Publix Cooking Class – Oregon

We attended a Publix Aprons Cooking School Class featuring the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I always enjoy these demonstrations with a sampling of different wines and recipes to take home.

Aprons Cooking School

We started out with a taste of Elouan Rose wine. It was light and on the dry side and a pleasant welcome drink.

STARTER COURSE

The first course was Coriander Encrusted Sea Scallops with Cauliflower Puree and Apricot-Shallot Jam. This was delicious. Normally I wouldn’t make scallops at home or order them in a restaurant because they can become rubbery if overcooked, but these were tender and done just right. They paired well with the jam. The accompanying wine was a Chateau St. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc that was a pale yellow color with a slightly fruity taste.

Starter Course

Cooking Tips from the Chef (any errors are due to my misinterpretation):

Iodized salt, like table salt, can turn bitter when you cook with it. He prefers Morton kosher salt, which does not contain iodine and is consistent in quality. A second choice would be sea salt, but characteristics can vary depending on place of origin.

The chef prefers grapeseed oil as you can cook at higher temperatures with it. He suggests you don’t use extra virgin olive oil for cooking as it burns at a lower temperature. Vegetable oil or regular olive oil is okay. Use the EVOO in salad dressings and such.

If oil isn’t hot enough, the food can absorb it. Test with a popcorn kernel. When it pops, the oil is the right temperature.

When preparing scallops, remove the abductor muscle.

SALAD COURSE

Baby Kale Salad with Pears, Burrata, Bacon, and Spiced Yogurt Vinaigrette was our salad. The dressing went well with it. The accompanying wine was A to Z Pinot Grigio. We liked this one.

Salad Course

Cooking Tips

Slice an onion from root to stem, not the other way.

Burrata cheese is a mozzarella cheese stuffed with a ricotta-like cheese. It comes in a ball, and you can find it in the specialty cheese section.

MAIN ENTREE

Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Orange-Cherry Gastrique and Shiitake Risotto was a tasty entrée and fairly easy to make. The accompanying wine was a Sidur 2017 Pinot Noir. This was okay but I like a Cabernet better.

Main Entree

Cooking Tips

You can buy the boneless duck breasts in the frozen food section. Defrost and slash the fat side to prevent it from curling when cooking.

Put honey for 20 seconds in the microwave to liquefy if it’s crystalized.

DESSERT

Peach Panna Cotta with Biscotti Crumble and Blueberry Compote wasn’t overly sweet and was paired with an A to Z Riesling.

Dessert

 GIVEAWAY

Booklovers Bench

Enter Sept. 1 – 18 to win a free book from the Prize Vault at Booklover’s Bench.

 

Coronado Springs Resort Dining

Continuing our tradition of trying new places to eat in Orlando, we dined at Toledo, the new rooftop restaurant inside Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. A magical elevator takes you to the top floor where you emerge into a spacious lounge area. You can come for drinks and the view if you don’t care to stay for dinner. Here we are gazing toward Hollywood Studios. You can see the new Star Wars land under construction and the Tower of Terror.

View from Toledo

Inside the restaurant, we were led to a quiet table among the bustle. We began our meal with an olive medley and flatbread with melted cheese for appetizers.

I ordered tilefish for my entrée and was pleasantly surprised by the tasty dish. Dessert was the best, a couple of chocolate concoctions that we all shared.

Dessert at Toledo

Our other days in Orlando were taken up with family visits. On this night, we were celebrating our son’s birthday. We’ll soon have a lot more to celebrate as my husband and I become grandparents for the first time later this year.

<><><>

Are you following me on BOOKBUB? Join my list to get new release notices, book bargains, pre-orders & reading recommendations. Follow me Now.

Follow me on BookBub

 

Orlando Explorer

Our most recent visit to Orlando had us visiting Epcot for the Festival of the Arts. I tasted the mushroom risotto at the Masterpiece Kitchen around World Showcase but held off eating more until we went to the Morocco café for a vegetarian platter with hummus and more.
IMG_1833IMG_E1836IMG_E1834
At Disney Springs another day, I indulged in a root beer float at Ghiradelli. We enjoyed the ambiance as we strolled through the marketplaces and past numerous restaurants. Our adventures continued at historic Winter Garden as we strolled downtown. The main street still has its old-time charm, while a brewery hall attracts a young crowd with several fast-food eating choices. Here’s a peek at the lobby of an earlier era Edgewater Hotel and an adjacent ice cream shop.
IMG_1837IMG_1838IMG_E1848IMG_1846 IMG_1841
We took walks at Disney’s Riverside and Boardwalk resorts, and gained a couple of extra pounds from dining out the entire weekend. Now we’re home, and we brought a cold along with us as a souvenir.
  IMG_1828IMG_1829  IMG_1850IMG_E1851
 
