Monday, August 30, 2010

An experiment in baking...

It's no secret that I love cookies and what's better than having them freshly baked? With little to do around town, D and I set off on an adventure in cooking. I should mention, baking is about the only type of cooking I successfully manage. There were ups and downs, but the cookies were always quickly consumed.

Our first batch was beautiful and scrumptious, but far from perfect. We used butter cake mix and to make some cake cookies similar to the
funfetti cookies I've previously made. We combined the batter with 2 eggs and 1/3 cup of vegetable oil. Everything was looking great. Thinking it would be fun to do rainbow cookies (similar to the cupcakes), we sought out the food color. We kept it simple with green and yellow, thinking at least it would be blue if the colors did mix. But surprise! The colors held together with no hint of blue anywhere.

Lesson #1 Dyed cookie dough colors do not blend.

D and I had a blast mixing the colors and forming our cookies, but I did find that the texture was more like play dough than cookie dough. It seemed like too much oil, which could be explained by the addition of food coloring.

Lesson #2 Add less oil to your cookie dough to compensate for the addition of food coloring.

Our cookies also seemed to spread quickly while in the oven, likely due to the excess of oil. Some time in the fridge might have made the dough easier to handle and prevented such quick flattening.

Lesson #3 Be patient. Let the cookie dough sit in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before sheeting it up.

As you can see, our cookies were large and very thin. They
tasted great, but lacked the fluff of most cookies.

For icing, we decided to use the Pillsbury Easy Frost No Fuss Frosting again after they great results from last time! The icing gave us lots of control to create a wide array of designs, but a lot of the cookies ended up with too much icing. In some instances, the layer of icing was thicker than the cookie.

Lesson #4 Use the classic icing from a can and spread it on, so as to better control the amount of icing on each cookie.

Although the cookies weren't ideal, they will still delicious and gone within a matter of days. Not to mention, I learned a lot from them. Isn't that half the fun of baking? Discovering what works and what doesn't?

Well, a few days later, D and I decided to give the cake cookies a second go utilizing everything that we had learned. But this time it was all about the chocolate.

We used Pillsbury Devil's Food chocolate cake mix for the cookies and the funfetti chocolate fudge icing. And yes, it was nearly a death by chocolate.

We didn't add any food coloring this time, so there was no need to adjust the oil. We simply combined the ingredients to a doughy consistency and let them sit in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

After chilling, the dough was much easier to work with. We rolled small balls and flattened them slightly with the spoon. Fifteen minutes later at 350 degrees, we had beautifully fluffy cake cookies.

Then after the appropriate time for cooling passed, we had gorgeous cookies!

We couldn't have been happier with the results this time around. Not only were they tasty, but they were everything a cookie should be, including fluffy.

Give this basic recipe a try if your ready to turn your favorite cake into some yummy cookies.

Compile ingredients: Pillsbury Cake Mix, 1/3 cup oil, 2 eggs, icing
Combine ingredients into a yummy cookie dough.
Sheet them up.
Watch them like a hawk in the oven.
Ice the cookies after appropriate cooling time.

And, please, whatever you do, don't make my mistakes! Have fun!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not what you'd expect from Leonardo..

Hoping to score some delicious white cheese pizza, me and D headed off to our favorite pizza place for a bite to eat. But to our dismay, they we're closed. I thought it was weird, for a Tuesday afternoon, until I noticed the missing fountain machine. They weren't just closed, they were done, finite, adios! So let's say a little prayer and on with the next one...

This brought us to another popular pizzeria in town, DeVinci's Italian Restaurant and Pizza. This local joint is located right across from Ormond Lanes on US1. In search of a white cheese pizza, we didn't have to look at the menu long before placing our to-go order. We ended up with a medium White Pizza (approximately $9.50) and a half dozen Garlic Knots ($2.00). The knots were hard to resist after seeing the fresh ones displayed on the counter!

Although we decided to dine out, the decor looked very warm and inviting. The interior was kind of dim with soft lighting and seemed almost romantic, but a little fancier than what you would expect at most pizza places.

