A Summer Sensation in Orlando… Get Your Tix NOW!!

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Summer Sensation - Josh ThompsonEvery year my Memorial Day weekends have been a fixed series of events that include the Atlanta Jazz Festival, a family cookout and a day of rest! This year I’ll be deviating from that formula completely by traveling to Florida to attend the Summer Sensation at the Hyatt Regency Orlando!

This year the hotel has packaged a holiday weekend stay that includes pool parties with mermaid lessons for the kiddies, an Italian-American barbecue with their acclaimed chef and a concert featuring some of the hottest up and coming country music artists!  On Sunday May 24, Josh Thompson, JT Hodges and Nikki Lane will heat up the night at an outdoor concert on the hotel garden terrace. I’m not the biggest country music fan, but I have to admit after doing my research that these acts are pretty good. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we started hearing their names everywhere!

I love to travel, so the opportunity to check out a a new city and hotel is always a thrill. Although I’ve been to Orlando, I rarely stay in a hotel there. So I’m excited to see what the Hyatt Regency Orlando is bringing to the table. You all know that I’m a bit of a hotel snob. I look for comfort (that includes cleanliness and ambiance), style (well designed with nice fixtures) and service (room service and more from a friendly accommodating staff). Of course value matters, but that is subjective in each city. I’ll let you guys know if they bring it!

Anyway, what I’m most excited about is the food! Is that bad? The reviews of Chef Will Walters are pretty impressive. So I hope he’s given free reign to get dowwwn(!) at this barbecue– my mouth waters just thinking about what it could be. I love Italian food. And as a southern girl, barbecue is in my blood (low country style of course). So I’m curious to see what he comes up with!!!

I don’t have any little ones, so I’m a little jealous that I can’t attend Mermaid Academy in the grotto pool, but I’ll survive as long as I can hang poolside for a little while. I’m really anxious for summer at this point!

Anyway, facebook me or tweet me @DineWithDani if you’re (going to be) in Orlando for Memorial Day! And let me know if you’re coming the Summer Sensation! Its going to be a good weekend! Click here for tickets!!

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The Coffee Nerd… My Official Coffee Handbook/Cookbook

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image001I’ve never been a morning person, but I have an unconscious routine each morning, which unfortunately includes hitting the snooze button at least once. I get up, I brush my teeth and head straight to the kitchen. Not to grab breakfast, but to begin a completely necessary ritual: My Daily Coffee.

 

I don’t start my day without a cup of joe. Whether I’m in the mood for instant (I’m a fan of Starbucks VIA) or espresso (I have a kettle for that), I start that process almost as soon as I wake up. The best is when my love is home and gets the morning going with the french press. Good times.

 

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a book that details everything I could ever need to know about something I already love! The Coffee Nerd should be call the official coffee handbook. It’s perfect for those like me who love it and even those who don’t really get the big whoop. Those people would be surprised at how many different flavor categories there are in the bean world. Not to mention all the different drinks you can make!

 

This book lays out flavor palettes and how they are affected by the various roasting techniques. It even gets into all the different ways to brew it– including all the fancy shmancy beverages you see on coffeeshop menus. There is even a glossary for quick reference in the future.

 

If you are even the least bit curious about what makes a great cup of coffee, this book would be an excellent addition to your cookbook collection. While, no, it is not technically a “cookbook”, it does offer measurements for grinds-to-water ratios (milk, cream, etc)– so you can experiment at home. Or you can read up about something and go let a barista (a professional coffee maker) do what they do best. Your choice!

 

And if you’re like me, pick up this book and find a whole new bag of reasons to love coffee. You’ll be able to confirm what you suspected about it and discover things you didn’t know.

 

Its an easy read because it gets right to the point! Much like a good cup of coffee, it will energize you to get out there.


Author Ruth Brown, an Australian-born journalist and writer, currently works as the arts and entertainment editor at The Brooklyn Paper, and previously worked as an editor and reporter at Willamette Week in Portland, Oregon—a city known for its coffee.

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Pasta Chips… Italian-style Snacks on-the-go

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past chips

If you’ve been following Dine With Dani over the years– you’re probably aware that I love Italian food. Its something about those specific combinations of flavors that gets my inner glutton completely giddy.
When I heard about the NEW snack food Pasta Chips, I was really excited. I got a box in the mail with four different flavors to try. Marinara, Alfredo, Garlic Olive Oil and Mediterranean Sea Salt. I put tasting them on hold for travel to Orlando (more videos to come), but when I finally opened them– I was pleasantly surprised. I wished I had taken them on the road trip with family.

