring the al dente arborio rice. The richness of the risotto was balanced with the brighter acidity in the consomme.

Kasa Vegetable Spring Pea Gnocchi Magical Dining

Vegetable Spring Pea Gnocchi is a delightful dish made with handcrafted gnocchi, an exotic mushroom ragu and Parmesan cheese, resting on a richly flavored porccini fondue. A flavorful and complex dish, that was immensely satisfying. Chef Shawn will be placing a fall spin on gnocchi very soon, with house-made pumpkin gnocchi and a savory cider broth. After enjoying the layers of flavors and textures in the current gnocchi dish, I cannot wait to taste the fall update.

Kasa Wrecked Apple Pie Magical Dining

Magical Dining guests have a choice of the Decadent Chocolate Cake or the Wrecked Apple Pie with Caramel Sea Salt Ice Cream. Our table opted for the Wrecked Apple Pie all around; the wrecked “pie” was apples and streusel wrapped in a delicate pastry, fried and then cut into slices. The Salted Caramel Ice Cream is topped with a light sprinkling of maple salt, giving a butterscotch flavor to bites of the ice cream; a delicious finish to a wonderful meal at Kasa. Look for all of these menu items priced separately on Kasa’s regular menu, or enjoy a Magical Dining meal through September 30, 2014. Reservations can be made by calling (407) 985-5272 or by booking through Opentable.com.

For more information on Chef Shawn Kaplan and Kasa, my friends over at Celebrity Chef 4 You recently posted a great video interview, be sure to check it out.

Disclosure: I was a guest at a media dinner, no other form of compensation was received and the opinions in this post are my own. Cheers!

Kasa Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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Magical Dining: Eleven at Reunion Resort

September 12, 2014 | Posted in Dining out | By

Eleven Magical Dining 2014

Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month is in full swing and like many around Orlando, I’ve made my list and am checking off restaurant visits. Eleven in the Reunion Resort by Wyndham prepares contemporary steakhouse fare and affords impressive views from it’s rooftop perch.

Adjacent to the pool area, there are panoramic views from just about every table in the contemporary restaurant. The open kitchen is also visable from the dining room and the enticing aromas tempted us throughout our meal.

Eleven Chef E Magical Dining 2014

Chef Etienne has taken over the helm and is putting his spin on this classic steakhouse menu. The Magical Dining menu is a nice sampling of items offered on the regular menu at Eleven.

Eleven Salad Magical Dining 2014

Strawberry & Mandarin Orange Salad Mixed Greens, Caramelized Pecans, Sundried Tomato, Goat Cheese, fried carrots and Raspberry dressing. This is a flavorful salad, with the fried matchstick carrots lending a very pleasing texture and unexpected sweetness to the dish.

Eleven Calamari Magical Dining 2014

Fried Calamari served with Sun-Dried Tomatoe Aioli. Tender, crisp fried calamari were nicely complimented by the tasty tomato aoili. This generous portion is easily sharable.

Eleven Chicken Magical Dining 2014

Moving on to entrees, diners can choose from three entrees. Organic Tanglewoood Farms Chicken with Citrus Braised Kale, Havarti Polenta and Tomato demi. The substantial portion of tender chicken was served on top of creamy, cheesy grits. The Citrus Braised Kale was delicious, everyone at the table loved this preparation!

Grilled Hanger Steak with Whipped Potatoes, Haricot Verts and Chimichurri arrived at the table cooked medium rare and ready to please. Those in search of a nice steak will be very happy with this satisfying dish.

Eleven Salmon Entree Magical Dining 2014

Bourbon Glazed Salmon with Sweet Corn and Bourbon Saute had lots of flavor in every component. The Bourbon glaze hit the right balance of bourbon and was a heavenly addition to both the tender Norwegian Salmon and the bacon, corn saute. (For those non meat eaters, the kitchen is happy to accommodate requests and can make the saute without bacon.)

Eleven Gelato Magical Dining 2014

Magical Dining desserts showcase the talents and palate of the in-house pastry program. Each of the ice creams, gelatos and sorbets are made onsite, from scratch. The pastry chef created fresh and balanced fruit sorbets, the flavors regularly rotate. I hope the mango or blackberry sorbet are on the menu when you visit. Both tasted of the seasonal, ripe fruit that was used to create the refreshing finishers. Gelato was equally pleasing, the vanilla complex and the chocolate impactful.

Diners may also choose to enjoy the classic Creme Brulee, richly vanilla flavored with the signature crisp sugar crust and topped with fresh berries.


Parking is complimentary and if you book your reservations thoughtfully, you will enjoy all of the Disney fireworks during or after your meal. Fireworks usually start around 8 and end around 10 in the various parks.
Eleven Cocktails Magical Dining cropped 2014
Enjoy the breeze and a rooftop view, preferably with one of Eleven’s well crafted cocktails. I enjoyed a classic French 75 from the “Historic” offerings and sampled a sip of the Perfectly Peach Manhattan from the “Modern Interpretations”, either are a lovely way to start or finish your meal. Those who visit Eleven during magical dining will receive a voucher for a complimentary appetizer on a return visit during the month of October. Reunion Resort is also participating in Visit Orlando’s Magical Nights promotion, where an overnight stay and Magical Dining dinner for two at Eleven is $225.