The pizza was Ok. Nothing special at all, in fact, it ranked kind of low as far as white cheese pizzas go. Now, just because a white cheese pizza doesn't have any red sauce, doesn't mean that it has to be bland, but this one kind of was. There was hardly any ricotta or feta. It tasted like a cheese pizza without the sauce, just mostly mozzarella. More ricotta and garlic would have made a world of difference! Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the pizza and ate two slices, but it's not something I would return for.

The garlic knots, on the other hand, are definitely return worthy! These little bundles of joy are a perfect two-bite size and seasoned with all the right spices, including lots of garlic! Buttery perfection melts in your mouth as soft pizza dough makes your tummy go yummy. And who can complain about the price, $2 really isn't that bad, is it?

We'll be back for the knots and maybe a different pizza. Although I suspect we could find just as great, if not better knots at any other pizzeria. Overall, I wasn't really impressed with DeVinci's this time around.


Open: Tuesday - Sunday (11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.)

Address: 197 US1, Ormond Beach, FL

Phone: 386 673 2504

Other: $15.OO minimum on deliveries

DeVinci's Italian Restaurant & Pizza on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The best little sandwich shop in town..

We found it! That's right, D and I stumbled upon the best little sandwich shop in town. I've passed this while driving to and from work for a couple of months now and always wondered, "could it be any good?" Well, The Sandwich Shoppe is more than good, it's amazing!

This little breakfast and lunch spot is located in an unexpected plaza on US1 in Holly Hill (1501 Ridgewood Ave. to be exact). Their signs are about as glamorous as the shop name and aren't exactly the most noticeable from the road. So I was awfully shocked by all the bright colors and 50's ambiance that awaited my through their doors! Red, yellow and even green walls surround a handful of counter height tables and stools that looks straight from a 50's, maybe 60's, diner!

After being greeted, D and I quickly found the handwritten menu on the wall and went to perusing. Serving both breakfast and lunch, everything on their menu sounded scrumptious, but after D pointed it out I just knew I had to try the shop favorite, the Chicken Bleu Sandwich ($5.29). D decided to go with the Chicken Cobb wrap ($4.99). It has avocados, need I say more?

Both our entrees were served with our choice of side, including homemade potatoes salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw or tri-pasta salad. Well, you know how much I love salad (not), but thankfully the lady suggested soup as a side instead. They had homemade potato soup available, one of my favorites!

As you can see, the Chicken Bleu Sandwich is a beast! It comes in two separate layers, meaning not two, but three slices of bread. Grilled chicken, Swiss cheese, ham and honey mustard create the top layer while American cheese, mayo, smoked turkey, lettuce and
tomato finish out the bottom layer. Oh and did I mention that the bread is grilled to perfectly melt in your mouth. Oh yea..

This sandwich was phenomenal. Perfect on so many levels. After the first bite, there was an indescribable explosion of goodness in my mouth. The only problem I did have ... it was huge. Perfect for splitting with a pal! All the different meat flavors worked perfectly together and the sweetness from the honey mustard was amazing and really enhanced the taste of the bread. I would order this sandwich every time if I could actually finish it.

D was sold on the Chicken Cobb Wrap after noting an ingredient of avocado, but besides that the wrap includes chicken, bleu cheese,
bacon, romaine, tomato and creamy parmesan dressing. D absolutely loved it. I took a few bites myself and would have liked to have had more avocado, but was still impressed.

The soup was surprisingly tasty. I will admit, I expected it to taste like any other potato soup, but nope, totally different. And in this case, different = awesome. The soup was very thick, kind of like a liquidity mash potatoes. The texture was great, the soup was tasty and I had a blast spooning it. The side portion was just perfect too. Not too much, but just enough to have a taste!

We had a great experience at The Sandwich Shoppe. The food is delicious, the service is outstanding and everyone is really friendly. We've already gone twice since discovering it less than a week ago and I'm already thinking about what I want to order next time for lunch or breakfast!

Did I mention, they deliver! It keeps getting better and better...


Hours: M-F (7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
Sat. (7:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.)

Address: 1501 Ridgewood Ave., Holly Hill, FL

Phone: 386 248 0303


Love cupcakes? Check out these beautiful ones created by one of my besties. Don't they look delicious and sound even better?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Somewhere over the rainbow...

