Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tuscany Grill & Shrek the Musical

Nick and I had a great night out the beginning of the month. I'm always looking for authentic Italian food, which is hard to come by in Orlando-city of chain restaurants. We just happened to find Tuscany Grill by chance on our way to see Shrek the musical.

What luck we found this place-with a tagline-un"chain" your appetite! This place was pretty busy, a few different companies were having Christmas parties there and other individuals dining. We decided to start our meal with the "Fondutta" Creamy goat cheese, portabella and white truffle oil, baked and served with

Then what to for the main course. So many choices and they all looked so good. Nick and I decided to each pick one of the specials. 

Mine was salmon with jumbo shrimp and grits. Amazing. It was so fresh! I love good grits.

Nick had filet mingnon on top of fresh made gnocco. Which was also great! Fresh made pasta just has this great taste you can't pass up.
After a great meal we headed out to see Shrek the Musical! What a fun show that was great for all ages!

Holiday Traditions

The holidays are always hectic. Running around shopping, I never know if I bought the right gift. Did I remember everyone? Then there's the food-the best food always makes its appearance around the holidays. Stuffing myself silly, then regretting it later.

Since this is my 3rd year in Florida, I'm starting to make new traditions along with my old traditions. So I must preface this by saying I'm used to cold weather for Christmas. Sunny, 70 degree days, just don't cut it for me. Sorry! What better way to put you in the Christmas spirit than visiting ICE! at Gaylord Palms. If wearing a parka in 9 degree weather doesn't make me feel at home-I don't know what will.

Can you guess the theme this year? Shrek the Halls!

Also this year at Gaylord Palms you could decorate a gingerbread house, family, or ornament and meet the famous gingerbread man "Gingy".

How cute is this? We had a blast decorating and taking photos with Gingy. 

My next holiday tradition in Orlando-The Osborne Spectacle of Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Thousands, no, make that millions of lights synched to holiday music. You really have to see it to believe it. 

This year I also got the chance to visit Universal Studios-this is probably the weirdest photo for me to take-Wearing shorts in front of a Christmas tree!

Now for my old traditions-which mainly take place in Philadelphia, PA. As a child my mom and grandmother would always take me to the city on PATCO to see the Dickens Village of a Christmas Carol. This is now housed in Macy's. Old figures that tell the story are still slowly moving to pass on this great story to generations to come. 

While there you have to stay and see the light show, which is every hour on the hour. It lasts about 10 minutes. Julie Andrews narrates the holiday songs everyone loves while music and lights flash along. 

One special treat I always look forward to are Chrusciki-they are a Polish food. The best way I can describe them are somewhat related to funnel cake, but not very cake like. Fried dough with powered sugar. 

While visiting home in NJ I enjoy spending time with my pets and feasting with my family. You can never get enough of homemade foods.

It was pretty obvious my pets did not want me to leave and neither did I. Sorry guys-I'll be back to visit soon. 

I hope everyone has a happy and healthy New Year. Here's to 2012!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rollin Dough with the Sweetie

During the holidays Leann and I have been doing a lot of cooking instead, and for Thanksgiving, we had decided to make pretzels for everyone to much one.  One of my favorite things from the Philly trip were the Philly pretzels, in fact they were so good that I made Leann bring back a ton when she was visiting her mom near Halloween.  Now I knew her mom had a recipe for pretzels but this were a different breed of pretzel.  The recipe is simple and listed below.

1 pkg active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
2 ½ cups flour
¼ teasp. Salt
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons cold water
Coarse Salt

In a separate bowl
Mix together yeast and warm water
Put flour and the regular salt in a large bowl
Pour in yeast mixture
And half of the water (1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon)
Kneed to form dough
Put dough in a bowl covered to sit for 30 min,
Sit in cold oven or microwave to avoid drafts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees In separate bowl stir together baking soda and remain water (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
Punch down dough and divide into 8 pieces
Roll into a 12 inch rope and twist into pretzel shape
Dip in baking soda solution
Place on slightly greased baking sheet 2 inches apart
Sprinkle on course salt
Bake until golden brown  15-20 min.
Remove from oven and cool slightly on wire racks (serve warm)

Dip  in melted butter if desired

Now the night before Thanksgiving, we wanted to make sure that our pretzels didn't taste like dog bones so we gave the recipe a practice run. 

Flour was everywhere and our kitchen ended up looking like a scene from Scarface. 

One Pretzel - Stache Please

After playing around, we put one last masterpiece together and dipped the dough in the baking soda solution.

The cooking time was about 18 minutes, and the house was starting to smell like a bread factory, with the finished product looking nice and golden brown.  

Leann and I added butter to the pretzels and thought there were delicious, and we knew we would be ready for Thanksgiving.  For Thanksgiving we ended up going with a cheese sauce, a la cheese wiz, that was just marvelous.  This was an easy recipe, and recommended for an appetizer or a snack.   

