Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Let’s Talk Over Mojo and Youtube…

I just want to speak briefly about our new Youtube channel and the intentions and thoughts we have about it. Of course, I just posted a new cooking video, in addition to two others previously posted. I am new to this Youtube thing in a sense of posting videos on a more regular basis (I tried to do hair and hair product reviews to get my feet wet years back but only 1 made it). Though I had done a little research after reading about this one blogger's rut, I lurched in forums to read about the things people want to see versus what they don't want to see, it's a mixed bag between content and culture. In so far as that, I don’t know much beyond “you better have some tough skin”, it’s fun, I like it, and it’s meant to be yet another creative outlet. It is also a good way to keep in touch /share things with family back home that miss seeing us more regularly. I have some vloggers that I enjoy watching too; even ones that we watch together.

However, after watching a popular vlogger vent about how he felt stuck in a rut with their vlogging it solidified a mutual decision that Papa Smurf and I had reached long before. And yes I did discuss developing a channel on Youtube with the husband first to further gauge his interest and comfort level since I wanted him to be a part of it. We agreed that we just want to post when we travel, go to cool places, events, something exciting or are doing some real cooking. Don’t get me wrong I love some of the daily vloggers I really do. I can't keep up with all the dailies though I try and even one to two of my faves have scaled back now. Anyways, hearing him share that he got depressed and bored watching his own dailies spoke volumes. And the last thing I want to do is get stuck in a rut too when I already escaped from one. Such is life once you live and you learn. We are a comfy and cozy family so we know all too well the art of vegging out around the house, neighborhood and juggling errands. Though posting videos is fun and addicting I'm not yet on the same page with the banality of posting our day to day life just yet, my mind may change so I use my words carefully. What would you like to see on our Youtube channel?

Moving on...this is a food blog though right? Here we go, the Mojo Criollo marinade is popular for my sister and I to use during summer barbecues. It was especially popular when we would host the combined birthday parties for our kids. Usually we will shortcut it and get the Goya brand. However, this past weekend I was feeling adventurous and inspired so I decided that I would make the marinade from scratch. There are key components it seems across the board. You want to have your citrus coupled with strong robust and aromatic flavors. I am pretty sure I butchered the pronunciation which is shameful because I do speak a little Spanish. (Pron: Mo-ho Cree-O-Yo)

Mojo Criollo Marinade
Orange Juice (We used one and fresh squeezed)
Grapefruit Juice (We used one and fresh squeezed)
Lime Juice (We used one and some fresh squeezed SN: With each citrus I allowed little traces of the pulp to get into the blender as I juiced.
Fresh Garlic (5 Cloves)
Half of one yellow onion small to medium sized cut in quarters.
2-3 bunches of fresh cilantro
2-3 bunches of fresh oregano (leaves no stem)
1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt (more can be used to the taste)
Blend all of your ingredients together in the blender until smooth.
Mojo criollo is a great marinade for chicken, beef, and pork. Think of it like Frank’s you can put that sh--- on everything! For best results marinate your meet overnight. If you don’t have that type of time, then give it at least 30 minutes. It’s very flavorful so have fun, be creative, and enjoy it!
How will you use your Mojo Criollo marinade?

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mother's Day Weekend At Siesta Beach!

"When life happens put on a brave face, and make the best of it..."--J. Taylor

The Mother’s Day weekend got off to a rough start. Papa Smurf was stung by a bee at work Thursday and had a severe allergic reaction. Impending words of wisdom, always follow your gut, by Friday morning the allergic reaction was progressing noticeably and I told him we were going to the E.R. ASAP. We thought he would be in and out but he was admitted and the doctors weren’t letting him leave even if he wanted to as they stated it was pretty bad. By Saturday afternoon he was released and almost good as new. The amount of relief I felt once he came across the door step…was like an anchor off of my chest. 

I still remember vividly exactly where we were when we first learned about Siesta Key, FL. It was years ago, before the kids (even), Papa Smurf and I were up late watching The Travel Channel while spending a weekend together. It was a countdown of The Top Beaches in the U.S., and Siesta Key made #1. I am a beach lover and Papa Smurf loves the water, boats, and fishing. So naturally and almost instantaneously upon seeing the powdery sand and bright vivid colored waters, we were both like WOW we HAVE to go there! Not knowing that 7-8 years and 2 kids later we would move a little over an hour away from the place. Papa Smurf initially wanted to head down to Siesta Key for the weekend, somewhat last minute somewhat planned. We called around late that afternoon and lucked out due to a cancellation. 

Where We Stayed:
In downtown Sarasota, the Arts District. I did not even know that Sarasota had a downtown since most times we are down that end we are in Venice visiting close friends of the family. It's small, very "Cosmo" and has gorgeous architecture. There are nice strips with little shops and restaurants. It reminded me a little bit of Chevy Chase and Georgetown back home (with a splash of Adams Morgan). If we had moved here when we were younger without the kids I could picture us having lived in Sarasota; or maybe when we are older and "empty nesters". The real estate is awesome! Breathtaking, gorgeous homes that look like something out of the movies or MTV Cribs. Check out Sothebys International Realty. It has been discussed we will own a waterfront home someday.

Hotel Indigo

We loved, loved, loved Hotel Indigo! We can't wait to go back! The hotel gets a 5* from us. They get it right on down to the minute details. And they are...PET FRIENDLY! Right after Papa Smurf had checked in, the rest of us entered the lobby and were greeted by cheerful staff that were all smiles (even at late evening/ early night hours). We were informed that the room we ended up with was a king and we were offered air mattresses for the children (twin size). One of the staff came in to set it up and even made the bed up nicely. 

