Monday, March 30, 2015

Super Soft Sugar Cookies

My husband LOVES sugar cookies.

Not the hard, thin ones but the big, soft, flaky sugar cookies slathered in buttercream icing. 

I love sugar. I also love cookies. But I am not a sugar cookie fan per se. However, there is this one local restaurant that makes the biggest, flakiest, most melt in your mouth sugar cookies that will convert even the biggest non-sugar cookie person like me.

This is my attempt at recreating them. They got my husbands seal of approval and have been deemed blog worthy by my kids, so here it goes...

Super Soft Sugar Cookies
Yield: 12 giant cookies, 24 smaller cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter at room temp (2 sticks)
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup cream cheese at room temp
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla

In a stand mixer, combine butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add your egg, vanilla and sour cream. Mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients (flour, salt, cornstarch, baking powder and cream of tartar). Once combined, add in 3 batches to wet mixture.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Place dough on wax paper and top with another sheet of wax paper. Place another baking sheet on top and press down, flattening the dough until it's 1/2" thick. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or until dough is thoroughly chilled.

Preheat oven to 350.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Using a cookie cutter, inverted glass cup or biscuit cutter, cut your cookies out of the dough and place on a greased baking sheet. (Note: I bake 6 large cookies on one baking sheet).

Bake for about 15-18 minutes for large cookies or 10-12 minutes for smaller cookies. Do NOT over-bake. As soon as you see the bottoms begin to turn golden, remove them from the oven. I usually test them with a light tap on the top to see if they feel baked. I err on the side of pulling them out just before they're done rather than over baking them.

Let cool and frost with your favorite frosting. I will be sharing the recipe for my sweet and tangy buttercream tomorrow!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Excursions in Mexico

I'm back with another post about our trip to Mexico!

Our plan was to just relax for once. Whenever we go on a trip, we usually wear ourselves out doing any and every activity we can find, but we thought we'd do things a little differently this time.

We only ventured out from the resort twice: First, to go to Xplor park, and then to visit Mayakoba Golf Course.

First up is Xplor! This is a fun day out! You buy a ticket which allows you to ride the amphibious vehicles (below) twice, go through the ziplines course twice, and do the hammock swing and swim and kayak through the underground caves as often as you want. 

You each get a locker and key so that you can store your belongings safely. It's also considered to be "all inclusive" meaning you'll get all the food and drinks you want while there. PS for those who are curious - There is no alcohol there for obvious reasons!

We made a mistake in letting our transportation company book this for us. First, I think we could've gotten our tickets cheaper had we bought them online. Second, they wanted us to stay there from 8am to 5pm. Um, no. Even though there is a lot to do, once you've used your turns on the zipline and vehicles, things get a bit boring. We finished up in about 3 hours, and that includes eating lunch. We ended up calling a cab and going back to the resort, which means we still had to pay for the prearranged travel.

I would recommend finding a transportation company that will book a half day trip!

Next up, Chris was going stir crazy and decided to golf at Mayakoba. He is an avid golfer and has played at some really awesome and historical courses, so our expectations were high. I don't usually golf, but I do bring a book and drive the cart. ;-)

I have to say that we were really disappointed with the course. It wasn't in the best shape, the people in the pro shop were really snobby and there were huge wooden walls erected which blocked most of the ocean views because they're building a new resort onsite.

Overall, Chris said he was not a fan and would never go back to this course. =(

No matter - we still had so much fun being together and I always enjoy driving a golf cart! Ha!

Also, I had some emails asking if we visited the town...the answer is no, we didn't. However, I met some really nice people who did visit the town of Playa Del Carmen and they absolutely loved it! They said they felt very safe and that there were some really, really nice restaurants! If we go back, this will definitely be something we do!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Greek Lunch Wraps

So, remember how I said there would be a round two recipe for my Greek Chicken with Veggie Couscous? Here it is!

The best part of this wrap is how low in calories it is. Depending on the flatbread you use (and other ingredients, like the cream cheese) this can be a very low calorie lunch. The whole wrap below was 375 calories the way I made it. I've had this lunch three times this week! It is SO GOOD!

Greek Lunch Wraps

1 block of reduced fat cream cheese
2 Tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon minced basil
Lavosh or similar, low fat, low cal wheat flatbread
Leftover Greek Chicken and Veggie Couscous (click for recipe)

In a bowl, mix cheese, parsley and basil. Spread 2 Tablespoons of cheese mixture onto flatbread. Top with 3 Tablespoons of couscous mixture, pressing it into the cheese so that it sticks. On one end, place a few slices of leftover cold chicken, and then roll the wrap up tightly. Cut and serve cold!

For reference, this is what the original recipe looks like:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Greek Chicken with Veggie Couscous

While we were in Mexico, we ate at a delicious Mediterranean restaurant, which is where the inspiration for this couscous came from. I had a couple of different ideas on how to go about recreating this dish as a entree, and I decided to take the basic approach first. 

Word to the wise...make extra because I have a a second delicious recipe coming your way that uses both the chicken and the couscous!

Greek Chicken with Veggie Couscous
Serves 3-4

For the chicken:
3 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts
2 Tablespoons Cavenders Greek Seasoning
3 Tablespoons EVOO

For the couscous:
2 cups couscous
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup minced yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
1 Tablespoon minced basil
Salt and pepper

About 2-3 hours before you want to eat, slice the chicken into strips. Toss with olive oil and seasoning (I do this in a ziplock bag) and store in the refrigerator.

