I have another recipe review for you that I highly recommend. I made the Tiramisu Banana Pudding Cake by Grandbaby Cakes, and it did not disappoint. The creator is Jocelyn Delk Adams, who is a national TV personality and creator behind Grandbabycakes.com where she takes classic recipes from her grandmother and gives them a modern twist.
Check out my video review below:
This is a classic Banana Pudding recipe with the twist of Tiramisu, where it calls for Ladyfingers as an ingredient. This was my first time working with Ladyfingers, and you can find them in the Italian section of the grocery store.
The special part about this recipe is the RUM SAUCE! Once I tasted it, I wanted more of it, so when I make this recipe in the future, I would add more sauce to the layers. The ladyfingers definitely make this more of a cake vs. the traditional banana pudding, and I liked the sturdier texture.
The other update I made was to chop some pecans and sprinkle them on the top of my portion. Not everyone may like pecans, so I didn’t sprinkle it all over the cake, but as a person that loves pecans, I thought that this was a great addition! It adds another layer of texture with the crunch, and of course the flavor is fabulous.
One modification that I made was that I put mini Nilla Wafers on every-other row for the second layer. I felt like I might miss the Nilla Wafer flavor so I added them in for a little bit of nostalgia – I enjoyed this and would do it again the next time I make it.This recipe is a crowd-pleaser, and since you make it in a 9” x 13” pan, it will feed a lot of people. If you have a big family, this is great, but if not, be sure to have some people in mind to share it with.
I would absolutely make this recipe again and I highly recommend that you try it this summer. You NEED to go ahead and add this to your summer rotation. Taste Bud Diaries Approved! Enjoy every bite!
Since COVID is still out in these streets, I have not been frequenting restaurants as much, so instead I’ve decided to do more recipe reviews until I’m more comfortable with dining out. That said, if you have any other recipes that you would like me to review, let me know and perhaps your will see them featured in the future!
I decided to start doing recipe reviews since restaurants are closed for dining in due to COVID. This first review is for the 5-ingredient NO YEAST Everything Bagels that everyone is raving out. For good reason! These bagels are easy to make & absolutely delicious and there is no turning back after you taste them. You need these in your life. I give these 5 stars and two thumbs up.
I found this recipe on Skinnytaste, and I’ve listed the recipe below for your convenience:
Skinnytaste Easy Bagel Recipe:
1 cup (5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour, whole wheat or gluten-free mix*
2 teaspoons baking powder, make sure it’s not expired or it won’t rise
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, use less if using table salt
1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt, not regular yogurt, it will be too sticky
1 egg white, beaten (whole egg works fine too)
Optional topping: everything bagel seasoning
Preheat oven to 375F. Place parchment paper or a silpat on a baking sheet. If using parchment paper, spray with oil to avoid sticking.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk well. Add the yogurt and mix with a fork or spatula until well combined, it will look like small crumbles.
Lightly dust flour on a work surface and remove dough from the bowl, knead the dough a few times until dough is tacky, but not sticky, about 15 turns (it should not leave dough on your hand when you pull away).
Divide into 4 equal balls. Roll each ball into 3/4-inch thick ropes and join the ends to form bagels. (or you can make a ball and poke a hole in the center then stretch it slightly)
Top with egg wash and sprinkle both sides with seasoning of your choice. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.
Also take a look at my video to see how I made them along with my reaction to how they turned out.
If you make these, let me know how you liked them and be sure to share these with other people! Front line workers are some great people to share these with and you can even make mini-bagels – just cut them into smaller sections. Enjoy!
These Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes are a great brunch recipe and so easy to make! I modified a recipe by Grandbaby Cakes (one of my favorite food blogs) by putting the recipe in muffin cups & used crushed pineapples instead of the rings. I added 1/4 tsp of cinnamon to the batter as well. Fun, tasty & easy recipe! You can eat leftovers with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert or along with your coffee or afternoon tea.