Have you seen anything more beautifully, delicious looking? I think not. I am quite proud of these creations. That's right, I MADE THEM! Me, the horrible cook who prefers to go out for a reason, baked some cupcakes. In all actuality, I love to bake and I'm not half-bad at it either, it's just all that other cooking of real food that makes me stumble ... or almost burn the house down (don't ask).

I recently saw these adorable cupcakes on another blog and decided they would be the perfect "there is nothing to do in this town" evening activity. They were so much fun, easy to do and cheap, I just can't wait for another reason to make them! On the evening of their creation, me and D packed up and headed to Wally World to purchase a few supplies. Since we were experimenting, we went with the smaller package of confetti cake mix ($1), some food coloring (liquid not gel), and a can of Pilsbury's Easy Frost No-Fuss Frosting.

I began by following the instructions on the box! Great place to start, don't ya think? After I had successfully blended all the appropriate ingredients, I evenly disbursed the batter into a variety of bowls. At this point, D joined me in creating various colors of batter. Needless to say, their was lots of smiles and laughter. I mean how much fun does this sound!? I then layered the cupcakes to the best of my ability and sent them to the oven hoping for the desired results.

And Voila! They came out as cute as can be! I couldn't have been happier with the intensity of the colors. We let them chill out for a bit
before applying the icing in a can. I know what your thinking, icing in a can...ew. Well, that's what I was afraid of too, but D suggested we give it a try. With our sweet tooths combined, there was no way we could actually wait to try the icing on the cupcake. Psh. And low and behold, it was actually really darn tasty. It was just yummy as any icing you would expect from Pillsbury, being in a can didn't effect it what so ever. In fact, it just became way more fun to eat. Think cheeze-wiz. Oh yea.

After the cupcakes had cooled, we proceeded in icing them, which was way easier with the can. We didn't have to worry about using a spoon or knife and we were able to create those cute little cupcake icing tops (sometimes). All credit goes to D for icing, by the
way. I just sat there tickled pink with the result of my cupcakes.

Every bite was a mystery! We never know what to expect on the inside. Sometimes there was lots of colors and other times the shapes were just so abstract and fun! We all had a blast snacking on the cupcakes for the next few days. Even the wrappers were fun to google at, all colorful like. I definitely recommend making a batch of these colorful gems. They were super easy, provided a great evening activity and so yummy! I can only imagine how great these would look in orange and blue, maybe to celebrate the start of Gator football. Hmm, could that be my next reason?

Think you might give them a try? What colors would you use, any themes?

Happy baking my fellow foodies!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oh so yummy and ... healthy!

Mmmmm, yesterday we went to one of my very favorite restaurants, Edamame! The summer is coming to an end, so I decided to treat my little sister to some delectable asian food before she returned to the grind. D accompanied along with my parentals.

One of the things I love about Edamame is the feeling afterwards. I'm pleasant, not beyond stuffed. The Japanese steak house and sushi bar is located in the Outback Plaza on International (1448 W. International Speedway Blvd. Daytona Beach) and business is typically pretty slow. Most people in town tend to gravitate towards other not-to-be-named asian cuisine locations. So when we walked in yesterday and all the tables were full, I was pleasantly surprised! And so was our waitress:

"Hold on let me check if we have a table for you, imagine that."

We ended up sitting at a hibatchi table, although no one was cooking for us, but it was still nice. I can safely admit that I have been to this restaurant at least 25 times in the past five months and neither me or D have ever seen it so packed! On one hand, it was great to see such an awesome place booming with business, but it did slow down the service considering their was only one waitress for about 15 different groups. The difference wasn't drastic, it just gave us more chatting time.

Everyone knew what they wanted pretty quick, so we ordered our drinks and food all in one clean sweep. D decided to be adventures and ordered an original flavor asian soda ($2.95). Think carbonated creme soda, that's not so creamy. They're a really fun shape and to break the seal you have to slam a marble down into the drink. They're just plain fun.

I went with my favorite lunch special, the Vegetable Teriyaki Bento Box ($7.95) and D ordered the 3 for $10.95 sushi special. Everyone's meal was proceeded by either their choice of house salad or clear soup. They have a phenomenal ginger dressing that allows my taste buds to handle the weird texture of lettuce. I don't eat salad. That's how good this dressing is. It's definitely a ginger dressing, but sweeter than most I've tried.

