How-To: Big Brunch/Tiny Kitchen

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1447
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE
In all the confusion, I took no photos. This one is from Clemens & Vogelsang (Lumberjack Breakfast)
In all the confusion, I took no photos. Clemens Vogelsang (Lumberjack Breakfast)

This year I celebrated my birthday all weekend in small patches. I didn’t hit a landmark number like 21, 30 or 40. So I thought that hosting something at home would be an easy, low pressure option. When I hosted my “Globeleza Party” for Brazilian Carnaval in February, the hardest part was getting our tiny apartment ready for our 20 guests. Of course I worried that people wouldn’t like my feijoada, but I wasn’t stressed about food prep– I knew exactly what to do.

This year I decided to cook my favorite meal of the day: brunch. I kept the menu simple, but for some reason I STILL got behind. I invited everyone over for a 1:30pm meal followed by pool time. BUT we didn’t actually eat until after 4pm– so we missed the sun at the pool. I was so embarrassed. Thank goodness for my love who managed the grill and for my girl Gretta who kind of took over in the kitchen while I hosted my guests. Apparently I can drink and cook at the same time, but I cannot TALK and cook at the same time. Ah ha!

Anyway, this experience reiterated some things I knew all along, but clearly didn’t adequately consider for this event. Key learnings: (1) Timing is Everything. (2) You WILL Need an Assistant.

I knew that I needed to do SOME food prep ahead of time. I purchased the ingredients early on Saturday morning and that night I chopped five pounds of potatoes. But I didn’t anticipate that everything else would take forever. Cooking brunch for me and my love takes NO TIME. Cooking for 12 people is a bit more. I should’ve known this, but the concept clearly didn’t register completely. So this is what I will do next time:

MENU (recipes coming soon):

french toast

roasted herbed potatoes

assorted chicken sausages

roasted mini bell peppers

spicy scrambled eggs

scrambled eggs with veggies (mild)

mixed fruit

 

The Night Before:

  • wash and chop potatoes
  • wash and prep peppers (remove stems, seeds and such)
  • wash fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint)
  • thaw veggies for the scrambled eggs (that makes it easier)
  • slice bread (the bakery should be able to do that for you at purchase, but just in case they can’t)
  • chop fruit (remove stems, seeds and such)
  • PLAN where you will serve the food–  I generally set up the food in the kitchen so people can serve themselves and all other space in the small apartment can be used for seating and dining

The Morning of Event:

FIRST begin your potatoes

  • 1(a) herb and spice them with olive oil
  • 1(b) place in oven for roasting (the thinner the layer, the faster they will cook)

SECOND fire up grill and cook sausages (you’ll need the oven and stove top for other things)

THIRD mix the fruit in special bowl and add any special ingredients if you choose [like fresh mint], cover and re-refrigerate

FOURTH roast your mini peppers

FIFTH begin your french toast

  • 5(a) make your french toast batter in a big bowl
  • 5 (b) soak your bread (multiple batches at once)– I had to use disposable roasting trays to accommodate all the bread
  • 5(c) grab every surface you can cook on and heat butter for cooking– I had a nonstick pan on each eye of my stove (i should have also used my electric cooktop too)
  • 5(d) as each slice is cooked, place and stack it in a roasting pan

SIXTH once the potatoes are done, turn the oven down to 200 degrees (or as low as 150), cover and place all cooked food (so far) in the oven to keep warm until you are ready to serve.

SEVENTH begin your eggs

  • 7(a) set up two nonstick pans on the stove
  • 7(b) whisp both batches of eggs together with your fresh herbs
  • 7(c) with a little olive oil and salt, saute mixed veggies in one pan
  • 7(d) when veggies are done, pour half the eggs over the veggies and scramble
  • 7(e) add cayenne or whatever spicy ingredient you choose the remaining eggs, whisp again, then scramble in second pan.

Yes, it seems like common sense, but without an exact game plan, you might find yourself behind the eightball as guests begin to arrive. Especially if some of your friends come early “to help”. And remember, you don’t want the food to be kept warming in the oven for a long time– the texture of breads and meats will start to seem stale. So it is important that you time it right. I say about 1.5 to 2 hours ahead of time, put your potatoes in the oven. They can warm for a while and still be good. 

I hope that these key learnings will make your big brunch more successful than mine. I’m looking forward to a do-over pretty soon! Anyway, happy dining. Remember: life is good, so eat it up!

 

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1447
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

Get Your Passport… It Is Time For Your First International Trip!

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1433
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE
from the monitor on the plane
from the monitor on the plane

So you’re ready to take your first international trip? I went to mexico at 17, the same year as 9/11 (don’t do the math) and I didn’t need a passport– just parental permission. But now, a passport is needed to leave the U.S. period. And my passport never saw a stamp until 2014. I held on to it for years. And I was so proud and cheesing from ear to ear when the Brazilian government official stamped my passport and said “bem-vindo”. Actually i think he said “welcome”, but whatever.

If you don’t know where to start for your first international trip, I’ve got ten steps for you!