Below is the modified recipe:
Makes about 12 cupcakes
Ingredients: 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup granulated sugar 1/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp baking powder 2 tsps pure vanilla extract 3 large eggs 1/4 cup pineapple juice 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) 3/4 cup light brown sugar About 1 cup of crushed pineapples (either canned or fresh) Maraschino cherries
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally grease your muffin tin with vegetable oil or cooking spray.
For the cake batter: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, vanilla extract, eggs and pineapple juice until well mixed. Set aside.
Next melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in brown sugar and cook for 1 minute.
Put one tablespoon of the brown sugar/butter mixture into each of the muffin cups.
Add about 2 teaspoons of crushed pineapple on top of the brown sugar mixture in each muffin cup. Be sure to spread the pineapple evenly.
Add a maraschino cherry if you so desire (I like to cut the cherries in half instead of using a full cherry. If you use half a cherry, be sure to place it upside down so that it looks nice when you flip the muffins)
Pour cake batter on top of the pineapples/cherry mix.
**Only fill the muffin cups 3/4 full so that it won’t create a “muffin top”. This will make it easier for them to release from the muffin tin after baking.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes then invert the muffins onto a cooling rack or serving plate and serve.
*Note – be careful when you are inverting the cupcakes – this can get a little bit messy as some of the cupcakes release faster than others.
Tip- before you invert the cupcakes, run a knife along the ring of each of the cupcakes to help them come out of the tins easier.
New Year, New Blog Posts! It’s a new year and I decided to jump back into my blog! I took a little break but I’m going to continue using my blog as a creative outlet. You’ll see me experimenting with some different posts and content. I’m going to keep it simple and share my love of food with you! My first post of the year features this DELICIOUS recipe.
I made this Turmeric Salmon with Coconut Crisp recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine and it was SO delicious and full of bold flavors. Ginger, turmeric- which is good for you, and I used rainbow chard which I cooked for the first time – tasty. I got the coconut flakes from the bulk section at Whole Foods, and Trader Joes also sells small bags of coconut flakes. I took this picture just before putting it in the oven. Gorgeous!
I HIGHLY recommend it- easy to make and it tastes like something you would eat out at a restaurant. I’m adding this to the rotation.
Here’s the link – If you make this, let me know what you think!
When my friend asked if I would be interested in going to Iceland, I said “Why not?” (I read Shonda Rhimes book the Year of Yes, so I’m very open to things this year).
It’s a surprisingly short flight (only 5 hours from JFK airport in New York), it’s clean, modern, they speak English, and there are drop-dead gorgeous landscapes.
As I started my research, I kept reading that Iceland has terrible food. I will admit that I didn’t have any of the dried fish or rotten shark BUT I was able to have some food that was tasty and delicious. I will note that the food in Iceland is expensive. It seemed as if everything costs a minimum of $20. Minimum.
If you ever make your way to Reykjavik Iceland, be sure to check out these dishes and restaurants:
I stayed at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina (excellent hotel that I would HIGHLY recommend) and the breakfast and Sunday brunch were excellent. They have a fantastic variety with foods including oatmeal, flatbreads, waffles, bacon, quiche, breakfast pastries, fruit, etc.
The Sunday brunch costs about $30 USD and the breakfasts during the week are about $25. This breakfast/brunch is worth the price. We ended up going there 3 times. So good.
I had some lamb & vegetable soup at Geysir Restaurant during one of the tours I went on to see a Geyser, and it was absolutely delicious. According to my tour guide, sheep live as wild animals in the mountains resulting in excellent quality meat. The soup had a light broth, had a mild in flavor, and great texture. I would highly recommend it if you like lamb. The cost was $20 and included bread and butter along with 1 free soup refill.
As cool as it was in Reykjavik in August (Mid-50’s), Ice Cream was a popular treat.
