It is truly Summer here in Georgia, and the best part of Summer is making plans with friends to enjoy the weather! We were invited by our friend Karen to her place on Lake Weiss in Alabama last month on Memorial Day Weekend. (This post is a little late but the last few weeks have been so crazy! I blogged a lot about our cruise last month, and I've been babysitting and dog sitting, and doing some volunteer work. Time has flown by!)
Our visit to the lake was so much fun! Karen and her husband, Ronnie, are the best hosts, we made a few new friends, and of course, being on the water is wonderful!
Here are some wonderful "Greek" Chicken Kabobs my sister and I took to the party. They were grilled up by Mike, one of the new friends we made that day and they disappeared pretty quickly, so I'm pretty sure they were a big hit! I wanted to make fresh tzatziki sauce but ended up having store bought because there were no pretty cucumbers at the grocery store.
Besides hanging with friends, the second best thing about Summer is all the beautiful produce. This recipe calls for two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2" cubes (one is too small, two is too big), and the kabobs also have zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, onions, and red bell peppers. Cut the veggies into the most uniform pieces possible for more even cooking. These were cooked on wooden skewers after alternating the chicken and veggies onto the skewers. There is a difference of opinion about wooden skewers, to soak or not to soak to keep them from burning, but I did soak mine for an hour before adding the chicken and veggies. I marinated the whole kabobs for two hours in a plastic covered container in the refrigerator, and I also wrapped the ends with aluminum foil before cooking. Do not marinate chicken for more than two hours in a citrus or other acidic marinade. The acid can actually toughen the chicken by the way it breaks down the proteins if marinaded too long.
Here are the marinade ingredients!
*Did you know you can get more juice from a lemon or lime by microwaving the whole fruit for 10 seconds before cutting and squeezing? It's true!
Here's something cool and refreshing! Because strawberries were in season, and because I found this beautiful recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Mely of Mexico In My Kitchen, I made a Tres Leches Cake (three milk cake) for the first time ever, and it was a huge success! Click on the picture for Mely's recipe!
To round out the Memorial Day Weekend, Sis and I enjoyed grilling out at home with our personal favorite on the grill, t-bone steaks. T-Bone steaks are something I mastered before going to culinary school because they were so often requested at my house. There's nothing fancy at all about them. They are marinated in Dale Seasoning Sauce for 30 minutes before putting them on the grill. I cooked them that way a while back and we like that flavor. I will admit, I did learn about grill marks at culinary school. The veggies in the grill basket were left over from when I was making the chicken kabobs, so we enjoyed those again!
Well, if I'm going to get this posted by the end of June, I have to close it out now. We were invited by friends and relatives to Florida and made a trip to Destin in early June that I will tell you about later and also about our great hosts and the wonderful Gulf Coast food we had there! In the meantime, I hope you all have a great 4th of July weekend!
Dished With Love! Denise
Okay, this is not an advertisement for Carnival Cruise Lines, it's just that the only two cruises I have been on so far have been with Carnival. My first cruise was a retirement present from my sister and we went with a large group of friends. That was a great time to the Bahamas where we stopped at Freeport and Nassau. Here is the ship we traveled on last month, but the pictures of the food on the cruise are the real reason we're here!
These were two of my favorites. The pizza was an all around favorite and it was also from a 24 hour pizza bar! Heaven! The pizza crust was made with an Italian flour, which I am going to buy, and the pizzas were baked at a high temperature in an oven with a conveyer belt. The crust was thin with a little crisp and char. Delicious! Sis and I had our favorite a few times, the prosciutto pizza, with fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted garlic, prosciutto and rucola (known to us as arugula) pizza. They also had margherita pizza, funghi (mushroom) pizza, quattro formaggi (four cheese pizza, and pepperoni pizza, and all were wonderful!
