Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day!

I love ice cream, all types really, I’m not very picky. And you know what I love even more?  Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s, which is TODAY!!!! I first fell in love with B&J when I tried their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, a gazillion years ago. I became addicted, and luckily I was in my 20’s and was able to eat all the ice cream I wanted and still not gain weight. (I wish that were still the case.. 😦 ). Fast forward a few years (or decades) and by now I have sampled many of their amazing flavors, and while it was definitely hard to choose among them, here are my top 5:

1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  B&J knew they were onto something big when they made the world’s first batch of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream in 1984. Today the flavor still reigns among their all-time most popular concoctions. And how can it not be?  It’s not even one of their more complex or fancier flavors.  It’s quite simple. Vanilla ice cream with gobs (and yes, there are actual gobs!) of chocolate chip cookie dough.  My daughter LOVES this flavor too!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, introduced in 1984.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, introduced in 1984.

2. Milk & Cookies.  We also love this flavor.  It’s probably one of the best sellers for any cookie lover. Vanilla ice cream with a chocolate cookie swirl, chocolate chip & chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  Did you get that?  Yup, it’s chock full of cookies, and it’s heavenly!

Milk & Cookies, introduced in 2012.

Milk & Cookies, introduced in 2012.

3. Half Baked.  This is another one of our favorites.  Chocolate & vanilla ice creams with fudge brownies & gobs (yes again with the gobs) of chocolate chip cookie dough.  A little bit of everything, it’s just delicious!

Half Baked, introduced in 2000.

Half Baked, introduced in 2000.

4. Strawberry Cheesecake.  This is one of my all time favorite flavors, however, my daughter doesn’t care much for it (she doesn’t like cheesecake…gasp!).  Strawberry cheesecake ice cream with strawberries and a thick graham cracker swirl. Any cheesecake lover (like myself) will be thrilled with this flavor, and the graham cracker swirl, is just awesome.

Strawberry Cheesecake, introduced in 2005.

Strawberry Cheesecake, introduced in 2005.

5. Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core.  Ah…the cores!  These are some amazingly delicious flavors that B&J came out with some years ago, which each have a yummy, chocolately, caramel or cookie core in the center of the pint. Dark caramel & vanilla ice creams with speculoos cookies and a speculoos cookie butter core.  Just absolutely amazing!

Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core, introduced in 2015.

Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core, introduced in 2015.

So, do you love Ben & Jerry’s as much as we do?  If so, which are your favorite flavors?  I’d love to hear!

My Signature

 

 

 

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Be Our Guest…

We like to visit Disney quite often, my daughter loves going there, she considers it her second home. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the Magic Kingdom, as hubby and I would drive up and spend the day during our early years of dating, and living in Miami, it makes for an easy weekend trip.  I will say however, I have never been a fan of the food options at Disney.  I get it, people don’t visit the parks for the food, unless you’re at Epcot, which is an entirely different experience. However, I have always felt that the parks should have more options than the stale sandwiches (I recently had one that was absolutely awful) and the same boring hamburgers and plain salads offered at most of their eateries. The only other place where we have had a decent meal at times is when we have reserved at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Well, someone must have been listening because the dining experience at Be Our Guest, the recently opened restaurant inside of the Beast’s castle, is exactly what I was looking for.  So much so, that on our last trip a month ago, we decided to just call them up on the same day and see if any reservations were available, and sure enough they were, at 10:15 PM.  Well can I tell you, that we grabbed that reservation right away, and the restaurant was completely packed with more people coming in for dinner after us.

Be Our Guest Entrance

Be Our Guest Entrance

The beautiful stained glass window at the entrance.

The beautiful stained glass window at the entrance.

You see, we had already had the pleasure of dining at Be Our Guest on our trip last summer and we loved the entire experience.  First and foremost, the restaurant offers 3 meticulously “imagineered” dining areas, each designed to immerse diners in the heartwarming mystery and romance of Beauty and the Beast.  The first is The Grand Ballroom, which is where they always seat us. It’s absolutely gorgeous, you really feel as if you have actually stepped into the movie, with its high, domed ceiling, the beautiful chandeliers and snow-laced Gothic arches. The second room is The West Wing, which is a bit darker, may even be a bit scary for the little ones but this is where you can catch a glimpse of the enchanted rose. And the third is The Castle Gallery, resembling Belle’s private library, with the enormous figures of Belle and Beast dancing.  As far as I know, you cannot choose which room to dine in, but you are invited to walk around and take a look at the entire interior of the restaurant.

