During a recent stay in Palm Springs at the Los Arboles Hotel, I discovered that the property was also home to one of the desert’s best Mexican eateries….El Mirasol! The restaurant is actually one of two family-run locations in Palm Springs and promises nothing short of delicious and authentic Mexican food. Not only did we eat there on the first night of our stay, it was so delicious that we dined there again on the following night as well! Why did I think it was so great? I won’t say that it was a single determining factor. There were many reasons! First of all, the casual atmosphere of the restaurant offers guests seating indoors, in the bar area, or outdoors on a patio that’s outlined with colorful strands of lights. El Mirasol is the place to be on weekend nights which was apparent with the packed house on both nights! Imagine my surprise when I glanced over the drink menu to find fresh, homemade margaritas being offered at very reasonable prices. This was surprising, especially considering that the restaurant is an on-property restaurant for the hotel. I ordered myself up a grande Cadillac margarita right away, after I spotted someone else’s. It was fun to watch the bartender make my drink as I sat nearby. I watched him finish it off with squeezes of halved fresh limes on top. Yum! The order of guacamole that they served to our table as a starter, complimented the fresh chips and homemade salsa incredibly. It was a giant portion of guacamole, too, so we didn’t have to fight over one person dipping more than the others. I appreciated the offerings on the children’s menu which included typical kids’ Mexican favorites and even chicken nuggets for the kid who won’t eat much. (We can all relate to that situation). It seemed like taquitos were a hit with my daughter! She ordered both chicken and beef ones. (with more guacamole, of course) The adult menu was extensive and it was a bit difficult to narrow it down to just one entree. Luckily I ate there two nights in a row. The cheese enchiladas were delicious and made with a sauce that was so full of flavor. Everything we tried was so good and the entire staff went above and beyond. Even one of the owners came over to our table to see how our experience was. El Mirasol is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They were also happy to put drinks into cups we could take by the pool during the day. It’s a great place to dine if you’re visiting Palm Springs. We can’t wait to go back again on our next trip!
I was invited super excited to join a fun group of my friends for Sunday brunch at KayNDaves Cantina in Culver City! It’s of their 3 locations and is situated in a super fun little area of the city, right off Culver Blvd. After parking, I strolled through the hip downtown area until I reached the location and joined everyone on the outdoor patio. We were seated at a high, round table with a lit fire pit in the middle. Southern California already has amazing winter weather but it also felt nice to have that fire going as we dined outdoors and started off with Fresh Muddled Watermelon Shots! Kayndave’s head chef, Alejo Grijalva, was raised in Oaxaca on his great-grandmother’s farm. She too, loved to cook and taught Alejjo and his brothers a lot about life, food, and cooking. The recipes featured on the menu boast flavors and combinations of fresh ingredients that are straight from his great-grandmother’s recipes that he brought to the United States all the way from Mexico. Alejo runs the kitchens at Kayndaves, along with his two brothers, Ruben and Roberto. If you ever meet them in person, you’ll most likely question whether they are triplets! They look so much alike! Together, they’re know as “Los Tres Hermanos” (The Three Brothers). The brunch that came out of that kitchen that day, was beyond amazing! The miniature versions of the “Starters” were beautifully plated together and my mouth was watering the moment they were placed in front of me alongside a Tamarindo Margarita, made with Xicaru Mezcal and served in a chili-rimmed glass! The “starters” included:
Mini Pibil Sope – A Cochinita Pork Pibil Oven-Roasted in Banana and Agave Leaves
Squash Blossom Relleno – Fresh Blossoms, Jack Cheese, Mexican Herbs, Crema, and Pico de Gallo.
Ceviche Tostada – Sole marinated in fresh lime juice.
Mini Chicken Mole Taco – Mole Negro made from scratch
Please don’t ask me which of the starters was my favorite because they were all amazing! If I didn’t have to save room for the rest of the meal, I would’ve had seconds of each of these! After our starters, we were served Blackberry Margaritas. They had muddled blackberries and mint in them which made them not only look beautiful but taste that way as well! Next, our first entree arrived and it was Chiliquiles Verdes. This traditional Mexican breakfast/brunch dish was served in a skillet and topped with a spicy tomatillo salsa, Cotija cheese, and fresh herbs. I loved the presentation of the entire dish! Next, they placed a bubbling hot Molcajete Azteca down in front of me that smelled amazing! It had grilled steak, shrimp, and chicken in it that had been slow-cooked with a relleno in Guajillo sauce.