Flourless Peanut Butter Toffee-Pretzel Cookies

For the Food Blogger Cookie swap Nick and I decided on a peanut butter cookie, but we wanted to kick it up a notch. So we found this recipe to add toffee and pretzel. Best part of the recipe-No Flour! Instead of using a toffee bar we used toffee pieces and added chocolate chips. 
One batch of this makes about 42 cookies (or more) depending on the size of the cookie. One thing we learned you really have to let this cookie cool before transferring it to the cooling rack. 
Makes 42 cookiesHands-On Time: 10m Total Time: 30m


  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup broken salted pretzels
  • 1 cup chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars (about 4 bars)


  1. Heat oven to 350° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, sugars, eggs, baking soda, and salt until smooth. Fold in the pretzels and chopped toffee bar.
  2. Shape the dough into balls (about 1 heaping tablespoon each) and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using the tines of a fork, flatten each ball, creating a crisscross pattern.
  3. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until puffed and golden, 10 to 12 minutes (the cookies will deflate as they cool). Let cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Some Tasty Beverages

     I know it has been a little while since a post has been up and would like to apologize.  It has been a busy holiday season so far, with Thanksgiving just ending, the cookie swap wrapping up (I will get into that later), working two jobs each, it has been tough, and with all this going on, I am thankful that Leann and I have been able to actually spend time together.  I had told Leann that I would start blogging about beer and spirits, and she certainly knows my love of good beer as she blessed me with a subscription to a beer enthusiast magazine.  Great read, and some great ideas for food pairings, top places to eat and drink, best beers out and releasing soon, and just about everything else under the sun when it comes to beer.

                                                          Thank you once again baby.

     Now off to the goods.  It has been a family tradition near Christmas time to head off to actual cold areas where there is actual snow, and go skiing.  All the work getting from Orlando to deep into the Rocky Mountains pays off that first time you get to the top of the mountain because you feel as if you are at the top of the world.  This year is more special then previous years because I will get to share this with Leann.  Now when I turned 21 just before a Colorado trip some 5ish years ago, I ordered a Bud Light at a Friday's, lol.  Not craft beer at all, nowhere near it, and I did not know I was in one of the greatest places ever for craft beer.  Great beer needs great ingredients, one of those being water.  The Rockies are filled with fresh, clean water, which is why 100's maybe even 1000's of beers come from the rockies, and I am talking craft beers with amazing flavors and ingenious ingredients.  New Belgium Brewery is one of these Brewery's, and Fat Tire is the beer, and it just so happened to be the 2nd beer I had on that first trip out to Colorado when I turned 21.

It was the only beer on tap that wasn't one of the beers you see everywhere from a bowling ally to chucky cheeses.  I immediately loved this beer, and have been drinking it every time I head out west since it cannot be obtained here in Florida.  Fat Tire is a 5.2% ABV amber ale, perfectly balanced, and a tad on the bitter side, which makes it perfect for winter.  Upon un capping, the beer has a hint of toasty, carmely, chocolatey, hops, that make you want dive right in.  As I said earlier, the first sip may have a hint of bitterness, but then the flavor explodes.  I love a good amber ale, and this one has a nice robust flavor matching all those, toasty, carmel, chocolate, hoppy scents.  Now without a doubt this beer is best on tap in Colorado, where it was brewed a few days before you drink it.  It was difficult to obtain this beer, and luckily my friend brought it down from a road trip, down to the final bottle, I knew it was time to blog.  This is still an amber ale, and not a winter bitter, it is perfect for winter, and goes great with a hamburger or  steak, or great for a dessert beer.  I my self had a few for Thanksgiving lol.  As I see this bottle coming to end, I bid Fat Tire a farewell, and hope to see it soon in Colorado.

     Lets kick it up a notch.  I must say that my favorite spirit is whisky, whiskey, scotch, bourbon, or any blended version of it.  I started to take to Jack Daniels, but quickly began to hate the charcoal taste, and went form Crown Royal to Makers Mark for the price, strength, and taste.  Recently, I was turned on to another one, enter Rowans Creek Bourbon.  50.5% ABV,  and as smooth as ever.

This is a "small batch" bourbon, which is becoming more and more popular at a decent price.  This bourbon is made and bottled by hand, and called small batch because one batch is made, bottled, and shipped.  Then the process starts over again.  It gives the bourbon the attention that it needs, not being mass produced, but produced well and to the right specifications.  If a batch does not meet standards, then it is dumped.  Small batch distillers take time to put out a quality product that they can be proud of, and the people at Rowans  Creek should be proud.  As I mentioned earlier this bourbon is 100 proof at 50.5% ABV, which makes it above average in the strength category.  Color is medium to medium dark.  Taste is smooth, especially considering its proof, I drank it neat (no ice, room temp) First sip I immediately get honey and vanilla, with a nice after taste of fruit and spices.  This was a gift from a friend and I was thankful to try something new, as this is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

     I plan on posting more, and hopefully soon, I know I will be adding some comments in on Leanns post about our winter activities thus far, which have made this winter season a great one.

Na Zdrowie
("cheers", in polish)