A local suggested that we visit Valdis over by the marina, and it did not disappoint. The flavors were incredible. I had a flavor called Bailey’s & Ranill, which tasted like RumChata, and I paired that with a coffee-flavored ice cream. Best combination of all time. They also had an interesting grey-colored licorice flavor, which tasted like a black jelly bean. The shop is a little bit off the beaten path, and there seemed to be mostly locals at this shop. They also give huge portions if you wanted to share with a friend. My two scoops of Ice Cream on a cone cost me about $6 USD.
This place was so good that I forgot to take a picture. There was a line out the door that was about a 30-minute wait. They are known for their lobster soup & they offer a number of grilled fish items on skewers, and you can also get potatoes and vegetable skewers. I had the salmon skewer, and it was perfectly cooked and seasoned. After I ordered, they said that it would take another 30 minutes for the food to come out. It was worth the wait – definitely stop by here for some fresh seafood. It was also relatively inexpensive at ~$25 USD for the Salmon skewer and the potato skewer.
Hot Dogs at Bæjarins Beztu
This is a famous hot dog stand in Reykjavik where celebrities frequent, including Bill Clinton and most recently the Kardashians. The hot dog was tasty and had unique toppings including ketchup, a mayo sauce, sweet mustard, and fried crispy onions underneath the hot dog. The crispy onions added nice flavor and crunch – I would definitely get it again. My hot dog cost about $5 USD.
For a change of pace, we tried a Himalayan-Tibetan restaurant with Ramen noodles. I had the chicken broth and chicken added to my noodles but found it to be bland. Be sure to ask to for it to be spicy, as my friend did and liked hers better. The chicken dumplings were ordered as a side item and those were crunchy & delicious! The space is tiny, so we got the food to-go and ate it at the hotel. The cost for the Ramen and fried dumplings was about $25 USD.
Lava Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon
The food here was good, but ridiculously overpriced. For lunch, I ordered the Cod fish with potatoes along with a beet salad, and tasted my friend’s crème brulee. The cost was about $65 USD.
The Skyr yogurt in Iceland is delicious, silky, smooth, and packs a lot of protein. In general, be sure to have any dairy products that you can – the texture really is fantastic. Almost luxurious. This yogurt is available everywhere, from hotels to convenience stores – you won’t be able to miss it. I’m going to be looking for this at Whole Foods here in the states.
Fast Food: Domino’s Pizza
I hate to admit it, but I ate Domino’s Pizza in Iceland. (I know. Shameful.) There was a late bus schedule at the Blue Lagoon and we got back to Reykyavik after 10pm. Little did we know that all the restaurants close around 10pm in Iceland. We ordered pizza delivery because we were tired and cold and didn’t feel like walking across town to the one restaurant that was open. Note that a small pizza in Iceland is more like a personal-pan pizza size in the US. Itty bitty. I live in Chicago so I never eat Domino’s but it was actually pretty tasty (or maybe we were just hungry). The cost for a small pizza and wings was about $25 USD.
As a side note, there is no McDonalds or Starbucks in Reykjavík. I was told that there was a McDonalds but it closed down because the prices were too high.
Reykjavik is a charming city and I hope that it can maintain it’s charm with the influx of tourists. I ate very well in Iceland & hopefully with these tips, you will too!
I had the amazing opportunity to visit Shanghai for work, with a little side trip to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a fabulous, modern and trendy city with something for everyone. I enjoyed the Soho area on Hong Kong Island with all of the trendy shops and restaurants. There is an international vibe in this area and a creative energy that reminded me of New York. I would definitely go back to Hong Kong & spend more time – maybe get some custom clothes made.
Below are some of my tips & observations in Hong Kong:
The Regal Kowloon Hotelin Hong Kong was a pretty good place to stay –the price was moderate at about $150/night, the rooms were clean, it was in a good location, included free WiFi, and the breakfast buffet was great! They had breakfast choices available for all cultures including American breakfast, Chinese, they had Indian food, and it was quite a spread. If you want a more glamorous hotel, the Peninsula and Langham Hotels are a staple on Kowloon. It could also be fun to try a boutique hotel on Hong Kong Island, but it won’t be cheap!