The Suite feels so refreshing, cozy, and relaxing. When you enter there is soft ambiance music playing, very zen, like the kind that you would hear in Yoga class or at the spa. There was a large mural on the wall, close up of a natural plant life scene. The decor and flooring reminded me very much of a cross of Restoration Hardware meets Pottery Barn. There is an extra large shower that could fit the whole family inside (not appropriate, but doable). I was surprised to see a real full sized blow dryer in the bathroom. There are a sample of Aveda products are available and a sign boasts if you left anything at home to let them know and they will accommodate you. I can believe it. The magnification mirror on the bathroom sink countertop helped me to be even more precise in applying my liquid eyeliner I will definitely have to invest in one. There is a refrigerator and coffee maker in the suite. All the comforts of home. Very modern and far from dated.

Hotel Indigo's H20 Bar and Grill
Wow! Pleasant Surprise. Because it's late, you order food and don't leave the room, at least when you have kids and you're tired. We kept it light, I had a Reuben and Papa Smurf had a chicken salad sandwich. The Reuben was delicious, fresh homemade generous portion of corned beef, sweet Russian dressing, the kraut was tart fresh and crisp, the marble rye bread was fresh and lightly toasted. We just ordered finger food for the kids since there was no kids' menu and Jerry can be so picky. Some of the finger food that we got for them included fresh fruit and steak fries (not pictured).The peanut butter cheesecake was definitely the star of the show! Smooth and creamy cheesecake whipped with peanut butter, topped with turtles and drizzled with caramel. Papa Smurf and I shared the cheesecake and finished everything off with a coffee and cappuccino.


Siesta Village

Reminded me a little bit of Adams Morgan back home. There are lots of shops, bars, restaurants, ice cream parlor, drug store and convenience store, and more. Great for bike riding and high score for overall walkability. It's a narrow two lane street through the village so you might as well park, walk or ride and get your exercise! Outside of 7'Eleven and Subway I did not notice any franchises or large corporate owned commercial places within the village. The absence of which made this location unique, having a personality all its own. We admire destinations that opt out of mass incorporation of major franchise chains. Because when we're on vacation we want to go to different places not something we can go and get at home.

Siesta Beach

The beach is so wide and long you don't even care or notice that it is crowded; at least I didn't. The crowd is very mixed, but very friendly as well. No drama. The sand is like baby powder, white and so soft. The water is a beautiful pristine emerald green and turquoise blue. The water temperature was also quite warm that day and lots of beach goers were swimming that day.

Know Before You Go/ (What I Wish I Had Known):

Parking is what!?! Free! Yes! 

There is a snack bar with items under $10. The snack bar has items like hot dogs, nachos, burgers, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and sodas.

There are rentals for everything you probably did not want to lug with you, or forgotten and left at home or between your hotel or rental.

Overall, loved Hotel Indigo, downtown Sarasota, Siesta Village and Siesta Beach. We were so glad to have finally made it to Siesta Beach, and we can't wait to go back and stay longer. It was just our speed. I have a video/vlog to share and will try to post today. In the meantime, how did you spend your Mother's Day weekend?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Wheels Keep Turning and the Grill Keeps Burning!

We Grill! And you know you probably grill alot when the neighbors take notice. I notice a couple that consistently come outside to sit on their patios and watch now. Alot stop and speak.

I was craving pizza last week but I’m a pizza snob. Yes, I’m a pizza snob and particular when it comes to my pie. There are some chains I just don’t care for but I won’t list them here. It’s nothing personal it’s me, not them. I just prefer Italian or New York style, oh and I like brick oven too. Jerry wanted “Little Seasons” as he calls it. But I knew that I wanted to make the pizza ourselves. We always walk past the fresh dough in the deli/ bakery section of our neighborhood Publix but with each passing by my glance would linger as my creative mind would wander about the thoughts of homemade pizza for the night. Then Papa Smurf snaps me out of it. Either that or one of the two screaming children pulls me back into the grocery mission; the list we already have or the dinner we've already planned.

Before last week's trip to the grocery, I was online on two of the hubs of my creative inspiration...Pinterest and the Food Network App. I came across grilled pizza! I was like *in Kevin Hart's voice "Wait a minute...Wait a minute!" Grilled pizza!? I thought of like every #Fail under the keys of a Google fueled search. What if the dough falls through the grates? What if the dough sticks to the grates? Without a the heck am I going to get it off of there? Shrugged all of that off and went over the Youtube where I learn alot of things, like knitting (successful self taught knitter since 2008). What can I say I'm a visual learner and I thank God for that gift! Anyways, I watched this video to get the technique down pat. Then we headed out to Publix to get the the dough and toppings. Papa Smurf just wanted to keep it simple, which thinking back was smart, since it was our first time trying out the technique. So we just stuck to pepperoni, fresh basil, mozzarella, marinara sauce. 

Things I did differently...

The obvious dead giveaway, we use a charcoal grill. What can I say I love the smokey flavor of the charcoal grill better. 

I oiled both sides of the dough with extra virgin olive oil instead of using a non stick spray; I did the same for the grill grates. Check out that dough bubbling up. Kind of startling for a first timer but it was all good! Once it bubbles up it's solid and easy to turn/ flip over (just like pancakes :))

 Since we are working over a charcoal flame, I move the pizza over to get indirect heat and put the toppings on it to keep the crust from burning. I close the lid to let the cheese melt.

Here's how ours turned out once finished! Not bad for a first time!

I love this technique! It tastes JUST LIKE brick oven pizza! And I love brick oven pizza so we will definitely be grilling pizza again some time soon. Papa Smurf wants to make a seafood pizza next time. Will you be brave and try grilling your next homemade pizza?