NEWSLETTER
Sign Up now for my quarterly email newsletter if you don’t want to miss the latest issue going out this week. Exclusive bonus for subscribers only!
Logo
 
GIVEAWAYS
Booklovers Bench, March 1 – 18
Enter Now to win a free book from the Prize Vault at Booklovers Bench.
March2019
 
Cozy Mystery Bonanza, March 1- April 1
Enter Here to win 40+ cozy mysteries included my book HAIR RAISER.
Cozy Bonanza
 

Valentine's Day Cooking Class

For something different than the usual dinner at a restaurant for Valentine’s Day, we signed up for a Publix Aprons Cooking School class. We’ve enjoyed these before, and the night’s menu looked appealing. It was a popular choice. The place was full with 48 people present to watch the demo-style class.
IMG_2070IMG_2062
As we waited for the show to start, one of the chefs poured us each a welcome glass of Cupcake Sparkling Rosé wine. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I grew up on rosés before learning to appreciate drier varieties. Remember Lancer’s?
First course was a Pistachio Shortbread with Goat Cheese, Strawberries, and Mint-Honey paired with a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. This was almost like dessert. The shortbread was a tasty cookie. The wine went well with this selection but it was a bit too fruity for my taste. I’d like it better before dinner.
IMG_2065IMG_2066
The next course was really good and very hearty. I could have made a meal out of this alone. We got a generous portion of Seared Sea Scallop Chowder with Smoky Sourdough Croutons paired with Bread & Butter Chardonnay. This wine went on my “I Like It” list. The soup was delicious. You could vary the recipe at home and make it with shrimp or lobster instead. If you use scallops, remove the abductor muscle from the sides.
IMG_2067
The main dish showed me a cooking technique I’d never heard of before. It used a temperature-regulated water bath. You insert the food in a vacuum sealed plastic bag, so you’d also need the vacuum device. I’ll never make this at home with all the extra equipment required, but the meat was tasty and tender. The dark things are purple potatoes. Sous Vide Lamb Loin with Butter-Roasted Radishes, Carrots, and Baby Potatoes paired with a La Crema Pinot Noir. I liked the dry red wine. Tip for pearl onions: cut off the bottoms and blanch in boiling water for a minute, and the skin peels right off.
IMG_2071
The dessert, a Butterscotch-Toffee Budino (pudding) was paired with a Veuve Cliequot Brut Champagne. Apparently, the tinier the bubbles, the more expensive the brand. This one had lots of tiny bubbles. The pudding was like a dense flan, a rich dessert that melts in your mouth.
IMG_2074
We had a gourmet meal and wine for a decent price, plus we got to see an entertaining cooking demo and take home the recipes. Let’s check their calendar and see what’s appealing that is coming up next.
GIVEAWAY
Read my post on how to bring more romance into your lives at Booklovers Bench. While there, Enter Now to win a Samsung Galaxy Tablet in Booklovers Bench anniversary giveaway.
Feb 2018 promo 3

Christmas Day in Disney Springs

On Christmas Day, we saw the Aquaman movie at Disney Springs, followed the Christmas Tree Trail, and ate dinner at the House of Blues. It was a magical day. Here are some photos:
IMG_1975IMG_1635 IMG_1986IMG_1987IMG_1988IMG_1989IMG_1990IMG_1991IMG_1992IMG_1994IMG_1996IMG_1997IMG_1998IMG_2000IMG_2001 IMG_E1630
House of Blues
IMG_2003IMG_2004IMG_2005
We celebrated New Year’s Eve with dinner at Buca di Beppo in Davie.
IMG_1656 IMG_1658
Our Florida weather continues to be mild, so we are enjoying the parks.
IMG_1647 IMG_1653
Check out my personal goal-setting guidelines for this year and enter our Booklover’s Bench contest for a $25 Amazon/BN gift card while there: https://bookloversbench.com/lets-talk-with-nancy-j-cohen-29/