The main dining room

The Grand Ballroom dining room

The gorgeous 12 foot chandeliers

The gorgeous 12 foot chandeliers

The West Wing

The West Wing

The enchanted rose in hte

The enchanted rose in the West Wing

Figurine of Belle & the Beast Dancing.

Figurine of Belle & the Beast Dancing in the Castle Gallery

Now on to the food…

When we first arrived at our table, we saw the beautiful red napkins, folded like roses, my daughter (and I) loved that.  Then came the yummy hot bread rolls (keep in mind we were starving).  Of course my daughter fell for the tourist trap of the Souvenir Castle Goblet, a light-up castle-themed souvenir goblet with choice of fountain beverage, for ONLY $16.99, typical Disney.  I started off with a cup of the Potato Leek Soup and it was one of the best I’ve ever had.  Next came a menu full of divine options, including dishes like Sautéed Shrimp and Scallops with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms served in a puff pastry with a creamy lobster sauce and Layered Ratatouille, oven-baked zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, and caramelized onions sliced and layered on quinoa served with a bell pepper sauce.  Well, we all decided on the Grilled Strip Steak with garlic-herb butter and French fries.  All I can say is that my daughter devoured hers. It was absolutely delicious! Important to note that the kid’s menu also offers items such as Mickey meatloaf, seared mahi mahi and whole-grain macaroni with marinara sauce. This is also the first restaurant in the Magic Kingdom to offer a variety of beer and wine (this has actually caused some controversies with some die hard Disney fans). I’m not a big drinker but who doesn’t enjoy a nice glass of wine with a late dinner?

The menu and the rose napkin...nice touch.

The menu and the rose napkin…nice touch.

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Potato leek soup.

Grilled strip steak with french fries!

Grilled strip steak with French fries!

On to the dessert trolley….where do I start? They all looked amazing!  My daughter of course ordered The Grey Stuff, a chocolate shell, cookie crème topped with Lumiere’s special “Grey Stuff”. We had heard about this and boy are we glad she ordered it, it was really yummy. I decided on a Strawberry Cream Cheese Cupcake, yummy vanilla sponge cake, strawberry mousse filling and cream cheese icing!

The dessert trolley...YUM!

The dessert trolley…YUM!

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The famous light-up castle themed goblet and the yummy desserts!

Well, we almost rolled out of this place, but the best was yet to come. Everyone has a chance to meet the Beast and have their photo taken with him on the way out (too bad Belle is not available too).  Even though our daughter is already a teen, this was probably her favorite part of the night.

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Meeting the Beast!

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Dancing with the Beast…priceless!

All in all, we love this restaurant and will probably continue to have meals here on our visits to the Magic Kingdom.  Next time I think I’d like to try breakfast! But make sure you make reservations WELL in advance, as they are extremely busy all the time.

Have you been to Be Our Guest?  I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this restaurant?

My Signature

Be Our Guest Restaurant
Magic Kingdom Park, Fantasyland
(407) 939-5277

Breakfast
8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Lunch
10:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Dinner
4:00 PM – 9:30 PM (although they take reservations past 11pm)

SkinnyPop Rocks!

I know that by now almost everyone has heard of SkinnyPop, creator of the all natural 39 calorie a cup popcorn, but something my husband recently told me made me realize I must share this wonderful product with everyone I know, especially during this time of the year when everyone is looking to get in shape and eat healthier. I am not a huge popcorn lover, I usually only have it when we go to the movies. But about 6 months ago, I was looking for a new healthier snack to munch on, and I came across SkinnyPop in the super market.  Can I tell you that I was a bit skeptic at first, thinking it would taste flavorless and overly dry, as with most “light” snacks. Especially with bagged popcorn which can taste stale or be chewy.  Boy was I wrong.  As the company says “guilt-free snacking never tasted this delicious.”  SkinnyPop is without a doubt the best tasting popcorn on the market. With four varieties to choose from, Original, Black Pepper, Ultra Light White Cheddar, and Sweet, SkinnyPop has a flavor to appeal to nearly everyone (my favorite is actually the Original).

Four delicious flavors to choose from!

Four delicious flavors to choose from!

Most people would think SkinnyPop is either loaded with artificial flavors, sweeteners, or salt but that is not the case. SkinnyPop contains no artificial flavors, no artificial colors, no preservatives, is gluten-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free, Non GMO verified, dairy-free (even the Cheddar flavor) and made in a facility that is completely nut, egg, and dairy-free. They only use 3 ingredients: premium popcorn kernels, sunflower oil and the perfect amount of salt.  Nothing else necessary!