Be sure to visit the Soho area Soho reminded me of a mix of San Francisco (with the huge hills) and New York, with the cute shops and restaurants. I enjoyed the Olive Greek & Mediterranean Restaurant, which had great service and delicious food. It has good reviews on Trip Advisor as well. I also spent a nice amount of time in a boutique called Goods of Desire where there is a variety of trendy Chinese-inspired gifts, clothes & jewelry.
The Temple Street night market is a fun experience, but don’t expect much as far as the merchandise. Like my co-worker said, it’s like visiting a huge dollar store. Still a great place to take in the sights and sounds of the city.
Egg waffles are a popular street food to try with long lines. They tasted a lot like a hot fortune cookie but in a waffle format. Not very sweet, but they seem to be all the rage. I personally could have used a little bit of vanilla ice cream and nutella – that would have taken them over the top.
Public transportation is a breeze! So easy and clean. There is an express train that goes from the airport to Kowloon, and a shuttle that goes straight to the Regal Kowloon Hotel.
The Big Buddha was an interesting experience, with beautiful views and a little village full of places to shop and things to do.
Shanghai has the best skyline I’ve ever seen. The city is slightly overwhelming as it’s very large and spread out with a population of 23 million people. Being from Chicago, our skyline is hard to beat, but I fell in love with the gorgeous buildings and the Shanghai pearl tower.
Tips & Observations in Shanghai:
Be prepared for the toilets. They are literally a hole in the ground. It takes a little maneuvering to navigate. Keep some tissues on hand just in case you need them. There are the “western toilets” in some places, like the shopping malls, but this style is common as well.
Napkins don’t seem to be a thing in Shanghai. Many times you will get a hot towel, but that’s about it.
In the touristy areas, many of the people from other provinces haven’t seen many people from other cultures. As a black woman, I felt like a celebrity sometimes. People’s eyes would get big, they would start whispering to each other, and sometimes walk over and ask for a picture. I even caught some people sneaking pictures – acting like they were taking a selfie, but they were really taking pictures of me! It was crazy how excited they were. They said that we were “foreign beauties.” I’ll take it!
Yu Garden is a fun place to walk around and shop. The French Concession area also has some trendy little unique shops where they had unique restaurant concepts and stores with beauty products.
China bans Facebook and Google. You need to get a VPN before you get over there.
Personal space is very small in China. People get very close to you in elevators and trains, and you may be cut off while walking or pushed in a large crowd. Get ready!
The food in China is different than it is here in the states. The sauces are different. It’s still tasty, but just different. Chinese food every day got a little bit tiring, I will say. The thing that I appreciated coming back to the states is our wide variety of cuisines from around the world. The first thing I ate was Lou Malnati’s pizza!
Overall, this was a trip to remember – my first major international business trip. I flew business class for the first time & that’s definitely the way to go for a 15 hour flight. The fully reclining seats & lounge access are a huge bonus. Traveling truly makes you appreciate different cultures, but also reminds you of the things you take for granted (like our freedom of speech and our wonderful variety of food). So long, China! It’s been real!
One reason I love food is that it connects us with people. It’s easy to get caught up in social media, and not be truly connected to people. Facebook can sometimes be more like “Fakebook”. You don’t really know what’s going on in your friend’s lives, and it can represent a false sense of reality. It’s important to invest in and nurture the friendships that really count – The friends that you could call in the middle of the night, or that would help you move if you needed help. You know what I’m talking about!