Reservations for Eleven may be booked online on OpenTable.com or by calling (407) 396-5290. For more delicious Magical Dining pictures, search #ElevenSteakhouse on Twitter and Instagram and be sure follow Taste Cook Sip at @TasteCookSip.

Disclosure: I was a guest in connection with a Magical Dining media event hosted at Eleven. No other form of compensation was received and the opinions in this post are my own. Cheers!

Eleven on Urbanspoon

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Visit Orlando 2014 Magical Dining: Siro Urban Italian Kitchen [Preview]

August 25, 2014 | Posted in Dining out | By

TCSmagicaldining2014

Visit Orlando is rolling out 2014’s Magical Dining Month with an extra week of dining deals- starting on Monday, August 25, 2014. Orlando’s top restaurants and chefs have developed unique and creative three-course meals for area diners to enjoy, for the fixed price of $33.00 per meal, $1.00 of which is donated to The Foundation For Foster Children. In addition to a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Orlando’s finest in dining, area resorts and hotels have joined in with the Magical Nights promotion, featuring special packages to enjoy a night or two away throughout the month of September. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying many Magical Dining restaurants over the years. From local neighborhood gems to the attractions restaurants headed up by celebrity chefs. If you enjoy food, now is the time to grab your fork and dig in to all that Orlando dining has to offer.

MD14 Siro lobby

I recently previewed the Magical Dining menu at Siro Urban Italian Kitchen located in the Orlando World Center Marriott, which is in close proximity to Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, the Orange County Convention Center and Universal Studios.

MD14 Siro Chalk board

We were greeted by Restaurant Manager, Lindsey Smith and Chef de Cusine, Alexia Gawlak who explained the new direction of the Siro menu, focusing on the Italian methods of preparation which showcase the quality and freshness of local, seasonal ingredients. Tim Bradstreet, Lead Bar Operations for Siro, walked us through the optional wine, craft beer or cocktail pairing, which can be added on to any Magical Dining Meal, for just $10.00.

MD14 Siro Fig Old Fashioned

Diners can enjoy three (5oz) glasses of wine, three (16oz) craft beer pairings or the Bartender’s whim cocktail, a hand crafted beverage made to compliment your meal. I thoroughly enjoyed the Fig Old Fashioned, which may be one of the available beverages when you dine. I hope it is!

MD14 Siro Tomato salad

I enjoyed sampling the Heirloom Tomatoes with burrata & Malton sea salt. The acidity in the ripe tomatoes balanced out the rich, creaminess of the burrata cheese. A nice starter alone or to share with a friend.

MD14 Siro Mito Fristo

I also enjoyed sampling the Fritto Misto, a mix of fresh rock shrimp, oysters, grouper and frog legs served with a lemon-caper aioli. The Rock shrimp were sweet and tender, the oysters plump, grouper pleasingly firm and flaky. The frog legs were tender and perfectly fried. The accompanying lemon caper aioli was lightly lemon with a briny tang to the finish. Rounding out the appetizers was The Grilled Quail with fennel sausage, Andrew over at Tastes of Orlando has a great picture, it was his favorite appetizer of the three.

MD14 Siro Chicken

The  Magical Dining entrees include a Chicken, Seafood and Steak options. The Chicken Milanese, features locally grown My Yard Farm greens and marinated baby heirloom tomatoes on top of a breaded Chicken breast cutlet.

MD14 Siro Seafood

The Buccatini Al Frutti Di Mare is a plentiful dish of mussels, clams, shrimp and fennel sausage in a tomato saffron brodo.  The broth’s flavor was very delicate and subtle, the primary flavors of the dish was the fresh seafood and zesty sausage.

MD14 Siro Steak 2

The New York Strip was topped with a bone marrow gremolata butter and served with pan seared baby summer squash ragout on the side. The strip steak was cooked to ordered temperature and the flavorful dish received plenty of happy nods.

MD14 Siro tiramisu

The Magical Dining dessert choices at Siro are all traditionally Italian. The Classic Tiramisu is a nice finish to the meal; the dessert wine pairing of Moscato is a pleasing contrast to the light and creamy dessert.

MD14 Siro Zeppole

The Zeppole were light and almost custard-like in the center, they melted in your mouth. The fried dough is dusted in sugar and served with a bittersweet chocolate ganache sauce. The Bells Brewery Kalamazoo stout was a delicious pairing, complimenting the rich chocolate. My favorite dessert!