The sopes (pronounced "soap-a's" to the best of my ability) on the right were handmade at a taco and burrito bar, Blue Iguana. Sopes are like thick corn tortillas with a little more corn texture. They had every kind of protein and veggie toppings you could think of for burritos, fajitas, tacos, sopas, or to eat by themselves. The bar also included a variety of salsas, in all kinds of spice, from mild to habanero hot! These two food bars are good enough reason to take a cruise. Yeah, that's a little silly, but it's almost true!
For dinner we arranged fixed seating for dinner at 6 p.m. each evening, so we had the same table and same waiter and waitress all week. This is Luca, from Croatia, a European state on the Mediterranean Ocean (on the map you can see Italy across the ocean), and Yupar, from Myanmar, a Southeast Asian state that borders Thailand. If they can slow down a little from their busy tasks, the staff on the ship are from all over the world and are very interesting to talk to. They presented us with menus with appetizers, entrees and desserts, and you could order one item or everything on the menu. There were a couple of nights I ordered more than one of each from each category, but I had to try them, and it was all paid for in the cruise package! Don't judge me.
I made some notes, and I lost them, so I cannot remember what night we had some of these, and what exactly goes together, but I'm going to caption the pictures. This is not all my food, there were four of us!
Guess which dessert was one of the favorite desserts here! It rhymes with hazelnut and chocolate!
If I remember correctly, this Greek Salad was one of Sis's favorites. Guess who ordered the tacos!
Believe it or not, one of my most favorite dishes was the Red Beet Carpacchio! I did find my notes on it! It includes red beets, arugula, Feta cheese, red grapefruit segments, thin radish slices, and a grapefruit vinaigrette! I haven't made it at home yet, but I fully intend to. It was marvelous! That is a thin cheese crisp on top, maybe parmesan. Those are so easy to make, too. Just use some parchment paper on a sheet or cookie tray, plop little mounds of shredded cheese onto the paper (I've only done cheddar and parmesan, but a lot of different kinds should do), stick them into a 350 degree (universal temperature) oven until melted and a tiny bit brown. Take them out and let them cool. Voila!
The French Onion Soup was delicious, too! I'm going to try a crockpot recipe I have since Vidalia onions are in abundance right now. Click on the picture for that recipe! Sorry for not wiping the bowl off before taking the picture. I was probably hungry or I was holding someone else up from eating their dinner. I'm known for that.
Believe me, this is just a sampling of the food that these ships carry. They have an on-board excursion that is not advertised where you can tour "behind the scenes" on the ship, and that includes a tour of the kitchen and the Executive Chef prepares an exclusive lunch. It also includes the engine room, and all the other parts of the ship that I can't remember the names of. This was on Friday, our last day at sea, and it was $99 and it was three hours long. I wish they had an exclusive kitchen-Chef excursion, I would have liked that!
That's all of the pictures I have from this trip. I hope you have enjoyed them, and maybe you'll get the hankering to take a cruise! I think everyone should take at least one!
Until next time, Dished With Love! Denise
Imagine going on one of those fancy vacations to Mexico like they give away on Live With Kelly. I'm going to start playing that give-away game one of these days! Those vacations cost thousands of dollars! Then think about just getting to go to Mexico at all, at prices most of us can afford. That would be on a cruise. You can be as extravagant as you wish, or pretty plain and simple, and still enjoy places you never would have gotten to go to otherwise!
My sister, Janise, went on a cruise to Cozumel and Grand Cayman this past October, and when she wanted to go back I knew it must have been pretty nice! This time we went together with a friend to Cozumel and Yucatan, and y'all know I am all about the food, especially Mexican food! So let me share with you some of the great foodie experiences we had!
This is an excursion I took at Cozumel upon the recommendation of my sister who had taken the same excursion last year, and it was wonderful! It wasn't far from the port where our ship came in. This one is called "La Casa En La Playa - A Select Retreat. It features authentic Mexican food, drinks and beach time! What more could you ask for?