 

For me, Pasta Chips are more like crackers. The texture is thick and they crunch more than crisp– if that makes sense. Each bag makes a suggestion for how to serve them. Suggestions include eating with cheese, with sliced veggies, with mini meatballs, etc. But truthfully, its pretty much everything I can do to NOT eat them directly from the bag!

 

PastaChips-NewRenders-GOOI think these may be my new go-to for parties and platters. My favorite flavors are the Marinara and the Garlic Olive Oil. I’m looking forward to trying the spicy tomato. They really do taste like pasta with sauce! And when served with charcuterie, they become magical. See for yourself! They are now available at all major grocers.

 

QUICK FACTS:

  • Made with All Natural ingredients – Premium Semolina Flour and Farro
  • Oven Baked – Thin and Crispy
  • 120 Calories and 20% less fat then leading pita chip brands
  • No Cholesterol
  • Kosher Certified

 

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Sandy Springs Heritage Farmers Market Haul

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I’m super excited about the Sandy Springs Heritage Farmers Market opening again! And I can not wait to see what lovely greens the farmer are coming with on April 11! Woot woot!

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The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook… Fancy Eats for Everyone!

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Cooking a meal that satisfies everyone at the table is hard enough. Harder still, is to prepare something that transports them to another era. That is exactly what the writer of the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook wanted to create; a resource for making meals that invoke images of an english manor and compel the epicure to affect Victorian manners.

cover
cover

Downton Abbey is one of my favorite shows. I’ve followed it ever since it debuted here in the U.S. And the dinner scenes featuring the Crawley family are some of my favorites. My father also loves the show. His favorite character is the kitchen maid turned assistant cook Daisy, for specifically the dynamic of her relationship with Mrs. Pattmore, the head cook. I’m partial to the storyline of Lady Mary and her many suitors.

Anyway, in nearly each episode there is mention of some delicious dish which I have either never heard of or never tried. And now, finally, there is a way for me to experience the grandeur that is dining at Downtown Abbey. The Unofficial Cookbook is not part of the PBS experience, but it is a nice way to supplement the DVDs, books, jewelry and other merchandise surrounding the show.

Author Emily Ansara Baines has worked as a professional baker and caterer, most recently in New York City. Like me her favorite show is Downton Abbey. And in my opinion, she has created the ultimate in gourmet experiences for home cooks who seek to emulate their favorite show. I tried a few recipes and I actually danced in my kitchen for each one. However, this is NOT a book for an inexperienced cook. For some of these recipes I’d have to call my Cousin Chef (deets on him coming soon) for some help. So if you’re not someone who is used to cooking very involved meals, with lots of detailed steps and you don’t know how to prep veggies like leeks and artichokes– you may find this book a little too advanced.

Dishes like vichyssoise, canapes, crumpets, osso buco, beef  wellington and such… Just think about that.

Anyway, the book is broken into multiple courses for upstairs and down, with recipes inspired by every character! And its not just sit down dinners, there are recipes for hors d’oeuvres, bites for tea time and more!

I’m so glad to have this book in my arsenal. My plan is to hold on to it and try a few more recipes to tide me over during the hiatus. And then when Season 6, the final season of Downton Abbey premieres, I’ll host a dinner party of at least five courses! Its going to be a jolly good time! Cheers!

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Super Food Kale… 10 Ways to Prepare

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Heralded as a “super food,” (and featured on a sweatshirt worn by Beyonce) Kale has rich nutritional value and its role as an antioxidant make it a perfect addition to your diet. There are many different types of kale, so find the one(s) that you like best and get creative.

PS– I prefer dinosaur kale.

And in case you need thought starters, below are 10 things that you can do with Kale courtesy of my friends over at Chef Works:

from Popsugar.com
from Popsugar.com

1 Make Smoothies

Green smoothies are becoming a popular breakfast choice for the health conscious, but the green of choice is usually spinach. Kale makes a good option, as it is just as nutritious (if not more so) and it has a mild flavor that you can’t detect when blended with fruit. It goes well with just about anything from apples to pineapple, to berries, so experiment until you find your favorite. You may want to leave out thick stems, as they may not blend as well and also add a somewhat bitter flavor.

  (more…)

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How to Make an Yummy Salad… My 5 Rules

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Salads get a bad wrap for being boring, bland rabbit food. But its a good rule of thumb for cooking that if you use good ingredients– you’ll likely end up with a good product. And I made this particular video when I got a craving for something healthy. I started thinking about what makes a good one. Watch this 30 second video for some of my favorite ingredients and below I’ve shared some tips making your own yummy salad.