Photo courtesy of SkinnyPop.com

Photo courtesy of SkinnyPop.com

Now on to my hubby’s comment.  A few nights after having watched the new Star Wars movie, we were at home munching on SkinnyPop and he told me that he actually preferred SkinnyPop over the heavy tasting popcorn sold at the movies.  He even suggested that I blog about it!! Now I have felt that way for a while (I had even thought of sneaking some in my purse to eat during the movie), but I never expected to hear that from him. I think it’s similar to my Diet Coke addiction, where I can never drink real Coke again, because I find it way too sugary.

So, if you have not tried it yet, SkinnyPop is sold nationwide at most grocery and health food stores.  To find a store near you, use the locator service on the SkinnyPop website at www.skinnypop.com. Oh and some of the flavors are also available in 6-pack 100 calorie bags, perfect for lunch bags too.

Skinny Pack contains 100-calorie snack size bags.

Skinny Pack contains 100-calorie snack size bags.

Have you ever tried SkinnyPop?  I’d love to hear what you think?

My Signature

Turrónes at Christmastime

As a Cuban-American, every year my family and I look forward to Noche Buena, Christmas Eve.  I have the best memories of Noche Buena growing up. While I love my American traditions, there are things that are unique to my Cuban culture, of which I am very proud of.  You see, many Latin families make a bigger deal sometimes about Noche Buena than Christmas Day. On Noche Buena, we gather our huge families, while enjoying our traditional recipes and celebrate the holiday. However, we never want to overlook the importance of Christmas Day, so of course we meet again on the 25th after attending mass, to open gifts, celebrate the birth of Jesus and of course, eat the leftovers from the previous evening. Noche Buena meals consist of some very important staples, such as, lechon asado (roast pork), rice and beans, yuca and fried plantains. After dinner, we all drink my aunt’s Creme de Vie, a sweet Cuban version of egg nog, (I would give you the recipe but then I would have to kill you…as our family’s recipe has a secret ingredient that I have not seen in any other recipe I have come across. But here’s a similar one). And last but certainly not least, comes dessert, where some eat flan, but most eat turrónes (Pronounced TOO-RON-EHS).  What are turrónes you say? Turrón is a nougat confection, typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with toasted almonds or other nuts, and usually shaped into either a rectangular tablet or a round cake. Growing up I remember the simple ones made of almonds, nuts and egg yolk (my hubby’s favorite, yema), but nowadays there are many more varieties, from chocolate coated to fruit filled.

My turron selections on Christmas Eve

My turrón selections on Christmas Eve, accompanied by cheese and guava paste slices.

Guava paste slices, cheese and a selection of turrónes, all musts for a Cuban Christmas.

Here are my family’s favorite turrónes for the holidays!

Some of our favorites.

Some of our favorites.

Have you ever tried turrón? If you have, I would love to know which one you liked most…

My Signature

National Vanilla Cupcake Day

So today is National Vanilla Cupcake Day…celebrated each year on November 10.  Now, if you follow my blog, (and I hope you do), you know that I love cupcakes and have featured a few other cupcake shops before.  However, in honor of this “holiday”, today I would like to introduce you to  The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery, Raleigh’s first and finest cupcake boutique and bakery.  I had the pleasure of living in Raleigh for 5 years and can I say, there are many great cupcake shops in this city, but no one makes a yummier vanilla cupcake than this place.  We always pop in and get some cupcakes on all our visits back to Raleigh.  When you first walk in, you are usually greeted by 12-15 different cupcake varieties with fun names like “What’s Up Doc?” (carrot cake with cinnamon cream cheese icing), “Mint Condition” (chocolate cake with mint buttercream), and “Cookie Monster” (vanilla cake with Oreo buttercream).  They also feature flavors of the week.  My favorite was always “Pretty in Pink” (fresh strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream), but my entire family’s favorite was always the “Plain Jane” (simple vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream).

The Plain Jane...so yummy!

The Plain Jane…so yummy!

The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery believes in small batch baking and providing top quality sweets with no shortcuts. Oh and their open kitchen concept allows visitors to watch the staff at work (my daughter always got a kick out of that). Whether piping away on a tray of freshly baked cupcakes, or mixing up a homemade batch of cookies, the shop is both a delight for the young and old.

Oh and if cupcakes are not your thing, you can also feast on their homemade brownies, truffles, cookies, breakfast muffins, and marshmallows. And I should mention that they also make the prettiest custom cakes and cupcakes around, for all types of occasions, look at these beauties:

Jersey-CC Minnie-Cake whale-cake

So when you visit Raleigh, make sure you stop by this adorable little cupcake shop. I guarantee you will be back for more!

