Category Archives: Food

Global Cookie Recipes from Omni Hotels

I first published this post last year, but with the holidays fast approaching it felt like the perfect time to dust it off and share again. Okay, so maybe I had to dig up the recipes as part of my nefarious plot to score the top spot at this year’s cookie exchange. Either way this one is a win, win!

Taking a recipe with you is the best sort of travel souvenir. It lets you recall the memories with all your senses. Omni hotels are bringing it all back with some great global cookie recipes and personal stories.

Dulce De Leche Snap Cookies“This family recipe stems from growing up with my grandmother in a small village off the coast of the Pacific, a few hours from Acapulco. She was a great cook and baker. Everything that she produced was done from scratch including one of the main ingredients that was used for this particular cookie, the “Dulce de Leche” which was made from sugar cane molasses.” ~ Executive Chef Gabino Acosta, Omni Mandalay Hotel at Las Colinas

Dulce de Leche Snap Cookies

8 oz Sugar
5 oz Brown sugar
0.03 oz Salt
12 oz Shortening
4 oz Butter
4 oz Whole milk
.5 oz Baking soda
22 oz Molasses
20 oz Bread flour
20 oz Cake flour

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Cream together sugars, salt shortening and butter till smooth and soft. Dissolve baking soda in milk and add to the mix. Add molasses. Sift together flours and add it to the mixer, slowly till smooth. Roll 1.5 ounce balls, then make the dough in the shape of mini bowl. Scoop the Dulce de Leche into 0.8 ounce. Add the Dulce de Leche into the dough, close it and shape the cookie in 2 inches rounds. Freeze the cookie dough for about 20 minutes, and bake them frozen 8-10 minutes at 325 degrees.

Amaretti Cookie RecipeIn my husband’s Italian family, Amaretti cookies are a holiday staple. I’ve been asking my mother-in-law for her recipe for years. Like the mom on Everybody Loves Raymond she always seems to be unable to find it or recall it from memory when I ask. Our cookies are either shipped by her, or store bought… until now!

Amaretti Cookies

12oz almond paste
2oz egg whites
¾ C powdered sugar
½ C granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Put the almond paste in the bowl of your mixer and, with the paddle attachment, paddle to break up
3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to form a sticky dough
4. Scoop the cookies with a cookie scoop (or alternately just scoop with a tablespoon) and roll into a ball. Place the balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Slightly wet your fingers in warm water, and press the cookies down using 2 fingers (you want to see the finger marks)
5. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until just starting to show color

“The holidays always remind me of baking with my Italian Nana. We would make pies, rolls, and cookies. The first thing she ever let me do in the kitchen was whip the cream for the pies, and every year when I am making my holiday desserts and whipping that cream, I think of being a little girl baking with my Nana.”  ~ Pastry Chef Kristina Kent, Omni Dallas Hotel

Omni has put together a great collection of global cookie recipes that you can enjoy at their hotels, or visit their Pinterest page to find some to try at home!

Disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored by anything but kiemy taste buds and love of trying new recipes. I was not compensated in any way. We do love to stay at Omni hotels – Berkshire in New York City is our favorite – because they always treat everyone in your family like you’re in theirs.

 

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Roasted Red Pepper & Pignoli Tapenade

quick and easy roasted red pepper & pine nut tapenade

Having an easy, go-to recipe for entertaining is a must. Even if you’re not a whiz in the kitchen this Roasted Red Pepper & Pignoli (pine nut) Tapenade is sure to impress.

It passed my mother-in-law test!

The best part is all the ingredients can be found, “grab-and-go” in nearly any grocery store. If you’re more into roasting your own peppers (which is a tasty option) then go for it. I’d rather spend more time on the cocktails! 

Roasted Red Pepper and Pignoli Tapenade
Serves 10
Easy, fast, and impressive this simple tapenade is a staple for enteraining.
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Can Roasted Red Peppers (drained)
  2. 2 TBSP Romano Cheese (grated)
  3. 2 TBSP Pignoli/Pine Nuts
  4. 1 TSP Capers
  5. 2 Sprigs Tarragon (coarsely chopped)
  6. 1/2 TSP White Pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat a small skillet on medium-high. Once the pan is heated through, add pignoli. Smell is your indicator here, as soon as the nuts start to release their oils and the aroma of nut wafts up from the pan, give it a few shakes until they are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Place remaining ingredients in a blender. Pulse several times to break down the peppers. Add pignoli and continue to pulse until a nice paste forms - as chunky or smooth as you like.
Notes
  1. It's best to let this tapenade chill for 30 minutes or so in the refrigerator. This gives it time to set up and for the flavors to meld.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Visiting Ottawa Canada (aka Myth Busting)

 Debunking Five Myths about Candians by Visiting Ottawa, CanadaAh, stereotypes. Every country and culture seems to have at least a few. Visiting Ottawa, Canada helped me bust a few myths. Travel gives us the ability to be myth busters of a short… only without the walrus mustaches and exploding crash-test dummies. 