My bento box came with all sorts of goodies: teriyaki vegetables, four pieces of a california roll, white rice, two big slices of orange and two smaller spring rolls. The teriyaki veggies are prepares similar to the ones received with hibachi dinners, but with the bento box you make out with a lot more. I mean a lot. I love the veggies, so this is the highlight of the box for me with everything from broccoli, zucchini and asparagus to button and shiitake mushrooms, plus carrots and onions. They're all cooked to perfection and drenched in yummy teriyaki sauce.

Oh so delicious, but I still like to dip my veggies in the perfection that is known as seafood sauce, white sauce, pink sauce ... you name it! And I must admit, Edamame has some of the best seafood sauce I've ever tasted. It's lighter than most, with a flavor richer than most. I think it might be a special recipe and one day I shall have my hands on it (evil laugh). Anyways, the rest of my bento box included some white sticky rice (easier to eat with chopsticks), orange slices (not a citrus fan) and some spring rolls. Unfortunately, some unidentified taste prevents me from enjoying those rolls and I can't quite put my finger on it. But, I never eat them thanks to D. The other main treat in my box, came rolled up in four pieces of a california roll prepared with Krab meat, avocado, cucumber and masago. Nothing special, just like other california rolls.

D, on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed his sushi. No surprise there. After all, sushi is his fave. He'd eat it everyday if I'd let him. He ordered two spicy salmon crunch rolls and an alaskan. The salmon rolls simply contain spicy salmon, cucumber and bits of tempura crunch. So descriptive right? It's the best I've got. Trust me when I say they're delicious. Not too spicy, but they definitely have a kick. The crunch is a nice break in the soft texture of the fish and rice. This roll
is enjoyable in both taste and texture. Honestly, it's one of my favorite simple rolls. D always gives me one or two, or three or four! The Alaskan is made up of salmon, avocado, cucumber, and seaweed powder. This one is right up D's ally with the avocado. It's very tasty, but not the best roll I've ever had. I'm not a huge fan of the cucumber in this one because it doesn't seem to flow with the rest of the ingredients. But that doesn't stop D from clearing his plate.

Overall, our experience at Edamame was great like they always have been in the past. Sometimes the service is a little slow, but with food this good at great prices, it's pretty easy to over look.

Heads up. If you do visit I do not recommend the water. Let's just say I think something might be wrong with their filter. Other than that the servers take really great care of you. In fact, ours gave us a free appetizer of edamame to-go since we waited so much yesterday. It was a sweet gesture.

More information:
T: 386.238.8288
Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and only for dinner on Sundays.

- A

Edamame Japanese Resturaunt on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beercake Factory?

Today for lunch, D and I finally made it out to the new BJ's Restaurant and Brewery (2514 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL). Imagine going to the Cheesecake Factory and finding loads of beer instead of cheesecake... welcome to BJ's!

Famous for their in-house brews, lunch would have been incomplete without a sampling! As I am not the biggest of beer drinkers, it was up to D to select and enjoy. He quickly decided on the the Nutty Brewnette ($5.95). The tantalizing description appealed to his salivating taste buds. A blend of four different malts (2-row pale, English Crystal, Briess Victory and Special Roast, Chocolate) produces a flavor that is sweet with a touch of nuttiness. It was nice and hopp-y just the way D likes it!

The inside of BJ's was VERY open... as in I could probably see ever other person dining from our little booth. The layout definitely wasn't designed with the customer's privacy in mind, one of many similarities to the cheesecake factory. Other than that, the decor has a warm feel to it with dark wood everywhere.

Also a lot like the Cheesecake Factory, their huge menu is more like a book to study as opposed to a couple of pages to glance at.
It takes some time to go through the entire thing including the lunch options all the way in the back. After perusing the menu a little, D spotted the Avocado Egg Rolls ($9.75) appetizer and we decided, given D's love for avocados, that we had to try them. The crispy wonton wraps covered a blend of avocados, cream cheese, sun dried tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, pine nuts and chipotle peppers! The six pieces are served with a sweet tamarind sauce.