By this point in our meal, although I’d been pacing myself, I was starting to slow down. Everything was so delicious though that it was hard to do so. However, I knew there would be dessert too and I ALWAYS have room for dessert, don’t you? I had a huge smile on my face when they handed me an iced Mexican Mocha in a Mason Jar! 2 shots of espresso was just what I needed as an afternoon pick-me-up! Topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with some “Abuelita”, it tasted as good as it looked! It also paired well with the trio of desserts we were served: Tres Leche Cake, Banana Flautas, and Coconut Crusted Fried Ice Cream!
I had such a wonderful afternoon out at KayNDaves for Sunday brunch with my friends! I don’t think I can ever get enough of authentic Mexican food made with such fresh ingredients like that and I hope to make it back there again to try their Happy Hour because I heard it’s all the rage!
Visit KayNDaves on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SendSweetness #CollectiveBias
Valentine’s Day is my most favorite holiday of the year! Forget the roses, I get most excited about all of the sentimental things like giving Valentine cards! Also, I don’t know about you but I can never get enough of Valentine treats! This year, I found these M&M’s® Strawberry at Walmart, just in time for the Valentine season! They’re light pink, hot pink, and red! I love M&M’s® and get a little giddy whenever I get to try new flavors. I like to go all out on Valentine’s Day and what most excites me most about the day is getting to celebrate love and friendship with not only my family, but also with my students and coworkers at work! For our Valentine’s Day celebration at work, I try to bring something special for close friends who may not have “a special Valentine” at home to shower them with surprises. It’s nice to let them know that someone is thinking of them on a day that’s so heavily focused on love and friendship. There’s one particular friend at work that I wanted to buy something extra special for because she lives alone and has no one who buys gifts or cards for her anymore. So, I got her a DOVE® Milk Chocolate Truffle heart tin. On the Valentine’s aisle, I also found some American Greetings® Valentine’s cards that will be perfect to give to some of my other coworkers.I love to create fun recipes for holidays and I decided to bake some heart-shaped Valentine hand pies, filled with chocolate and M&M’s® Strawberry! Just wait until you taste this M&M’s® flavor! They are delicious!I’m obsessed with anything cute and small that you can easily grab to snack on, so I was excited to make hand pies for Valentine’s Day treats to “hand out” out to others. I had to make a batch to test out for myself first though. They were so delicious and pair well with coffee or milk! They were also so simple to make and another “plus” about hand pies is there are no utensils required! I can’t wait to bring them along to work with me for our Valentine’s celebration, along with my other goodies! My co-workers are sure lucky to have me, don’t you think?
Follow this recipe to make a batch of your own: These are the ingredients and supplies you’ll need:
- 1 box of store-bought pie crust (they usually come 2 in a box)
- 1 jar of chocolate spread of your choice
- 1 bag of M&M’s® Strawberry
- 1 egg (just the egg white)
- flour (to spread out on the cutting board or countertop)
- 1 lollipop stick
- parchment paper (for baking)
Instructions for preparing the hand pies:
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Lightly flour the bread board or countertop where you’ll be working. Next, roll out the pie crust.
- Use a heart cookie cutter to cut out two hearts for each hand pie that you’re making.
- Cover your baking sheet with parchment paper and set the bottom heart pie piece on the baking sheet. Leave ample space between each one.
- Spoon a small amount of the chocolate spread into the center of each heart. Don’t use too much because it will squeeze and leak out when you bake them.
- Place 2 or 3 M&M’s® strawberry candies on top of the chocolate spread inside of the pie.
- Place the top piece of heart-shaped pie crust dough on top and gently push edges together with your fingers.
- Use the end of a lollipop stick (or something similar) to seal the edges. Use the stick to push in all around the heart.
- Brush the top of each pie very lightly with egg whites.
- Place into oven and bake for 9-12 minutes. I suggest keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn.
- When they look golden brown, remove them from the oven and place on a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you celebrate with your friends and/or coworkers, as well as your own family? Hopefully your Valentine’s celebration this year will include M&M’s® Strawberry, too!
Right now, you can save $1.00 on ANY TWO (2) M&M’s(R) Brand Chocolate Candies, 8oz or larger. Click here to grab the coupon.
Exciting news for foodies! Chef Rachel Klemek will be extending the reach of her award-winning made-from-scratch baked goods when she opens a new outpost, Blackmarket Bakery on Broadway, on Saturday, January 9th, 2016 in the downtown Santa Ana’s Santora building in the Artists Village (211 N. Broadway).Chef Klemek’s inspired approach to baking has set her apart within the county’s culinary landscape. Staying true to its roots, the new Santa Ana neighborhood bakery will highlight pastries made from her token “blackmarket” ingredients – butter, flour, sugar, and eggs.