Myth 1: It’s Winter 11 Months of the Year

Visiting Ottawa in summer is blissfully balmy. In fact an average summer day comes in at around 78°,  almost San Diego-esque, eh? A warm, breezy summer day in the Canadian capital city is perfect for wandering. So much of the sites are within easy walking distance of each other. 

Rideau Canal Ottawa Canada UNESCO World Heritage SiteA stroll along the Rideau Canal is a must. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a marvel of 19th century engineering.  One of the first canals to be designed specifically for steam-powered vessels, the system of locks now conveys mostly leisure craft along the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers. In fact it’s the only canal of the “Great North American Canal Building Era,” to still operate along it’s original route. If you enjoy history, a tour of the canal system is a must, since many of the original structures remain intact today.

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 2: Canadians Only Drink Beer

Sparks Street is a bit like the a low-key version of Time Square. Closed to all but pedestrian traffic these few blocks near Parliament Hill feature kitschy souvenir shops, eateries, bars, and a few upscale shopping areas. Here we did stop by a place called Bier Markt that featured 150 beers from 30 countries. Could there be something to this beer thing?

I like a nice hoppy beer and will try an IPA any day.  I fully expected Ottawa to be a beer city, and I’d have been okay with that. Turns out Canadians dig their craft cocktails too. LIFT Bar, the cocktail lounge inside the Delta Ottawa City Centre (now a part of the Marriott hotel family, yeah!) where we were hosted guests during our stay, makes a mean Mule and even some truly creative cocktails featuring locally produced spirits – and yes, some great craft brews too.

Ottawa Mule Craft CocktailClearing away any doubt that this myth is exactly that, I present you with the following evidence…. Wayne Gretzky Estates.  We picked up a 2011 Merlot made with grapes hand harvested in Okanagan Valley, British Colombia and it was actually quite good!

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 3: Canada is ALL about the Hockey, eh!

We witnessed a man dressed in full hockey gear, including skates, balance on top of a goal while juggling flaming hockey sticks. While you’d think that would have proved the myth, this guy {Paz} happened to hail from LA… eh.  <— which I think I said more than any Canadian we met.

Juggling Flaming Hockey Sticks. Visiting Ottawa, Canada

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 4: Canadians Live on Maple Syrup and (Back) Bacon

Admittedly there is plenty of maple and Back Bacon {known to we Americans as Canadian bacon} to be found. Even in the Eggs Benedict at LIFT restaurant – not sure I was so much into that. Ottawa is a very metropolitan city boasting a vibrant food scene with plenty of influence coming from the French. Hello poutine and pastries. The farm-to-table options come in a dizzying array from a rainbow of produce and artisanal cheeses at the famed ByWard Market to scratch-made Italian staples at several area eateries.

ByWard Market Ottawa Canada

You can NOT leave Ottawa without eating BeaverTails. I know what you’re thinking, I thought it too. Eew gross, Canada! Wrong. SO wrong. BeaverTails are oddly-named, flaky, rich, light and airy pillows of crispy pastry topped with awesome. Start with the maple butter {obviously} and work your way through the menu. You’ll thank me, even if your waistline won’t.

MYTH BUSTED

wa

Myth 5: Canadians Are SO Polite

I was pretty sure the minute we drove into the parking garage at the Delta – which is shared with the public – and were greeted by a smiling hotel employee {obviously on his break} who was all to happy to show us the best spot to park in, give tips for cutting down on the cost of parking, and welcome us to his city, that this is a myth that could not be busted. Once at the front desk, the busting prospects looked even more bleak.

Usually when you check-in at any hotel, the front desk staff is cordial. Even at the most luxurious of properties the script is pretty much the same. “Can we help you with anything while you’re staying with us?”, “How was your trip?”, “Would you like help with your bags.” All perfectly polite – and expected– inquires.  Then there is Alex.

Spires of the East Block Building of Canadian Parliment Ottawa
Weathered spires and French architectural influences abound on Canada’s Parliament Hill.