HERE ARE MY RULES FOR MAKING A GREAT SALAD  (more…)

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National Margarita Day… Feb 22

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Mango Scotch Bonnet Margarita
Mango Scotch Bonnet Margarita (recipe below)

Cinco de Mayo is not the only day you should celebrate with Margaritas. There is actually a NATIONAL MARGARITA DAY! I’m in!!

Some people struggle with making good margaritas. Here are some tips from the good people at Herradura Tequila so you can ditch the poorly made margaritas. And remember to say goodbye to artificial lemon juice.

1.       Avoid cheap tequila – If you are going to get serious about margaritas, you’ll need to invest in high-quality tequila. The key is being 100% agave, which means no additional sugars were added during fermentation process. Casa Herradura has been crafting 100% agave tequila since 1870 using traditional production methods. Use Herradura Silver for a taste of sweet, mild cooked agave notes with a touch of oak.

2.       Use real lime –using real lime juice is just as important. Avoid the artificial lime plastic ball, or any prepackaged sour mix and buy real limes. Limes are not expensive and they last a long time.  This will make a big difference!

3.       Get the orange stuff –Triple sec is key! This orange flavored liquor is sweet and it’s made from dried orange peels. You can substitute with blue curacao to make a blue margarita if you are feeling adventurous.

4.       It’s all about the measurements – The basic ratio measurement of a margarita is 2:1:1 which means two part tequila, one part of triple sec and one part lime juice. This will always depend on how strong you like your tequila so feel free to experiment with it.

I’ve shared below a recipe below! Cheers!

(more…)

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Make Cranberry Sauce… a Holiday Condiment

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Don’t cook? No worries! Here is the recipe for everyone’s favorite condiment: Cranberry Sauce. (The people who don’t like it, probably had it made fresh!) With the recipe and video below– you have the ability to blow some minds and changes some lives!!


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Dadgum That’s Good!… A Barbecue’s Best Friend

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a review of John McLemore’s latest cookbook “Dadgum That’s Good! And Healthy”

dadgum FINALFRONTCOVER (2)When this book came my way, I had no idea how things would go. With no grill, zero experience with a smoker and minimal comfort deep frying foods—I was convinced that I would either ruin the food or severely injure myself (and maybe both). To my surprise and delight—neither horror occurred. In fact, I was lauded for my” mad skillz on the grillz”…. (yes, that’s a direct quote).

John McLemore has written more than a couple of cookbooks. But this time he decided to take some of his family’s signature dishes to a new level with healthy eating as the main focus. He proves that you can have an amazingly flavorful meal and still maintain your figure!

In flipping through the book you may not immediately notice, but majority of the recipes require a smoker. A VAST majority. So unless you own or intend to own a smoker—this ain’t the book for you. However, there are some good recipes for grilling and frying—and that was the direction I chose.  You may also want to make sure your kitchen is stocked with a few other tools as well. A food processor is not listed as a necessity, but I noticed that this was needed for more than one recipe. So just take your time looking through to make sure you can actually make the dishes.

Flipping through you may also appreciate the ground that the book covers. From details about smoking temps and times to the nutrition. In addition to calorie count for each recipe, he also includes tips for how to make some of the recipes even healthier. I can dig that!

My homie DJ Bigg H threw a Fall Shindig and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to try a few of the recipes I was set to review. He has a slow-cook grill as well as very cool family and friends. I chose three recipes; one vegan, one vegetarian and of course, MEAT.  I won’t pretend there are many vegan options but I was pleased to see grilled brussel sprouts alongside salsa verde skirt steak. I decided to go with grilled balsamic portabella mushrooms, grilled zucchini and jerk chicken. Not exactly cheap eats, but more affordable than the brisket I considered.

I almost never follow recipes exactly, giving everything I prepare a little DineWithDani flavor. But for this, I wanted to remain true to John McLemore’s vision. So instead of settling for the dried rosemary in my cabinet or the frozen chicken thighs in my freezer, I bought fresh everything at the market on the morning of the barbecue.

The prep wasn’t hard or lengthy really. The marinades were almost too easy. Authentic Jamaican jerk has a reputation for being laborious. While preparing the marinades, I’ll admit that I was underwhelmed with what I tasted. But I let the jerk chicken and balsamic mushrooms marinate while I got dressed. Shortly thereafter, I packed my icy cooler and got on the road. The whole way driving I was thinking, ‘please God let this be good. I don’t want these people to think I can’t cook.’

Click below to continue reading… (more…)

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