The Santora building, which houses the bakery’s newest 2,300-square-foot space, was built in 1928 and adds a “retro” feel with art-deco elements, reminiscent of simpler times. As the largest Blackmarket Bakery yet, the Santa Ana location remains family friendly and will inlcude the addition of new menu items, craft beers, and hard ciders. The menu will also feature a new lineup of savory “bar bite” offerings, sandwiches made with fresh-baked breads, seasonal salads and sweet and hearty brunch items (the latter of which will be coming this Spring). Just like its Costa Mesa counterpart, the Santa Ana restaurant will focus on its made-from-scratch daily retail offerings, such as Chef Rachel’s artisanal breads and now-famous “eggywiches,” as well as delectable desserts, including the Total Eclipse Mousse Cake, Cookie Monster Bread Pudding, and her famed Black Widow Tart. Guests will have the opportunity to indulge in Blackmarket signature cookies, including Walnut Mudslides, Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies, and the Classic Two Tone.
Blackmarket Bakery Santa Ana will offer Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner daily, as well as a Happy Hour offered Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. During this time, guests can look forward to enjoying small plates to get their evening started. Coming in the spring, guests can also enjoy a relaxing brunch, offered on Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1 p. m., featuring home-style, made-from-scratch offerings including a spin on Eggs Benedict, Oven Pancakes, and Biscuits & Gravy, inspired by Chef Rachel’s Southern upbringing. Daily breakfast and morning pastry service will feature Kean Coffee, Blackmarket will feature locally roasted Kean coffee and espresso beverages, as well as its signature cold-brew iced coffee. The Santa Ana location will begin to accommodate catering for small and large parties in the months following its opening.
For more information, visit Blackmarket Bakery on Facebook and Twitter.
Have you dined at Islands Restaurants lately? It’s the perfect place to go with the whole family and always has something on the menu for everyone in our group! On a recent rainy day, our family ventured out to our local Islands to grab some lunch. I’m addicted to their Passion Fruit Iced Tea and it’s my “thing” to order some right away along with an order of their Chips & Salsa with Fresh Made Guacamole! I’m kind of a creature of habit, so I usually order their Yaki Tacos. The combination of the grilled chicken, teriyaki sauce, pineapple salsa, jack cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes is the best! They’re usually served with Ranchero Beans but I felt like substituting for some other their famous fries. I love sprinkling some of Islands’ “Secret Seasoning” on them and dipping each one in ranch dressing! My daughter usually orders the Jr. Tiki Tenders from their Gremmie Menu with applesauce and carrots and ranch. As a mom, I’m pleased that Islands also offers healthy choices for their sides.
A slice of their Kona Pie for dessert, which has Mocha almond fudge ice cream & cookie crust topped w/chocolate fudge, whipped cream, roasted almonds & a cherry. didn’t last very long at our table. It was a delicious way to end our lunch! Right now, Islands Restaurants has NFL Happy Hour going on, that offers football fans ice cold beer, tropical drinks and tasty game day fare all season long. Monday and Thursday happy hour deals are extended from 4 p.m. to close in the bar, with specials available all day long on Sundays. Those looking for the full viewing experience can catch all the action with NFL Sunday Ticket and won’t miss a single touchdown or interception with NFL Redzone playing on big screen TVs at every Islands location.
Hungry fans can blitz brand new menu items including the Nalu Nalu Dog – garnished with a roasted garlic aioli and topped with sautéed onion, red and green bell peppers, deli pepper rings and melted Swiss cheese – and the Pipeline Dog covered with chili, onions and American cheese, which will be available in the bar area.
Additional Sunday NFL specials will run all day and night in the bar, and include the following:
- Coors Light for $2.99
- Featured IPA for $4.59
- Bloody Marys for $3.99
- Island Nachos for $7.95
Football lovers can stay hydrated and satisfied while cheering on their favorite team with these signature tropical drinks and food specials every game day:
- the Mai Tai ($4.39)
- the Hand Shaken Strawberry Daiquiri ($5.59)
- Hawaiian Sliders ($5.99)
- Quesadillas ($3.79)
- Cheddar Fries ($4.85)
No matter the score, guests will celebrate Islands NFL Happy Hour with a touchdown victory dance and unique promotions at each store location. The game day experience will vary by location with bartender-call-it discounted drinks, giveaways and games.