  1. Get a passport. I know that may seem like common sense, but you won’t believe how many people say they want to go to London or France or Japan, but they never take the first step and invest in a passport. In the grand scheme of travel expenses, its probably one of the best and cheapest investments you’ll make. $135 + cost of photo. PS- don’t expect your photo to be good.
  2. Pick a Country (and maybe a city). If you’re like me and lust after everything on the travel channel or inside national geographic, the choice could prove difficult. So for this I say follow your heart and go big. If your heart is torn, talk to friends and family, or whoever you intend to travel with. Actually, finding a travel companion can be harder than picking a location.
  3. Do Your Research. Common questions to have answered early that could change your decision: What language(s) do they speak? What kind of food can you expect? What are some local customs? When is the best time to travel? What’s the weather like? Does my church or alma mater offer group travel with excursions? How much is average for airfare and accommodations? Do I know anyone who has been? Do i know anyone who lives or lived there? Does our government discourage or regulate travel to this place? Does it require an entry visa in advance of travel?
  4. Apply for a Visa. Not all countries require an entry visa, but that should be part of your research. Is a visa required? How much does it cost? How long does it take to approve? How long is it valid? What are the requirements for approval? For me the process of gathering materials for the application and awaiting the response made me kind of anxious. It was all worth it.
  5. Book Airfare. Some visa applications require you to have your airfare already booked. And if you don’t need a visa, book it as far in advance as is feasible for you. Consider your financial, personal, social and professional obligations at this time.
  6. Book Accommodations. In your research, you already found out what prices were common, but you should remember that hotels are not your only option. Airbnb is blowing up. Hostels are getting better and better. And truthfully, depending on how exotic or remote your chosen location, those may not even be options. So be open minded.
  7. Make a List of Activities. When you pay the premium to travel internationally, staying in your hotel or laying on the beach all day probably isn’t the best use of your time. Go see something historic. Go do something philanthropic. Go learn something new. Your vacation will be better for it. And if it goes badly, at the very least you’ll have an interesting vacation story. But just keep in mind the cultural customs and try not to piss off the locals.
  8. Don’t Piss Off the Locals. Travel blogs, books and more can give you the do’s and don’t for nearly wherever you want to go. If the city you want to visit expects one to dress modestly, do that. If the city you’re visiting is one where people smile and say hello to strangers, try that. Most importantly: if they speak another language and you hit a wall of communication do not, DO NOT yell in english at the locals expecting them to understand.
  9. Prepare for the Expected. There are a few things that will keep coming up in your research, like the suggestions to learn to say a few phrases. If you leave your hotel, you’ll need them. And avoid high exchange rates by exchanging your money at your bank before you leave. Speaking of money, a flesh tone money belt to wear under your clothes may not be a bad idea– just don’t open it on the street. Again, most of the “common sense” international travel tips will come up in your research.
  10. Embrace the Unexpected. Some people say to prepare for the unexpected. That oxymoron doesn’t fit with international travel. No matter how much research you do, you’ll never be prepared for everything that comes your way. So just do your best to go with the flow. You’re on vacation now!
RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1433
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

Beer Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Orlando

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1428
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

I had the pleasure of dining at Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. The chef’s special menu was paired perfectly with five different brews by New Belgium. Chef Will Walters did amazing job, the hotel staff treated us like royalty and after a great meal, it was nice to go up to a tidy, comfortable room. Enjoy this recap. 

 

 

 

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1428
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

My Acai Protein Smoothie Recipe

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1406
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

my acai protein smoothieA few years ago, smoothies became the snack du jour. They were touted as diet food (meal replacements) and soon smoothie shops started popping up everywhere. We were paying $5 and $6 for fruit blended together. And ultimately all we did was increase our sugar intake.

After a few studies regarding the myths and facts about smoothies, we got smart! The public demanded that smoothie shops add veggies, yogurt and/or protein to the mix. Home electronic companies jumped on the bandwagon and started marketing “smoothie makers”. So now everyone has a bullet or ninja at home to make their own.

I don’t have either of those, but my blender is no slouch! And I make some amazing smoothies with it. Remember: when it comes to cooking, its not all about the tool– its about the ingredients.

Anyway, I call smoothies my frenemy because they are so yummy (friend), but so sugary (enemy). So I like all frenemies, I take them in small small doses. And what do I put in mine? Seriously only a handful of quality ingredients. And NO ice.

The DineWithDani Acai Protein Smoothie/Vitamina

1 cup plain greek yogurt (flavored yogurt has too much sugar and the texture ruins the smoothie)

1 pack of Sambazon Acai puree (it says sweetened, but its really not sweet- and if you have another brand– it’ll work)

1 frozen banana (when bananas are on the way to being overly ripe, I peel them and freeze them in a ziplock bag for smoothies at a later date)

.5 cup of almond milk (you can use cashew milk, skim milk, lactaid or whatever you have)

1tbsp of honey (i choose raw honey and honestly it isn’t just for sweetness, it also affects the texture of your smoothie as well)

optional: one serving of protein powder

optional: one large kale leaf or collard green leaf (cleaned)

 

smoothie ingredientsClick below for additonal notes…

(more…)

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1406
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

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

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1410
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

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!!

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1410
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

The Coffee Nerd… My Official Coffee Handbook/Cookbook

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1397
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

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.

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1397
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

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

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1391
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

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

 

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1391
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

Sandy Springs Heritage Farmers Market Haul

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1384
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

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!

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1384
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook… Fancy Eats for Everyone!

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1376
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

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!

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1376
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

Super Food Kale… 10 Ways to Prepare

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1354
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE

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…)

RSS
INSTAGRAM
Facebook
Google+
http://www.dinewithdani.com/?p=1354
PINTEREST
YOUTUBE
Follow by Email
SHARE