The avocado egg rolls were tasty and unlike anything me or D had ever tried. Avocado was the primary flavor, I hardly even tasted the cream cheese. The rolls were nicely complimented by the sweet tamarind sauce. Not going to lie, I have no idea what tamarind is, but it reminded me of honey and everything is better with a little bit of honey! Next on the table, came one of BJ's specialty pizzas, the Great White ($19.25). We decided to split one since we already had an appetizer. The waiter suggested a medium or a large. Knowing the large would definitely be too much, we went with the medium. (side note: Our waiter looked exactly like Jason from the Hills.) The chicago style Great White was loaded down with creamy alfredo sauce, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, parmesan cheeses and grilled chicken breast.

The pizza was by far the best deep dish I've had in a long time. It was simply delectable. I ate way more than I needed because I just couldn't stop. Breaking it down, I thought the chicken was bland and a waste of calories (D disagrees) and I couldn't even taste the alfredo sauce. But don't get me wrong, the pizza was still amazing. In fact, the tomatoes were spectacular. Cooked to perfection, I savored each one. The crust was appropriately soft while crispy and melted in your mouth. I think we would have been better off ordering the small considering we split a rather large appetizer. It was just a little too much in my opinion.

As the meal came to an end, I was sad to decline the waiters suggestion of a pizookie (freshly baked cookie topped with ice cream) for dessert. They had so many different flavors and combinations! Not to mention that they combine my two favorite desserts: cookies and ice cream! But I just couldn't do it. A: we were too stuffed. B: I had already blown most of my calories for the day. But like I told D, we will be coming back to try one. I don't care if it's the only dish we order, I am determined to try a BJ's pizookie. Check out their website for more information and a chance to glance those mouthwatering pizookies!

- A

BJ's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 9, 2010


Who doesn't love barbeque? It's one of the great american delicacies, a food that brings families together on the weekends and makes grandchildren drool over nana's secret recipes. Ok, well maybe it's not all that to you in particular. Heck, it's not even all that to me, but just like anyone else me and D get our BBQ cravings. And when we do, we don't look to Sonny's or Dustin's. No, we venture to the award winning SmokeShackBBQ.

The SmokeShack has won just under 150 different awards at various competitions across the country. That's right. They are serious about barbecuing. Trophies and decorative pigs line the walls, shelves and counters at the wooden shack located at 1105 N. US1, Ormond Beach, FL.

Slammed during Daytona's famous Bike Week, the SmokeShack remains pretty calm through the rest of the year and today's beautiful Monday was no different. Normally me and D are down for scrumptious pulled pork sandwiches, but I decided to be daring today and go with the daily special of Sliced Meatloaf with a side of green beans ($5). I've never tried any meatloaf except for my mama's good ole' ketchup loaded meatloaf, so i was pleasantly surprised with my daringness.

The meatloaf had great texture and flavor. Nice and soft, it tasted of barbeque sauce rather than ketchup and tasted slightly smoked. It even came with a piece of bread that I effectively used to make a half of meatloaf sandwich.The side of green beans came in a hearty portion, but weren't anything worth writing about, just some typical greens.

D went with our usual choice of a regular size pork sandwich with a side of macaroni and cheese ($6.50). The pork sandwich as always was delicious with some added tangy and hot barbeque sauces. The bun is similar to a typical hamburger bun from your local food mart. Not spectacular bread, but it's really all about the pork, isn't it?

They must serve the creamiest, cheesiest, most wonderful macaroni and cheese around. Too bad it only comes as a side, because some
days I could make this my meal! It's so incredibly soft and mushy, you probably really don't need your teeth. This paired with a pork sandwich and you've got yourself some good eats.

Don't worry about finding a barbeque sauce to like, they have plenty to choose from. In fact, they have six choices on every single table. Ranging from, hot and mild, to sweet and tangy (my personal fave).

SmokeShackBBQ is a great little spot for lunch if your craving some standup barbeque. I can only complain about the drinks. I can understand a $1.99 at a restaurant, but not at a wood shack that doesn't even have a fountain machine. Yup, we're talking about $1.99 for a coke product bottle or tea. We all know how much those bottles of soda cost. Come on now?

I highly recommend a trip to SmokeShackBBQ next time your eager for a pulled pork sandwich and don't feel like laboriously cooking! For more information check out their website for hours, more photos and a menu.

- A

Smoke Shack BBQ on Urbanspoon