9 05 2012

My awesome weekend continued on Saturday with a trip to the Keel & Curley Blueberry Festival!

Since I didn’t have a multi-hour workout planned for Saturday, I took advantage of the free morning to head out to Plant City with Courtney to get our blueberry-picking on!

The blueberry festival took place at the Keel & Curley Winery which is about 40 minutes outside of Tampa. Yes, there are wineries in Florida. The soil in Florida isn’t really ideal for grapes though, so this winery makes their wine out of fruit! The winery was cute, and had a nice covered outdoor seating area which overlooked a small pond just outside the tasting room.

Courtney and I decided to pick our berries first. We walked through some typical fair stalls before seeing the blueberry bushes behind the winery. I stopped to get a lil’ country with this tractor before we started to pick 🙂

We started to pick in the first field we saw, but we were finding that the berries seemed to be few and far between. We saw lots of people walking around with buckets of berries, but where were they coming from? Courtney overheard someone say something about “behind the building,” so we followed the walkway around the side of what looked like a really, really big shed.

Oh. So THIS is where everyone was. Behind the building were rows and rows and rows of blueberry bushes.

Not quite ready for picking:-)

This is where the fun began. I think my strategy was pick 4 berries, eat 1. Thankfully, I didn’t end up like Violet from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. However, this might have been the reason why I only ended up cashing out with 1 pound, while Courtney walked away with 2. Whoops.

The blueberries we were finding over here were huge! Definitely better than the ones you get at the store!!

After paying for our berries ($3/pound), we wandered around some of the stalls. We contemplated doing a wine tasting, but we had plans to swim, stop at the grocery store to get fixins for salsa and guacamole to take over to Mary’s Cinco de Derby Party, and it was after 11 already. We needed to get a move on!

On our way out of Plant City, we stopped at a produce stand to see if we could get everything we needed for our Cinco De Mayo treats. I think we both got just about all of the produce we needed and then some! I stocked up on bananas (2 full bunches plus two stragglers for $1!!!), some fresh summer squash and zucchini, and Florida tomatoes. Oh, and I couldn’t beat the 3 for $2 avocados!

After a successful Cinco Party at Mary’s:

I decided it was time to bake! While Courtney and I were making our Cinco treats, she let me taste some a blueberry scone with lemon glaze that she had made the other day. YUM! So on Sunday I did a quick Google search to find the recipe. I ended up going with this one, to which I added lemon zest to the batter and swapped out the heavy cream for 1% milk. I also halved the icing recipe.

I made them a bit too big, but oh well! They were super moist (especially right out of the oven), and the blueberries were PERFECT! The citrus was a great complement to the berries! MMMM. I heart scones.

Now I’ve got the remainder of my pound of berries to use up. Any suggestions? Link up below!

Cookie Extravaganza!

20 12 2011

Can you believe that Christmas is less than a week away? Yipes! Have you got all your shopping done?

Yesterday I had a minor freak out because I still hadn’t received one of the presents I ordered back in November. I was wondering why this gift hadn’t arrived (pardon my vagueness, the gift recipient might be reading!), since I had received all the other things from the same order. So, I went back and checked the Amazon order and discovered that I never had actually purchased the gift! It wasn’t on the order, and I hadn’t even flagged it as “Buy this later.” Blonde moment! I frantically searched for it online, only to discover that Amazon was all out, and if I ordered today, the gift wouldn’t arrive until after Christmas! How could I have been so absent minded? Thankfully, I was able to find it at a local store and have it in my hands before the end of the day. Bonus points for no shipping and no lines! Crisis averted!

Ms. Owl says, “How could you have been so foolish? We owls are too smart to make those silly mistakes.”

While on the topic of Christmas things, I spent some serious time in the kitchen this weekend baking up lots of Christmas cookies!

On Saturday, I baked my little heart out with some of my girlfriends. Christmas music on, the tree all lit up, and a little bubbly in our glasses made the perfect backdrop for our afternoon of baking cookies.

We took shifts in the kitchen so it didn’t overcrowd, and made sure to taste-test every kind of cookie that came out of the oven.

There were shortbread cookies with dried cherries,

Anna’s thumbprint cookies with almond buttercream icing,

Stacie’s sugar cookies made into fun, seasonal shapes,

Vanessa’s chocolate chip cookies,

Sarah’s family recipe for sugar cookies, all carefully decorated,

and my mom’s sugar and spice cookies.

Yes, that’s a lot of cookies. And that doesn’t count the dozen that I accidentally dropped onto the floor/inside the oven because I tried to take them out without opening the oven door completely.