MD14 Siro Panna cotta2

The Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta had the proper velvety texture, the vanilla was a nice accent to the accompanying fruit. The Moscato or Craft Cocktail was a nice pairing with this final dessert option. The service was paced beautifully, allowing enough time to savor each course without feeling rushed. I ordered the wine pairings with my dinner, a bargain for just $10.00 additional, which is the average price of just one glass of wine when dining out.

Valet parking is complimentary at Siro during Magical Dining month and Orlando World Center Marriott is participating in the Magical Deal Month in combination with Hawk’s Landing Steakhouse and Grille’s Magical Dining menu. Sounds like a lovely way to spend a weekend! Book your Magical Dining reservation by calling Siro Urban Italian Kitchen at (407) 238-8619 or book through OpenTable.com now through September 30, 2014.

 

Siro Urban Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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2014 Food and Wine Conference: Tales of a first time attendee

August 3, 2014 | Posted in Special Events | By

The Food and Wine Conference took place July 18-20, 2014 at the beautiful Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida. Bloggers from all over the US, and the world, attended the food-centric event.

F&W shingle creek

It was my first time attending a conference of this nature, to focus on my food writing. I had interacted with a few of the bloggers online and via email, but nothing really prepares you to be part of a group of 300 dynamic personalities who are there to hone their craft, learn and celebrate the camaraderie started for many on #SundaySupper.

We were greeted by Food and Wine Conference Organizer, Isabel Laessig, and welcomed personally by Mr. Harris Rosen.

F&W Harris

Of course there was amazing food…

F&W tuna app

Prepared by the best…

F&W Emilyandchef

Emily Ellyn and Executive Chef Jorge Oliveira share some trade secrets over beef tenderloin.

Which was a wonderful way to break the ice and get to know people. As those who live and write about food regularly touch on, nothing brings people together like sharing a great meal.

The second day brought all conference attendees the wealth of information on many subjects. From SEO 101 with Dan Cristo and Nicole Cook to social media tips and tricks on G+, Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest from panelists Dennis Littley, Lora Amato, Brianne Izzo, Kim Vij and Amanda Boyarshinov. There was a wealth of useful information packed into each session.

F&W NHIE BMW

Lunch break provided the opportunity to let off some steam and enjoy the beautiful Florida day, BMW convertible courtesy of Fields BMW

Not everything was technical, we were treated to the vivacious personalities of Coryanne Ettiene and Jackie Gordon, who reminded us all to stay true to ourselves and to maintain our authentic voice. The cooking entrepreneurs in the audience appreciated the straight talk on taking prized home recipes into professional development, presented by Erika Kerekes and Michele Northrup.

In-between the sessions, attendees exchanged information, shared our takeaways and brainstormed on some of our individual challenges. The subject-matter experts, keynote speakers and brand representatives sat in on every session and welcomed questions from conference goers. There was a tangible presence of comradeship and support connecting each person from the seasoned pro, to the person about to sit at the keyboard for the first time to contribute their passion and knowledge to the blogosphere.

The feeling in the air was energizing, uplifting and inspiring; I left the second day of the 2014 Food and Wine Conference excited to delve into the final day of demos and work sessions.

Fields Auto Group provided the shuttle service to and from Rosen Shingle Creek and  The Rosen School of Hospitality.

Fields Auto Group provided the shuttle service to and from Rosen Shingle Creek and The Rosen School of Hospitality. We enjoyed riding in luxury & style!

Sunday’s schedule could be split up between demos and interactive sessions or a more academic lecture track. I would have loved to have attended all of the wonderful sessions, but was able to bounce between sessions to get the most for my individual needs. I took notes, pictures of slides, asked questions and felt like I was back in school at one point. So.Much.Great.Information.

F&W whitney

The last day wrapped up with Whitney Miller demoing and addressing the group on recipe development, her journey on Master Chef and making several of her dishes. Whitney was warm and approachable, answering questions and signing books after the session.

The conference was over, but the fun had not ended. What better way to celebrate this great weekend, than to share a Sunday Supper together? We headed over to Taverna Opa in Pointe Orlando to start the evening by enjoying a delicious Greek meal.

Our large group was entertained by a belly dancer, we danced on tables, danced around the restaurant and celebrated our wonderful journey. Together.

F&W opa

Texas, North Carolina and Florida all represented by the bloggers in this photo.

A special thanks to all of the conference organizers, speakers, contributors and sponsors. Our host venues Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel and the Rosen School of Hospitality were extraordinary and very easy to navigate. Big thanks to all of the wonderful people I interacted with and all of the fellow food writers out there who took the time to pause (Wait, first take a picture of that awesome dish!) and share their experiences. I loved meeting and interacting with everyone!

I’m already looking forward to  the 2015 Food and Wine Conference and hope that you’ll join us. If you are reading this post and have any questions, please reach out by commenting or drop me a line.

SAVE THE DATE:

2015 Food and Wine Conference at Rosen Shingle Creek

July 17-19, 2015

2015 Food and Wine Conference Discount Code: FWC15wilkL

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