For more information, please visit http://www.islandsrestaurants.com.
note: during playoffs, Islands will only be doing specials for NFL playoff games on Saturdays and Sundays, including the Super Bowl.
Now for the exciting part! Islands Restaurants will provide 1 of my lucky readers with a $25 Islands gift card. Enter to win on the Rafflecopter below. Good luck everyone! Happy New Year!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Christmas time is almost here! Imagine the joy and surprise in our home, when we woke up one December morning to find that our Elf on the Shelf had left us a surprise from Shari’s Berries under our tree!
It was hard to contain our excitement and our urge to nibble the delicious treats in the Holly Jolly Celebration gift package we received. (from the Shari’s Berries Christmas collection) We gave into the temptation and each grabbed a goody of our choice from the package. The Holly Jolly Celebration Gift Package is a decadent collection, overflowing with all of Shari’s Berries dipped and decorated favorites. The collection includes:
- 6 Fancy Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (2 Dipped in Milk with Chopped Almonds, 2 Dipped in Dark with Chocolate Chips, and 2 Dipped in White with Dark Swizzles)
- 6 Handmade Fudgy, Sugar-Shimmered Snowmen Brownie Pops (individually wrapped)
- A Decadent Mini Cheesecake Trio ( with a 3″ Classic New York Cheesecake Dipped in Dark Chocolate with Milk Chocolate Swizzles, a 3″ Classic New York Cheesecake Dipped in Dark Chocolate with White Chocolate Shavings, and a 3″ Chocolate Cheesecake Dipped in Dark Chocolate with Nuts and Marshmallows)
- A collection of 9 rich, bite-sized cake truffles in popular, gourmet flavors including .1 Chocolate Cake Truffle Dipped in Dark with Cacao Nibs, 1 Vanilla Cake Truffle Dipped in White with White Swizzles, 1 Red Velvet Cake Truffle Dipped in White with Red Velvet Cake Crumbles, 1 Chocolate and Marshmallow Cake Truffle Dipped in Dark with Graham Cracker Crumbles, 1 Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake Truffle Dipped in White with Chocolate Chips, 1 Salted Caramel Cake Truffle Dipped in Dark with Sea Salt, 1 Cookies and Cream Cake Truffle Dipped in White with Cookie Crumbs, 1 Peanut Butter Cake Truffle Dipped in Dark with Peanut Butter Swizzles, and 1 Almond Joyous Cake Truffle Dipped in Dark with Coconut Flakes. All of these handmade treats are sent out fresh from Shari’s Berries to your door and are packed on ice to preserve them while they’re en route. I know it would be nice to leave something out from our collection out for Santa on Christmas Eve, but I’m afraid they won’t last that long in our home. Shari’s Berries are the perfect gift to order online and send to friends and family for any occasion. Their holiday collections are festive and fun. You can still order in time for holiday delivery. Click here to find online discounts they’re offering. To browse their entire collection of goodies and gifts, click here.
Connect with Shari’s Berries on Facebook and Twitter
My daughter loves to sort out her cereals when they contain more than one kind of cereal in the box. In this case, she likes to separate the “regular cereal” from the little marshmallows. I’ll admit, I immediately reached into the box and ate a few of the marshmallows, myself. They are so yummy I decided to use some of the little marshmallows as toppers on my mini donuts for this recipe. It’s hard to resist a donut, especially when it has marshmallows on top!
I was really excited about how my mini donuts turned out. I hope my husband and daughter have a fun little Star Wars™breakfast together!
For the donut batter:
- 2 cups packaged cookie mix, dry
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
For the icing:
- 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon milk
- your choice of toppings (I’m using marshmallows from the Star Wars™Darth Vader Cereal.)
I’m putting these time savers and tips before the recipe instructions because I know I sometimes jump into recipes without reading to the bottom. These tips are honestly valuable and I learned some of them from doing the wrong way the first time around on this recipe.
- I used a package of store bought dry cookie mix in this recipe. I don’t call it “cheating”, I just call it being a smart mom who likes to save time. I chose a package of sugar cookie mix, but you could probably use any flavor or variety.
- Most donut batter recipes call for buttermilk. Since I didn’t want to buy a whole container of buttermilk and waste the leftovers, I just whipped up a buttermilk substitute with milk and vinegar. (see recipe instructions).
- When your batter is ready to put into the mini donut pan, it is SO much easier to stick it into a ziploc bag and cut the tip off, before pouring it in. (a baker’s bag with a tip would also work). It’s also important that you DON’T overfill each one because your donuts won’t look like donuts.