Alex took the time not only to ask those questions, but to find out what we liked, what we might want to discover about his city, and even give us tips about things we’d never have known about without him. He took out a map and walked us through the best things to see, when to go where, and gave as an impromptu history lesson. It was like having our own personal guide to Ottawa. Then there was Eric.

Eric turned out to be the name of the friendly staffer from the car park, as well as a stellar Bellman.  Gift bags to keep the kids entertained. Cold drinks to refresh weary parents who got stuck a Canadian Customs {that’s a story for another post, oi!} and even setting up late evening reservations for the whole crew on the pub side of LIFT. Then there was Annie.

Things were looking pretty damn polite at this point!

In the interest of full-disclosure, we are Elite level Marriott rewards members and make it a point to snag club level rooms anytime they are available. Tip: DO THIS! If you’ve got more than one kid it pays for itself. Marriott Clubs often offer free breakfast, snacks, and enough refreshments and libations to cover the additional cost several times over.  Also, as I mentioned before this was a hosted visit. Annie had no way of knowing that though. Each morning she greeted us as though we were long-lost pals returning to visit her! Any question we had, any little thing the kids asked for, she made sure it was taken care of. You just can’t put a price on service like that. Though this Delta property hasn’t quite gotten to the level of offerings that you typically see in Marriott Clubs, Annie’s shining smile made it feel as top-notch as any other. Then their was Parliament.

Living in the Washington D.C. area, we’re used to dower-faced officials. Hey, things are rough these days and their job is to watch out for bad guys, not make kids giggle. The Canadians seem to have been able to balance the need to keep a wary eye out, with their penchant for polite. 

Are All Canadians Freindly or What
Polite, and hilariously cool.. the Guards of Parliament Hill. I can’t be the only one thinking “Benny Hill” here, can I?

That feeling of warm welcome extends from the folk watching over the buildings of Parliament, to the locals who gather to share a spot on the lawn any given summer evening to watch the story of Canada – from the First Peoples to modern Canadians– unfold in multi-media magnificence; Northern Lights.  Hundreds of people gathered for a free show and not one tussle, no salty stares, not even an frenzied rush to get the best spot. Then there was the cab driver.

Rude. Angry. Took the long way around to get a higher fare. Though he did mention that was from Indonesia.

MYTH CONFIRMED (so far)

Visiting Ottawa, Canada was such a blast we’ll be back to bust a few more myths during Winterlude. Plus.. um.. MORE Poutine!

Stay tuned for more on Canada’s Delta Hotels joining the Marriott brand and a full review of our stay at Delta Ottawa City Center.

Poutine Canada's Gift to the WORLD
Poutine from a Food Truck. Or as the teen calls it… “Deep fried bliss smothered in happiness gravy dotted with cheesy nuggets of awesome.” Yeah, pretty close.
 Field Notes On Visiting Ottawa, Canada:

The trip to Ottawa, Canada was amazing everyone was so nice we stayed at a beautiful hotel called Delta. Alex, at the front desk was so amazing he suggested a lot of fun activities to do.One of the doormen even gave me and my brother gift bags. My mom gave me a tip to give him. He was very happy, and said thanks.

Next we went for a walk. There were little shops outside, and I got some new jewelry, a ring from a very nice lady and a name bracelet form a funny guy who showed us where to get poutine. Then we went to dinner. I had ribs on a plate so huge that it took up the whole table!  

So we went to a pastry shop and a tasted sweets. The wifi at the hotel was was very good. Housekeeping left chocolates on the pillow and my favorite robe. The pool was amazing and the outdoor lounge was relaxing.

The next day we went to a war museum it was very interesting and sad too. After that we went down to the gift shop, it was a little overpriced but I got a owl necklace. I had my very first  beavertail, they are so yum! Goodbye Ottawa, until we meet again.  

Emily – Field Reporter {age 9}

Delta Hotel Ottawa City Centre.png
Chic updated suite at the Delta Ottawa City Centre. Can’t wait to introduce you to the Smart Desk!

Disclosure: As you know, from time to time I’m asked to visit places, attractions, and hotels as a hosted guest. That said, my thoughts and opinions are always my own. Honesty, you deserve nothing less.

5 global hot cocoa recipes

global hot cocoa recipes

Winter has finally arrived in all it’s teeth-chattering glory here in Maryland. I’ll admit to never being much of a cold-weather gal. One thing I do love about a nip in the air is that it is the perfect excuse for whipping up some hot cocoa. After you try some of these global hot cocoa recipes you’ll never go instant again!

