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

 

 

Best Cuban Sandwiches in Miami

If you are from Miami or a few of the other Cuban neighborhoods throughout the country, then you are most definitely familiar with the very famous “Cuban Sandwich”. Being Cuban-American, having grown up in a very Cuban area of NJ, and living in Miami for over 25 years, I have definitely had a “few” Cuban sandwiches in my life.  But as with most things, not all Cuban sandwiches are created equal.  Here in Miami, you can find Cuban sandwiches almost everywhere, but beware, there are big differences between the pre-made bargain sandwiches found at many lunch counters and coffee windows, and the delicious fresh made to order ones found at restaurants and cafes.

You will also come across places which like to experiment and add mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pastrami, sauerkraut, salami, and even Thousand Island dressing, or their own version of a secret sauce. While some of these concoctions are really tasty with a twist on the original version, the classic Cuban typically consists of a toasted buttered Cuban roll, with fresh sliced pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles (some folks include mustard too).  So for those of you that may be clueless as to where to find the best Cuban sandwiches when you visit Miami, here is a quick list of some of my favorites:

Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop
186 NE 29th St.
Miami, FL 33137
(305) 573-4681

You know this has to be a good pick when it’s the #1 place chosen by Zagat in Miami for Cuban sandwiches.  This little hole-in-the-wall, located in the Wynwood area, is a local favorite.  And if you’re looking for something really special, try the Cubano Preparado Con Croquetas, basically a version of their Cuban, stuffed with their yummy ham croquetas.

Cuban Sandwich at Enriqueta's

Cuban Sandwich at Enriqueta’s

Little Bread Cuban Sandwich Co.
541 SW 12th  Ave.
Miami, FL 33130
(786) 420-2672

This is probably my current favorite.  Owned by Alberto Cabrera, (whom I have blogged about before, with his amazingly delicious restaurant, Bread & Butter), at Little Bread, fresh-baked baguettes with a good crust get transformed into a Cubano with pork belly rillette, ham, salami, house pickles and red wine mustard. The restaurant’s culinary director, Richard Torres, explains that the secret is in the homemade bread that the restaurant uses and “not pressing the sandwich twice” like many places do.  The result, in my opinion, delicious!

The Cuban at Little Bread

The Cuban at Little Bread

Islas Canarias
Various Locations
(305) 649-0440

You know you’ve made it when Anthony Bourdain instagrams your sandwich (in this case another version of the Cuban, called Media Noche) with the hashtag #miami. The secret to their sandwiches is simple….they bake their bread fresh every day in their bakery.

Cuban sandwich at Islas Canarias

Cuban sandwich at Islas Canarias

Latin American Cafeteria & Restaurant
Various Locations
(305) 267-9995

Luis Galindo’s Latin American Cafeteria & Restaurant, named for the brother of Cuban sandwich patron Raúl Galindo, is owned by Elias G. Elias, a Lebanese-Syrian man raised in Cuba. It makes one of the city’s best Cubanos. The perfect press crisps the bread’s crust, slightly warms the interior, and compresses the whole thing without flattening it into a cracker. This place has been around forever, I remember eating Cuban sandwiches here, when I used to vacation in Miami as a young girl, before I even lived in Miami!

Cuban sandwiches at Latin American

Cuban sandwiches at Latin American

Ball & Chain
513 SW 8th St
Miami, FL 33135
(305) 643-7820

So, I have not actually eaten here…yet!  But a few friends have highly recommended this restaurant, and because their version of the Cuban is so original, I just had to include it on my list.  Ball & Chain serves Cuban Spring Rolls…a twist on the obvious sandwich.  They claim that being located on famous Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), where there are numerous restaurants serving the traditional Cuban sandwich, they were needed to come up with something that would make their sandwich stand out among the rest.  The result…roasted pork, ham, and pickles wrapped in a spring roll with Swiss cheese, served alongside faintly spiced mustard aioli, perfect for dipping. I must try this one soon!

Cuban Sandwich Spring Roll at Ball & Chain

Cuban Sandwich Spring Roll at Ball & Chain

Well, as you can see there’s a Cuban for all tastes!  Have you ever tried a Cuban sandwich?  If you have, which one has been your favorite? I’d love to hear…

My Signature

Louie Bossi’s Ristorante & Pizzeria

With so many dining options in South Florida, sometimes it’s hard to choose a place for dinner.  Over the 4th of July weekend, we decided to spend the evening on Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Ft. Lauderdale.  We hadn’t been in a while and I wanted to see what new shops and eateries had opened up since our last visit, and then head over to the beach to watch the fireworks. I was surprised to still see some our favorite restaurants and delighted to discover some new ones.  Our daughter was craving her usual Italian food, so when we stumbled upon Louie Bossi’s, we decided to give it a try. I had not heard of it (they only opened up about a month ago), so I was a bit hesitant, after all, Italian places are always popping up everywhere, but many of them are mediocre at best.  Well this place is anything but mediocre.

Louie Bossi's Ristorante & Pizzeria Photo courtesy of Urbandaddy.com

Louie Bossi’s Ristorante & Pizzeria
Photo courtesy of Urbandaddy.com

We started off with a delicious appetizer called Coccoli Fritto, which were basically these delightfully soft baked flaky pita breads topped with fresh parmesan shavings and served with freshly made ricotta cheese, olive oil and prosciutto.  Heavenly!!  Hubby also ordered a small side of Marcona Almonds roasted with sea salt.

Coccoli Fritto

Coccoli Fritto

Marcona Almonds roasted with sea salt

Marcona Almonds roasted with sea salt

On to the main courses….I really wanted to try one of the pastas, but keeping faithful to my healthy eating habits of late, I decided on one of the daily specials..a grilled branzino prepared with olive oil, lemon and capers and I ordered a side of their grilled veggies.  This was one of the best fish dishes I have ever tasted.

Grilled branzino and veggies

Grilled branzino and veggies

Hubby decided on another one of the specials, lobster served with pasta.  Also delish!  And of course our daughter being her adventurous self (not), ordered a margherita pizza, but she says it’s also one of the best she’s had.  And trust me, she’s beyond picky.

Margharita Pizza

Lobster with Pasta

IMG_2780

Margherita Pizza

Next, my daughter decided on a small dessert, Budino Cioccolata, a dense yet light tasting hazelnut pudding, topped with a light whipped cream and a bit of caramel and sea salt.  I couldn’t help myself and had a tiny taste….wouldn’t you:

Budino Cioccolata...heavenly!

Budino Cioccolata…heavenly!

And last but not least, hubby ordered his espresso and I had a creamy limoncello.  All I can say is that it tasted better than some of the limoncellos I’ve had in Italy!

Espresso & Creamy Limoncello

Espresso & Creamy Limoncello

So, if you’re in the Ft. Lauderdale area, head on over to beautiful Las Olas Boulevard and make sure you stop into Louise Bossi’s and experience an amazing Italian feast.  You will not regret it.

Photo courtesy of browardpalmbeach.com

Photo courtesy of browardpalmbeach.com

Louie Bossi’s
1032 East Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale
(954) 356-6699
http://www.louiebossi.com

My Signature