- Before frosting your mini donuts, allow them to cool down completely. Oh and I give you permission to eat the ones that aren’t “usable”, meaning the ones that didn’t hold the perfect donut shape. I wouldn’t want them to go to waste.
Donut Batter Preparation
- Preheat your oven to 475 degrees
- Spray mini donut pan with vegetable oil and set aside.
- Mix milk and vinegar in a bowl and set aside for a minimum of 5 minutes to allow curdling.
- In a separate bowl, combine cookie mix and baking soda. Add in the egg, butter, and vegetable oil and mix well.
- Place donut batter into pastry bag or sealable plastic bag and cut a tiny hole in the end. (you could also use a tip for this.)
- Fill each section of the mini donut baking pan. I recommend only filling each one half way or less. DO NOT OVERFILL.
- Place pan in oven and bake 4-6 minutes or until golden. You’ll want to keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.
- Remove donuts from oven and place on rack to completely cool down before frosting them.
- Place wax paper underneath cooling rack where you’ll place donuts after frosting. This will catch the dripping frosting.
- Have your toppings nearby and ready to go.
- Combine powdered sugar and milk in a bowl. If it’s too thick, add a little more milk. The frosting will thicken quickly, so continue stirring after every few donuts.
- Dip the top of each donut into the bowl and move in a circular motion until it’s frosted to your liking.
- Place back onto the cooling rack and apply toppings to each donut immediately before the frosting hardens.
- Keep donuts in an airtight container, so they’ll stay fresh, if you’re not serving them immediately.
Well, I hope the recipe was easy for you to follow and simple to make. Is your family as excited about the big release weekend as ours is? Leave a comment and tell me how you show your love for the greatest movie series in the galaxy in your home!
The Cheesecake Factory’s Peppermint Bark Cheesecake is a sweet holiday tradition that only comes around once a year. A white chocolate cheesecake swirled with chunks of chocolate peppermint bark, topped with white chocolate mousse and sprinkled with chopped peppermint, this festive dessert is an ideal complement to any holiday gathering. Individual slices and whole cheesecakes are available at all Cheesecake Factory restaurant locations nationwide.
With more than 250 menu selections , all handmade in house with fresh ingredients, and more than 50 legendary cheesecakes and specialty desserts, a gift card from The Cheesecake Factory is the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday gift list. For every $25 in gift cards purchased through the end of the year, guests will be rewarded with a “Slice of Joy” card redeemable for a complimentary slice of cheesecake January 1 through March 31, 2016. The “Slice of Joy” gift card offer is available exclusively at The Cheesecake Factory restaurants and online at http://www.TheCheesecakeFactory.com.
Find The Cheesecake Factory on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own. Photos and logos property of The Cheesecake Factory.
One of my new, favorite things to enjoy in the afternoon at work are goodnessknows® snack squares. Have you tried them yet? They’re the perfect size to keep around as a snack and are available in three flavors:
- Cranberry, Almond, Dark Chocolate
- Apple, Almond & Peanut, Dark Chocolate
- Peach & Cherry, Almond, Dark Chocolate
They’re all great flavors but my favorite flavor is the Cranberry, Almond, Dark Chocolate. Sam’s Club sells the Cranberry, Almond, Dark Chocolate in an 18 count. I have a girlfriend at work, who’s also a mom, that recently had to make some drastic lifestyle changes and start paying more attention to her own needs. After facing a series of scary health challenges, she reworked her daily routine and made it one that was beneficial for her total well-being, which includes being active, meal planning and prep of her weekly meals at home, and making an effort to steal some “down time” for herself each day. I’m really proud of my friend because I know that none of her big lifestyle changes have come easily. I also know she’s struggled not only with the “‘mom guilt” of making herself a priority, but also staying on the right track. I’ve tried my best to lend her support by being there to listen and praising her with positive and encouraging words. Last week, I made some encouraging notes, printed them out, and set one on her desk at work each day, along with some goodnessknows® snack squares. Doing something nice to support someone else, like a friend in need, can go a long way, even if it’s just something small. A kind word, a sweet note, a supportive text, because when friends support each other, you can go from goodness to greatness. Let’s be honest, isn’t that what friends are for? How do you show support for your friends? Be sure to check out more great ways goodnessknows® helps achieve goodness to greatness. I’d love to hear about your favorite goodnessknows® snack square flavor! Also, stop by your local Sam’s Club on December 5th and December 12th for some sample demos, too.To print out your own free copy of these encouraging notes, click here. (I recommend printing on cardstock.)