On cold Spanish nights {yes, we had those even though I lived in the south} my favorite treat was wrapping my frozen fingers around a tiny mug of toasty warm coco and dipping crunchy churros into it’s molten yumminess. You’ve never indulged yourself in chocolate decadence until you’ve had Spanish hot cocoa.

Dense, rich and luxuriant, Spanish hot cocoa is more an event than a drink. Yes, there is work involved. This isn’t rip-open-the-packet coca. That said, making it is easier than you may think and certainly well worth the effort.

Spanish Hot Cocoa Recipe

2 cups WHOLE milk {I know, I’m a skim girl too but you really have to have the “real” stuff for this}
1 tsp cornflour
3/4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup dark chocolate, grated {I suggest at least 75% cacao}
1 tbsp sugar

In a small sauce pot over medium heat make a roux of the flour and cornstarch with about 2 tablespoons of the milk. Allow to cook for about a minute. You don’t want to toast it but you also don’t want that icky flour flavor. Slowly whisk in the remaining milk.  Add grated chocolate and sugar. Continue to whisk until chocolate melts and the milk reduces to a nice, loose, almost pudding-like consistency. 

Three types of milk and cinnamon? I’m in! When I found this recipe for Peruvian hot chocolate over at Provecho Peru, I started praying for winter to arrive. Okay, if we’re being honest I could drink this stuff any time of year. The addition of the cinnamon gives it a warming aroma that is perfectly suited to a cold winter’s day though.

Peruvian Hot Cocoa
Global Hot Cocoa Recipes
photo credit: Provecho Peru – provechoperu.com

 

You’ll find the hot cocoa recipe here but once you’re done with that browse around. This website is packed with all sorts of Peruvian culinary adventures!

Norwegian Hot Cocoa

When you think of a Winter Wonderland there is no doubt Norway has to top that list. So it makes perfect sense that the Norwegians would have some seriously awesome cocoa, right? Right!

This recipe from My Little Norway is super simple. Good quality cocoa powder and vanilla essence set it apart.

Zartbitter Heisse Schokolade – German Dark Chocolate

Just saying, “zartbitter heisse schokolade,” makes me smile. Somewhere Heir Isaacson from 11th grade German class is cringing at my inability to properly pronounce those words, but still it’s fun. Even more fun when you add this delectable drink recipe from The Kitchen Maus. 

global hot cocoa recipes
photo credit: The Kitchen Maus

 

Ghanaian Hot Chocolate

Sometimes the story is even better than the drink. And that’s saying something when the hot cocoa includes spiced rum, people! Chrissy of The Hungry Buddha weaves a tale of West African history while pounding out cacao beans {yes, actually taking a pestle to those puppies}  the result is a recipe fit for even the most discerning travel journal.

Do you have a favorite hot cocoa recipe? I’d love to try it!

 

Double Chocolate Espresso Brownies

Double Chocolate Espresso BrowniesCould there be anything more celebratory than a deep, rich, chewy chocolate brownie? Um, yeah. If it’s a brownie with double the chocolate and kicked up with some espresso. Nothing brings out the full flavor of really good chocolate like coffee.

This recipe is actually a cheat on my Italian mother-in-laws famous from-scratch brownies. Honestly, who has the time to sift flour, measure dry ingredients, and all that jazz. Okay, maybe I do but if I can get out of the kitchen faster and still look like a baking rock star, all the better.

Want to up your WOW factor? Serve these with some gelato on the side. The hubby loves pistachio but I’m a bit of a purist, make mine espresso or vanilla, thank you. 

 

Double Chocolate Espresso Brownies
Rich, chewy, indulgent brownies with half the effort.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. Boxed Fudge Brownie Mix (your favorite brand)
  2. 2 Large Eggs
  3. 1/4 Cup Espresso Coffee (room temp)
  4. 1/4 Vegetable Oil
  5. 1/4 Olive Oil
  6. 1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate (shaved off bar)
  7. 1/2 Cup Milk Chocolate Chips
Instructions
  1. Brew espresso and allow to cool to room temperature. You can use instant espresso, but brewed has a deeper flavor. Whisk eggs and oil together. Beat into dry brownie mix along with cooled espresso. Fold in chocolate. Place in a glass baking dish 13"x9" that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 27-30 minutes until toothpick inserted an inch or so from the edge comes out clean. Remove and cool on a wire cooling rack.
Notes
  1. Do not over-work your brownie batter that will result in a cake-like brownie rather than a chewy one.
Adapted from Her Mother-In-Law's Super Complicated Recipe
Adapted from Her Mother-In-Law's Super Complicated Recipe
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/