This was in a little house on the beach, and it included this kitchen and a little room for seating inside and seating on the porch that wrapped most of the way around the house. Our Chef demonstrated Chiltomate, one of the world's first cooked salsas, and it includes cooked tomatoes and habaneros, which means it is very hot, so use more or less peppers, seeds or no seeds, but handle the peppers carefully! Our Chef's recipe is made with roasted and ground pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, and he says that is what makes his recipe special! This is what he did. He toasted the pepitas in a dry pan on the stove, and then ground them in the molcajete. He had the vegetables prepped already and he roasted the tomatoes, onions, habaneros, and garlic in an iron skillet on the stove. Did you know that garlic is a vegetable? It is! Once the vegetables were evenly charred he put them, along with the ground, toasted pepitas, in a blender, added a good bit of cilantro, salt to taste, and blended it all up. Then he tossed it all back into the hot skillet to meld the flavors, for just a few seconds, and poured it into a beautiful molcajete (see the pretty stone bowls holding the salsa and chips? You've seen a molcajete if you've ever had guacamole made tableside at your favorite Mexican restaurant! The salsa was served with hot, fresh, fried corn tortilla chips! I was in heaven!!
We had a lot of beach time on this excursion, and while we were enjoying the water and sunshine, the leaders came by to take our lunch orders. When lunch was ready they set our tables up on the beach, in the shade of the beautiful palm trees, and brought us an appetizer of chips and fresh guacamole. More heaven! And then the heavens came down! It was only a 5-10 minute tropical storm, but our lunch was moved to the little house and the porch. Lunch was fabulous! Look at this!
How beautiful is that! We had chicken mole, and I believe that is mashed jicama with a carrot and squash garnish. The baked flounder was spiced with smoked paprika and baked with peppers and onions, and cooked on a banana leave. We were in the Western Caribbean, after all! Both dishes were served with cilantro rice. Sadly, we could not go back for seconds! They were both very memorable dishes!
Then we had a little more beach time and we had to go. It was a beautiful day, as you can see from the picture above, and everything was perfect, even the little storm.
Janise and a friend of ours, Kendall, decided to forego the excursion this trip and hailed a cab to a local Mexican restaurant and a tequila tasting. What could be more Mexican? Here are the pictures Janise took at their lunch!
This was on Wednesday, the third day of our cruise. That evening we sailed to the city of Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico. The pier was very long and the city ran buses from the ship's terminal to the beach, for just tips. There were other means of transportation that would carry you to Progreso and Merida, the capital of Yucatan, and it was only 20 minutes from Progreso. If I get to go back my goal is to visit Merida, even though there's not a beach there. Janise and I took the city bus to Progreso and enjoyed walking the streets. There are many, many vendors covering the streets and all of them are wanting your attention and your business. We were hailed to a local restaurant by one of those vendors and sat down to have lunch on tables set up on the street. It was delicious, too. The food looks familiar to most of you, I am sure!
And then we go back to the ship for a day at sea on our way back to New Orleans! Nothing can beat the experience of actually being in Mexico. Cozumel was beautiful, but my favorite part was walking the local streets in Progreso. We found out that most of Cozumel is actually owned by Carnival; therefore, it is pretty touristy with expensive shopping. Progreso has a different economy and the money spent there supports the local vendors, once you get off the pier. There is much, much more to see, so I would not hesitate to go back on this same cruise, with a different itinerary at the ports.
I still have lots of pictures of food served on the actual cruise ship, so stay tuned! I have started working on those but I'm about to go out of town again (and I will have more foodie pictures), so it will be a few days before I get back here.
Maybe my pictures will inspire you to try a cruise if you've never been on one, just so you can see these beautiful parts of the world. I know many of you are Mexican food junkies like me, too! Until next time, Friends!
Dished With Love - Denise
A place to share my favorite things...friends and food, dogs, college football, and my inspiration, Sawyer, the most beautiful little girl in the world!