When you're ready to eat, grill the chicken. Set aside. In a pot, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon of pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of salt). Once boiling, add couscous, stir, cover and remove from heat. In 5 minutes remove lid and fluff with a fork.

In a serving bowl, combine couscous with all remaining ingredients. Serve chicken over couscous.

I like to enjoy this with a bit of naan bread!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mexico Part 2: Location & Beach Experience

This is NOT a sponsored post. I was not compensated anything or given any perks/discount to write about the resort/activities. 

Hi again!

I'm back with the second post on our Mexico trip. If you missed the first post, I talked all about the all inclusive resort we picked. The room was beautiful, so be sure to check that post out!

Today, I'm going to talk about the location of the resort and the beach!

When you're traveling to the Mayan Riviera, one of the most discussed topics I saw online was the beach. Some beaches are rocky, others are fine sand. Some are littered with seaweed and others are crystal clear water.

First, figure out what's most important to you. We don't usually swim in the ocean (actually, I never swim in the ocean because I really don't like the ocean to begin with!) so the beach quality was less important to us.

Here was our list of important qualities:

- Beautiful room (click to see pictures)
- All inclusive
- Adults only
- Shaded areas on the beach (I don't tan, I burn)
- Swim up pool (we like to swim, just not in the ocean)
- Somewhat close to the airport

So based on that, we ended up at a resort that doesn't have pristine, white sand beaches, however, it was perfect for us!

My favorite beach feature was the beach bed:

The El Dorado Casitas in nestled right in-between the El Dorado Generations (which is family friendly) and the El Dorado Royal (adults only, much louder and more active). The Casitas is where you go if you want peace and quiet! We never had any trouble getting a beach bed, which is something I saw mentioned on Trip Advisor for almost every other resort that offers them.

A beach waiter will come out and check on you periodically to take drink and food orders or get anything else you may need.

The beach itself as well as the water in this area has a lot of seaweed, which you can see below. The hotel has a group of men that start early each morning digging a hole in the sand and burying the seaweed. I felt so terrible for's a never ending job, and frankly, it could've been done much more quickly and efficiently using a Bobcat, but I digress.

If you're plan is to walk along the beach, or just sit and relax then the seaweed isn't a problem. We took several walks in the area and laid out quite a lot as well, and loved it.

Also, the beach over on the Royale side tends to be a little better. Casitas guests are allowed to go to both the Generations beach and the Royale beach (though they are not allowed on the Casitas beach as the goal of the Casitas is tranquility and both of the other resorts have many more people). If beach activities and being around a lot of people is important to you, just walk down to that side.

The El Dorado Royale's beach:

Another important aspect of the Casitas was its proximity to the airport. I think it was only a 20 minute ride, which was great! Some of the other guests were going an hour or more away in a hot van! No thanks!

A quick note on the airport...if you've arranged transportation to your hotel, walk straight out the doors! There are timeshare people EVERYWHERE once you get through customs. They will try to trick you into thinking you need to talk to them in order to leave but it's just a gimmick. If you go out the main doors the travel companies (AmStar etc) are outside with signs telling you where to go to catch your van or bus.

If I missed anything regarding the beach or the location, let me know in the comments or send me an email at EmailJennasJourney@ Gmail . com. Also, like I mentioned before, we used an awesome travel agent and we saved 34% off of the best deal I could find online as well as the deals from other travel agents that priced out our trip. Email me if you'd like their contact info.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mexico: Our Resort in the Mayan Riviera

I was NOT compensated in any way for my review. All opinions expressed are my own.

We're back!

Since my first post asking for advice on traveling to Mexico, I've had so many of you email me asking where we decided to stay! After I shared that, I've had a ton of emails asking what I thought about our resort. We just got back yesterday (at 1am!) and I've been working on this post all afternoon. Eventually, I decided there was just WAY too much info for one post...literally, you wouldn't believe how long it was before I broke it up. 

So, today I'm going to talk about our room since there were lots of questions about just that one topic. I'm also going to address the food and all inclusive amenities, the location, the beach and the other activities we did offsite. Meanwhile, if you're curious about anything else, you can email me or leave a comment here! 

So, we were at the El Dorado Casitas Royale in the Mayan Riviera. Our room was a swim-up casita. 

If you look at maps of the resort online, you'll see that the casitas are in groups that form half circles around pools. There are four casitas rooms in one building. This is what the outside of a building looks like:

And here is the back of the casitas. This is where our swim up area was. You can hop in the water and swim over to a big pool with a swim up bar and it faces the ocean.

Now, for the inside! This is the bedroom area. The little piece of wall to the far right of the picture is the wall going into the bathroom. See where the closet door is open below? For the next picture, that is where I'll be standing.

Here is a view of the sitting area, table, coffee counter and soaker tub, as well as the doors that lead to our porch and swim out.

A better view of the soaker tub and tv area:

The sink area of the bathroom:

The indoor shower:

And the outdoor shower:

The room was very, very nice. This area of Mexico is really humid but the AC unit in the room was wonderful - we were always nice and cool. There is also a mini bar in under where the TV is located that is restocked often. Additionally (and I'll address this in the food post) there is room service available and included with your booking. 

My overall rating of this room is a 9 out of 10. The only thing that I didn't like was the furniture, as silly as that sounds. The couch and chairs were (to me) uncomfortable and we spent a lot of time each day sitting there and face timing our kids! Also, it was very dark in our particular room which made it a bit difficult to put on my makeup, talk on the phone to the kids etc. 

Next up, I'll be talking about the food at the resort! Stay tuned! Also, if you're interested in staying here, send me an email. We found an unbeatable deal with a travel agent and I can send you their name/website info.
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