One fun way to reconnect, especially as this weather is getting cooler outside is to open up your home and host a tea party. It seems as if home entertainment is not as prevalent these days – so it’s always nice to have this personal touch. There’s no need to spend $50+ at a fancy hotel or restaurant. Tea is growing in popularity, and it’s sugar free, calorie-free, it has antioxidants, and you can get it with or without caffeine. Plus, there is something about tea that makes people feel special – like royalty.
Below are some tips for hosting a fabulous DIY Tea Party:
– Keep it Casual: You don’t have to be perfect, have fancy formal teaware, etc. Just use what you have, have your guests bring their favorite teapots, and teas. Have a tea tasting or vote on the cutest teapot.
– Less is More: Keep the guest list smaller and more intimate to really connect. You can do an easy one-on-one tea or have up to 5 guests to keep it more intimate.
– Have fun with teapots: Ask guests to bring theirs, or you can even find some at specialty tea shops, and even thrift stores. David’s Tea has really unique accessories, like this cute sweater that goes around the teapot. Here in Chicago, Chinatown has some ADORABLE tea pots in many of the stores.
– Don’t Skim the Fat: No tea party is complete without scones. If you choose to make them from scratch, and the recipe calls for cream, be sure to get cream with a high fat content (at least 40% fat) for the best flavor. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle in some fresh raspberries or blueberries for some nice presentation.
– Offer Variety: Offer a few different tea options to choose from, i.e. Black, Green, Herbal or Roobios. One of my favorite tea brands is the Republic of Tea. They have a lovely Earl Grey, and I have literally bought multiple canisters of the Limited Edition Downton Abbey flavor from World Market. It has a nice sweetness to it that makes it really pleasant. Target also has a delicious Cinnamon tea called Hot Cinnamon Sunset by Harney & Sons that tastes like a Hot Tamale Candy – you don’t even need to add any sugar. It’s very comforting and if you like cinnamon, you will LOVE this tea.
When it comes to friendship,”analog” offline connections have so much better quality than the digital world like “Fakebook” and Instagram. Hopefully these tips will spark some ideas for reconnecting with good friends to warm your heart and your soul.
For more inspirational content, check out my friend Jamie’s blog at http://www.mygr8estlove.com. It’s all about inner beauty and there are some amazing fashion tips. Enjoy!
Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city, and I enjoyed the beaches and fabulous views during my visit in August. There is good food in Rio but you have to know where to find it.
One popular dish in Brazil is a comforting, delicious meal called Feijoada. This black bean stew includes pork and meat, which provides rich flavor. Rice, mustard greens, and a cornmeal dish are served along with it, making it very hearty. I mixed all of the flavors together and it was incredibly satisfying and comforting. My friends and I had this dish at a restaurant called Boteco Belmonte in Rio. This would be a great dish to make on a cold, Chicago fall or winter day – now I just need to find a good recipe!
The national cocktail is the caiprinha drink, which is mixed with cachaca (similar to rum), sugar, and lime. The best ones are found on the beach, where they are nice and sweet with a kick, and incredibly inexpensive compared to bars/hotels.
Another wonderful treat in Brazil are the corner juice bars. They make juices and smoothies and they are absolutely delicious. They offer a number of different fruits, and one of the popular flavors was Acai – which is a superfruit rich in antioxidants. I had mine blended with banana, and it can be thick enough to be served with a spoon. You can also make a bowl of it and eat it with granola to add some crunchy texture.
Brazil is also known for it’s steakhouses, and there is steak everywhere. Shrimp was on many of the menus as well. Being Americans, we really like having some variety in our cuisine, so we sought out a couple of other non-Brazilian restaurants that did not disappoint. I happened to find Santa Satisfacio restaurant on Yelp. As much as people/restaurants sometimes say bad things about Yelp, I really like to use it as a tool to find good restaurants, even when I’m traveling internationally. This Italian restaurant had some great reviews, and Yelp didn’t steer us wrong. The food was AMAZING. I can honestly say that it’s the best Italian food I’ve had in a long time. The salads were very creative. We had a garlic pasta alfredo dish where all of the flavors were incredibly well-balanced, and a tomato-based pasta dish as well. Highly recommended. If you happen to be visiting Rio, I would highly recommend this restaurant. It’s small and quaint with a trendy vibe and it was a participant in Restaurant week there. Check out this link to see pictures of their food.