Whoops. Sorry Anna. 😦 Thankfully, I had disregarded my mom’s note at the bottom of the recipe: “THIS MAKES A LOT OF COOKIES.  SOMETIMES I HALF THIS RECIPE,” so we had plenty to spare. 🙂

We each took a plate home with samples of all the cookies and I’m still trying to come down from my sugar high. I loved tasting all the different cookies, and knowing that each recipe was special to each of my friend’s holiday traditions.

If you’re interested in recipes, I’ll try and get some of the others, but for now, here’s my mom’s sugar and spice cookie recipe! Enjoy!

Sugar and Spice Cookies


1 ½ cups shortening
2  cups sugar
2  eggs
½  cup molasses
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon+1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ginger

How to:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cream shortening and sugar in large mixing bowl.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Then add the molasses and mix well. Mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and ginger and add to the creamed mixture. Roll into balls the size of quarters and then roll in sugar and place on slightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes.  Let them sit on the cookie sheet for a minute or two then put them on a cooling rack.

Question of the day: What’s your favorite kind of Christmas cookie? Do you have any traditional family cookie recipes?

Friday Fun With Bloggers!

12 12 2011

Yes, I know it’s Monday, but since I don’t blog on the weekend, I thought I’d catch you up!

On Friday night, I went to a blogger meetup at Lauriol Plaza. Lauriol is a must-visit when in DC, especially in the summer and you can sit outside,  sip frozen margaritas, and watch people stumble up the hill to Adam’s Morgan.

Well, it’s not summer, but Lauriol is still perfect for yummy margaritas, especially when you’re surrounded by some of your sweaty friends and you’re celebrating a new Ironman!  (All people pics courtesy of Sarah – thanks girl!)

Carly, Sarah, Rachel, the other Sarah

Me and Erin

Ironman, Ironman, Soon to be Ironman, Marathoner (soon to be a “Goofy Marathoner“)

It’s so fun to hang out with these ladies! They are good peeps. And they enjoy delicious food too, which may or may not be something I look for in my friendships…(kidding! but it doesn’t hurt…)

I ordered the crab and shrimp quesadilla.

It had the perfect amount of seafood and cheese. I ate it all up!

And you can’t go to a blogger event with these ladies without some sweet treats, especially when one of them is the District Chocoholic. Victoria brought us some cookies that were stuffed with chocolate, which I unfortunately ate too quickly to take a picture. She also brought some sample chocolates from a local chocolate company for us to taste and give feedback. I’d like to say may palette is refined enough to give specific thoughts on the flavors, but unfortunately my descriptions were limited to “Yum” or “I like this one better than that one.” Probably not so helpful…

Lauren brought some deee-liscious toffee, which she’ll hopefully be putting up the recipe for soon!

Apparently my camera thought I wanted to focus on the salsa bowl 😦 Regardless, I was stuffed, but still popped a few of these babies in my mouth. YUM!

And, I brought some gingerbread cake balls, dipped in white,

or dark chocolate.

ooh baby!

I love me some holiday cake balls, but I didn’t mind pawning them off on my friends. They’re so tasty, but not quite the healthiest dessert. I needed to get them out of the house! I actually health-ified these cake balls a smidge, by swapping out some of the oil in the cake recipe with some Greek Yogurt, and by using low-fat cream cheese in the frosting. I guess they also have some extra protein in them, but I still can’t classify them as “healthy.” Still, no one complained or said they tasted like I tried to make them a bit healthier, so I’ll count that as a success!

Gingerbread Cake Balls


1 box gingerbread cake mix, prepared as directed on the box (you can also make the cake from scratch if you choose!)

Cream cheese frosting (homemade or store-bought)

Chocolate chips (dark, white, your choice!)

How to:

Bake the Gingerbread cake, as directed on the box. You may want to do this the night before, so the cake has time to cool completely.

(This mix called for 1/3 cup oil, which I swapped with the same amount of Greek Yogurt)

When the cake is completely cooled, crumble the cake into small pieces. Then dump about a cup (maybe more?) of frosting into the cake crumbs.

Stir it in completely, and then roll the cake into balls. Place the balls onto a lined baking sheet.

Place the cookie sheet in the freezer or refrigerator for a few hours so they can harden a little.

When you’re ready, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the cold cake balls in the chocolate, and then place back on the cookie sheet. When you’ve dipped everything, place the tray into the fridge or freezer until the chocolate hardens.

Dig in!

They’re really rich, but oh so tasty!