Further Adventures in Orlando

Happy New Year! Time is moving on, so let me tell you about our latest adventures in Orlando over Christmas. We took a stroll at The Mall at Millenia that was nicely decorated for the holidays.
IMG_E1594IMG_E1596IMG_E1597
Dinner included an evening at Bosphorus Turkish Cuisine. We began with their hollow lava bread and hummus appetizer. I really liked the zucchini patties served with yogurt. I could eat this savory dish for an entire meal. The appetizer includes three huge pancakes, so be prepared to share. I didn’t care so much for the falafel ones. My husband had the lamb shish-kabob for his entrée, and I had moussaka. I always like this eggplant dish.
IMG_1602 IMG_1600IMG_1601
IMG_1603IMG_1604
I’d wanted to explore the Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens in Kissimmee. It’s mostly a retail store with a café and tasting bar. Although they advertise tours and a botanical garden, these don’t really exist. We each enjoyed a turkey sandwich along with our wine tasting. I liked the dry blueberry, the slightly sweet peach, and the cranberry wine. The company has a full-fledged winery at Hawthorne, FL: https://www.islandgrovewinecompany.com/
IMG_1967IMG_1609 IMG_1969IMG_1970IMG_1971IMG_1972IMG_1973
From here, we went down the street to an indoor flea market but the twisting stalls held a collection of shlock. Good place for tourists but not for us. It doesn’t compare to the Festival Marketplace at home.
IMG_1613
Coming Next: Christmas Day in Disney Springs
GIVEAWAY
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN Gift Card at Booklover’s Bench

Research Insights – Olive Oil Scams

While doing research for my books, I love to learn about esoteric topics. For Trimmed to Death, #15 in my Bad Hair Day Mystery series, I focused the story on food. Hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a bake-off contest that’s a recipe for disaster when a contestant ends up dead.


In considering the possible crime involved, I came across the topic of olive oil fraud. This led me to delve into the Florida olive growing industry and how olives are processed. Yes, I’m an olive fan. And now I’m more aware of fraud in the olive oil import business. Read on, and you can become more knowledgeable, too. Disclaimer: This information is based on my interpretation of the data so you are urged to verify the facts yourself.
The Problem
Olive oil scams rake in millions of dollars and involve fake labels and inferior products. The Italian extra virgin olive oil you paid a hefty price to buy? It may originate from somewhere else entirely. For example, a criminal ring from Italy passed off a blend of imported oils from the Middle East as authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Italy’s authorities unraveled the scheme, which involved twelve companies and a certification laboratory. Thousands of tons of olive oil were fraudulently bottled and labeled as made in Italy. Just so you know, Italy may be the world’s largest importer and exporter of olive oil, but Spain is the largest producer. Much of what comes from Italy is merely bottled there.
In another case, seven well-known Italian olive oil producers were investigated for falsely passing off inferior olive oil products as extra virgin. Italian authorities conducted operation “Mama Mia” and seized 2,000 tons of falsely labeled EVOO worth $14.5 million. Two months later, they seized another 22 tons of counterfeit oil. Italian newspaper La Stampa tested twenty of the most popular brands in Italy and discovered forty-five percent was falsely labeled.
As much as eighty percent of olive oil labeled as extra virgin may be diluted with lower grades of oil. These can include refined oils that have been processed with heat or chemicals. Or the EVOO may be adulterated with processed seed oils, such as soybean, peanut or sunflower. These seed oils can cause potential allergic reactions. Sometimes the extra virgin olive oil is cut with stale oil left over from earlier crops, or it may even be sold rancid. The market is rife with fraud, with estimates that nearly seventy percent of all store-bought EVOOs sold in the United States are falsely labeled.
Olive OilFL
What is being done about it?
The U.S. Congress ordered the FDA to begin testing imported oils for adulteration and misbranding. Italian producers have created their own seal of quality that says 100% Qualita Italiana. California producers have a California Olive Oil Commission (COOC) 100% Certified Extra Virgin seal. The North American Olive Oil Association has its own certified logo.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
What can you do?
Check the label and see if the country of origin is listed. Look at the date for when the oil was pressed or harvested and try to buy it less than a year old. Ignore the “bottled on” date as well as “use by” a certain date. See if it has one of the certification seals above. Look for specialty olive oils produced by local olive growers in Florida and California. Shop at specialty stores that provide information about chemical analysis, olive variety, where and when it originated. These shops do tastings and sell in small quantities. Once opened, olive oil deteriorates quickly. So it’s better to buy two small bottles than one bigger one.
Olive Branch
<><><>
TRIMMED TO DEATH
Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, she discovers a dead body in the strawberry field. Can she unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life? Recipes Included!
Get your copy here:
Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2xXmY57
Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/2Kb7oIK
Apple Books: https://apple.co/2xWHSRP
BN Nook: http://bit.ly/2sH9vcH
BN Print: http://bit.ly/2lEUhkB
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/trimmed-to-death
GIVEAWAYS
Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.