Another great restaurant we found was in Ipanema called Via Sete. My friends and I ate there for lunch and their menu was very creative. The cocktails were great – Pictured here is a Passion Fruit cocktail and one that I made up with strawberries, lime and mint with cachaca, which is like rum. They had a nice variety from upscale sandwiches, wraps, and salads to seafood dishes. I had a delicious chicken wrap, and one of my friends had the grilled octopus which looks amazing. Check them out at TripAdvisor here:
Rio Travel Tips to Make Your Life Easier:
– Learn some basic Portuguese. People in Rio don’t speak English like you may find in Europe. There may be only one person in a restaurant that knows English. A good way to learn is through an app called DuoLingo. It’s free and a lot of fun. You can learn a language for 5 minutes a day if you are diligent.
– Stay in a hotel that offers beach services, including umbrella and chair set-up, towels and water. This makes your life so much easier. We stayed at the Pestana Rio Atlantica Hotel on Copacabana Beach which has these services included and it was great.
– Go to the Spa at Belmond Copacabana Palace as soon as you land. Don’t delay. Run, don’t walk. I had an amazing massage there. The next time I go on an international trip, the Spa is going to be my first stop!
Last week, I was invited as a food blogger to attend a media dinner at Weber Grill. I had never been to the location downtown, so I was excited to visit and see what the refreshed menu had in store.
Weber has some refreshing new cocktails, including a classic rum-based daiquiri, which was stirred, not frozen, and there wasn’t a strawberry in sight. It’s a tasty drink, which would be lovely on a nice summer day on the Weber Grill patio.
Executive Chef Jason Friedland stopped by my table & mentioned that the Prime Kettle burger started off at Weber as a special item, but it was so popular that they recently decided to make it a regular menu item. The caramelized bourbon grilled onions are amazing on this burger. The touch of bourbon really makes these onions stand out.
The plank-grilled Chilean Sea Bass is a nice, light option, and as you would expect, Weber really knows how to grill fish. It was prepared just right with roasted cauliflower mashed potatoes, which has a touch of citrus to give it that little somethin’ somethin’.
Weber is also introducing some new dessert items that have a cake layer on the bottom, and creamy goodness on the top. My favorite was the chocolate peanut butter. A nice sweet treat to end the meal.
Weber Grill is a classic Chicago restaurant with good straightforward food – great for foodies and non-foodies alike. I would feel comfortable inviting out of town guests, families with kids, my foodie friends, co-workers, and I would also do carry-out. (I noticed a carry-out station in the front corner of the restaurant). Weber is truly a Chicago gem, and I highly recommend it for a lovely al fresco spring or summer evening.
Disclosure: I received this complimentary meal as a part of a media dinner. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
I had the incredible opportunity to work the red carpet and interview local Chicago chefs and celebrities at Chef Judson Allen’s first annual Chef Blend Weekend in January. The purpose of the event was to eradicate childhood obesity and celebrate locally grown food and restaurants.
This event really was a treat, as local restaurants, bakeries, wine brands, and foodies from all over Chicago came together for an evening full of flavor, music and fun. One highlight of the event was seeing Chef Judson’s team surprise him as they revealed a picture of him on the cover of Cuisine Noir. He had no idea that he was going to be on the cover. I love seeing nice surprises.
I also had a ball interviewing Alderman Bob Fioretti, and cutting the rug with him on the red carpet. Who knew that he could dance? You’ll see a couple of his moves in the video below – at the 2:07 mark. Fun!
Check out the event video footage, and be sure to look out for Chef Judson Allen’s Chef Blend Weekend next year!