The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery in Raleigh , NC

The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery in Raleigh , NC

The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery
104 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh
 919.821.4223
http://www.thecupcakeshopperaleigh.com

Have you been to The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery?  If so, I’d love to hear what you liked most.

My Signature

The Cookie Dough Cafe

I don’t know about all of you (although I can take a guess), but my family loves raw cookie dough so much that when we buy the package at our local super market, half the product does not make it on to the cookie sheet.  And yes, we’ve all heard of the dangers of getting salmonella by eating raw cookie dough, but does anyone ever really listen to that?  Well, luckily for us cookie dough lovers, there’s a new product in town that will let us enjoy all the raw cookie dough we desire, without the worries.IMG_3496

The Cookie Dough Café has created a delicious cookie dough product that can be eaten like ice cream but contains no raw eggs, it is actually meant to be eaten raw right out of the cookie jar, not cooked.  What??? Yes, sister entrepreneurs Joan Pacetti and Julia Schmid have created what we’ve all been dreaming of since childhood…edible cookie dough. The product was featured on Shark Tank (hubby loves watching this show) and its success led the products to be sold through many dining locations, select grocery stores, and online. Oh yeah, and it comes in 4 different flavors.  Chocolate Chip, Cookies & Cream, Monster (natural peanut butter and oats loaded with chocolate chips and M&Ms) and last but certainly not last, Naked Dough, for the non-chocolate lovers (I’ve never met one but OK).  They also offer 3 gluten-free flavors, Peanut Butter, Creamy Oatmeal Raisin and Chocolate Chip.

Four different flavors available.

Four different flavors available.

You can purchase it in pint size and keep it refrigerated or you can also buy the single serve cookie dough cups, that come in a pack of 4 (these are great for a lunchbox treat on special days).

Pack of 4 cups.

Pack of 4 single serving cups.

To find other product locations, or to check out other cookie dough flavors, visit the Cookie Dough Cafe website at www.thecookiedoughcafe.com.

Do you love raw cookie dough?  Have you tried The Cookie Dough Cafe? I’d love to hear your thoughts…My Signature

Pasteis de Belem

My family and I recently visited the gorgeous Portuguese capital city of Lisbon on our summer vacation.  I promise a full post on this stunning place very soon, but today I would like to share one of our favorite memories from this trip….the cream custards found all over the city, the famous pasteis de nata.   Let me start off by saying that we all love sweets in my family, but oh my….the moment I tasted these warm custard mini pies…I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Being Cuban, I have had my share of pasteles in my life, but I guarantee you, these were something quite different.

The yummy pasteis de nata

The yummy pasteis de nata

Pasteis de nata, traditional Portuguese custard tarts, are everywhere. All the cafes and bakeries have them, and in both of the hotels where we stayed at, they were a staple in the breakfast buffet.  It is a common sight to see the locals enjoying their pasteis with their cafe in the morning. However, if you are looking for the absolute best ones in town (even considered the best by the Portuguese themselves, as our taxi driver was telling us), you must pick up some pasteis at Pasteis de Belem, a bakery in nearby Belem that’s been making these treats since 1837 when monks from the neighboring Mosteiro dos Jeronimos started selling them as a means of making money (their history is quite interesting and can be found on their website). The cafe is usually bustling with tons of tourists just waiting in line (yes there is a line outside most of the time, but it moves rather quickly), to order their delectable pasteis. Once I tasted these, I understood what makes them so famous. While most of the other pasteis throughout the city were also delicious, (they truly are sold everywhere), these were simply perfect. The flakiness and crispiness of the crust combined with the smooth, warm and creamy egg flavored custard was just divine. Oh and if you first look at them and think you got a burned one, do not worry, the tops are slightly burned so the sugar caramelizes. Some folks like to sprinkle cinnamon or powdered sugar on top, but I just ate my plain, I truly wanted to savor the flavor of these heavenly tarts everyone was talking about.

The lines of tourists and locals outside ...

The lines of tourists and locals outside of Pasteis de Belem in Lisboa…

All I can say is thank goodness we walked for miles everyday in Lisbon, because we were eating these pasteis on a daily basis, and boy are we glad we experienced that slice of heaven.

Other delicious pastries and snacks sold in the cafe.

Other delicious pastries and snacks sold in the cafe.

Pasteis with a cafe.

Pasteis with a cafe.

Pasteis de Belem, Lisboa

Pasteis de Belem, Lisboa

Interior of the cafe. Photo courtesy of Maisturismo News.

Interior of the cafe. Photo courtesy of Maisturismo News.

Have you ever tasted the famous Portuguese pasteis de nata?  I would love to know your thoughts.

My Signature