More Fun in the Sun

On Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, we began the day with a walk in Tree Tops Park. This is always lovely with the tall trees and marshland walkway. I didn’t climb the viewing tower this time, but others in our party made it to the top.
IMG_1467IMG_1468IMG_1469
We saw The Crimes of Grindelwald movie in the afternoon. Lots of plot twists and revelations captured my interest in this film that takes place before the Harry Potter films, although the scenes with creatures could be too slow-moving. The plotting and characters still don’t have the appeal of the original movies, although the world-building elements will appeal to diehard fans.
In the evening, we went for the dinner show at the venerable Mai Kai Restaurant that’s been here ever since I can remember. This was a celebratory birthday dinner. I started with coconut lobster bisque. My entrée was a teriyaki combo with rice. For dessert, my choice was coconut flan. The food was good and the show as spectacular as I remembered. You can see the videos on my Facebook page.
IMG_E1470IMG_E1471IMG_E1472
IMG_E1474IMG_E1478IMG_E1500
IMG_E1479IMG_E1483IMG_E1498
Sunday morning, we concluded the weekend with brunch at Vienna Café. It was an elegant and memorable way to end the festivities. And now it’s time to focus on the upcoming holidays and get back to work. You’ll be happy to hear that I have finally started writing the next Bad Hair Day mystery novella. It may be slow-going, but at least it’s moving forward.
GIVEAWAYS
Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.
Winter Wonder
Enter Here Dec. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.

Schnebly Winery

My birthday often falls the same weekend as Thanksgiving. My birth date was actually on the holiday. My mother used to say she got me on a platter instead of a turkey. This year, our kids came home so we could celebrate together. We had a lovely meal with all the proper fixings while enjoying each other’s company.
Thanksgiving2018
On Friday of Thanksgiving weekend, we drove to Florida City/Homestead. We meant to stop at Knaus Berry Farm, but the line to get in was way too long for us to wait out in the hot sun. We took backroads instead toward the Schnebly Redland’s Winery and Miami Brewing Co. It was an educational drive through South Florida’s agricultural country. The winery makes wine and beer out of tropical fruits. There’s a gift shop adjacent to the Redlander Restaurant where we had lunch. I had a tasty burger with fried avocado on top.
IMG_1832IMG_1833IMG_1834
IMG_1836IMG_1837
The tour took us on a path under a thatched roof and past a waterfall. We fed the Koi fish in the pond while the guide explained the winery’s origins. Next we viewed the vats where the fruit is pressed for juice and later fermented.
IMG_1835IMG_1840 IMG_1844IMG_1847IMG_1848IMG_1849IMG_1850
The resulting liquid is filtered to remove any remaining solids and then bottled in dark bottles to prevent sunlight from penetrating. Beer is sold in cans.
IMG_1851IMG_1852IMG_1853IMG_1854
We entered the taproom where beer samples were available. I am not a beer drinker, but our kids enjoyed the taste. We saw the rest of the brewery before moving on to the wine tasting.
IMG_1855IMG_1858
At the bar in the gift shop, we each chose five wines to taste. I liked the Grand Reserve, a white that was dry enough to be a table wine, and Denisse’s Boo-Boo Wine that was similar to an ice wine to be sipped after dinner.
We drove next to Robert is Here to look at the farmer’s market selling fresh fruits and vegetables and their famous milkshakes. Outside is a mini-zoo where you can feed lettuce to the animals. The only thing lacking is a decent restroom. With the crowds they get, they should invest in a real facility. If you’re desperate, they have portable units on site. Then we drove home. Exhausted from the long day, we ate turkey leftovers for dinner.
IMG_1859
IMG_1863IMG_1868IMG_1866
WINTER WONDER GIVEAWAY
Winter Wonder Giveaway
Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.

Days at Disney

We went to Epcot while we were in Orlando to enjoy the Food & Wine Festival. At Africa, we had a wine flight consisting of Cederberg Chenin Blanc, Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz, and Groot Constantia Pinotage. We were not impressed by any of them.
IMG_E1398IMG_1397
IMG_1386 IMG_E1387
Here are some of the other things we tried. They were all good. Probably my favorite was the last one on this list.
Chicken Dumplings at China, $4.45
Marinated Chicken with Peanut Sauce at Thailand, $5.00
Shrimp Skewer at Africa, $6.75
Wine Flight at Africa, $6.50
Carrot Cake at Hops & Barley American Adventure
Apple Strudel at Germany
Banana Almond Soft-Serve Sundae at The Almond Orchard $4.50
IMG_E1381IMG_E1383IMG_E1384IMG_E1385
IMG_E1396IMG_E1400IMG_E1402
Our visit on another day was to the Animal Kingdom. We enjoyed a stroll through Pandora and then went around Africa to Asia, past the youngsters area, and back to the front section where we exited. We’ve seen the shows and have gone on most of the rides, so we can just savor the ambiance, the plants, and the animals for a couple of hours.
IMG_0134 IMG_0137Animal Kingdom2
And so ended our wedding journey and escape into a fantasy realm. Now it’s back to reality.