Monday, May 16, 2016

Cupcake ATM and much more at Sprinkles

By Guest Blogger Sarah Hawthorne

Wouldn't it be great if, with a push of a button, you could get a freshly-made gourmet cupcake any time of day or night? Ten years ago, you might have thought this type of machine was only available to The Jetsons, but today it's a reality at Sprinkles, the newest addition to the Disney Springs family. 

This is the nation's 20th cupcake ATM, offering all of Sprinkle's cupcake flavors made fresh to order, along with their dog-friendly cupcakes (not for human consumption). The cupcakes are $3.95 for mini-cupcakes (offered in four traditional flavors) and $4.95 for full-size.

Touted as the first cupcake bakery by the Food Network, Sprinkles is much more than a cupcake ATM. Open 10 a.m. to midnight, the beautiful shop has dozens of cupcake flavors, including Banana Peanut Butter, Cuban Coffee, Sprinkles, Dark Chocolate and Red Velvet. Additional offerings include sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan cupcakes; ice cream (Cap n Crunch was my fave); cookies and a cupcake decorating center. 

But what you really want to know is, "How do they taste?" Simply amazing. Personally, I'm not a huge cupcake fan. A mini cupcake is usually all I can handle, before I lunge for a glass of milk. What sets them apart from every other cupcake bake shop is balance and quality ingredients. First, their flavors taste exactly how they should. You aren't getting a typical overly-sweetened, artificially-flavored cupcake. Sprinkles gives you something more like a moist, natural, perfectly-sweetened muffin. 

Sprinkles Disney Springs, Walt Disney World, Orlando
Second, the icing complements the cupcake without overpowering the other flavors and again, it is creamy and flavorful - not overly-sweetened. At Sprinkles, I never bothered to check their menu for milk. I am a huge ice cream fan and I did find their ice cream to be on the sweeter side. So, if you do prefer a sweeter flavor, I recommend their sundae. It is a cupcake with the top cut off and ice cream put in the middle for between $5.50 and $9.95.

According to one of the super friendly employees, Grace, the cupcakes will last approximately two days and should not be refrigerated. Her favorite flavor is Red Velvet with Red cupcake with Red Velvet ice cream. Sprinkles will offer seasonal flavors such as Key Lime and Gingerbread.

One of the biggest selling points for sprinkles is their rewards program, which steps up the rewards for frequency. When you sign up in-store or online, you immediately receive a free cupcake and you receive points for every cupcake you buy. The more cupcakes you buy in a year, the more points you earn per purchase and even bigger rewards for the following year. You also get a free cupcake on your birthday!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sweet & Savory Yogurt is in

Why have I never tried Noosa Yoghurt before now? Friends rave about it, and I recently was sent some of their innovative new flavors. First, the texture of European-style yoghurt is thicker, creamier and - in my humble opinion - more flavorful than regular U.S. yogurt. I even love the plain Noosa!

Plus, Noosa has different yoghurt flavors than what you typically see on the shelf (such as Vanilla or Strawberry Banana). The company recently launched Blackberry Serrano, Key Lime and Blood Orange flavors, as well as 4-packs of its Salted Caramel flavor. 

Of course I tried the weirdest first: the combination of sweet and savory with blackberries
Blackberry Serrano Yoghurt
and serrano peppers. It's not for me. I guess I don't want spice with my dessert, even though I love hot peppers and appreciate that this yoghurt had a fair amount of heat. The friends who tried it were pretty evenly split: half loved it and half hated it.

Same with the Blood Orange: half of my friends loved it and half hated it. However, the Key Lime has a strong lime flavor and is delicious. And the Salted Caramel is so yummy. I think I will stick with the sweeter flavors! 

In Central Florida, you can find Noosa at Publix, Fresh Market and other stores.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Helps Kids and Eat Pie this Weekend!

Every year, I anticipate the National Pie Championships in Orlando, Fla. Our city is so fortunate to host this great event that recognizes national bakers, and is televised on Food Network. The National Pie Championships, which are open to the public, will be held April 29 and April 30 at Caribe Royale Hotel.

This year, the Championships are even better because they include the American Pie Council's "Pie Party" to benefit Give Kids the World. Tickets for the event are only $5 for two slices of pie, plus several fun activities will be held. You can challenge the pros in an Iron Chef-style competition, watch a 200-pound pie being built, and of course, enjoy pie. 

If you go, please post photos and comments of your favorite pies!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Go to Carrabba's for Flavor, Value

We decided to give Carrabba's Italian Grill a try again after years of not eating there because of high prices and dishes that were not that inventive. After trying the recently-opened Carrabba's in Sanford, Fla., we are happy to report that we liked the taste of our dishes, as well as the incredible value for our dinner. 

The incredible value was obtained because we went on a Monday, when the chain runs its
Flavorful Excursions, Sanford restaurants, Sanford fla, Christine Blank
"Amore Mondays" promotion, offering three courses starting at $12.99. I would suggest going on Mondays - or for its specials on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, since many pasta entrees are around $20 on the regular menu.

For $12.99, I was able to try the delicious new Linguine Positano with wood-grilled chicken, crushed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil. I would have loved more basil flavor, but otherwise the dish was seasoned well and came out steaming hot. I also was able to get a large side salad and the Brulee Ricotta Cheesecake. The cheesecake was not my favorite, but I typically don't like ricotta cheesecake. However, my husband enjoyed it!

For $15.99, my husband had the Fettuccine Weesie - Fettuccine Alfredo with sauteed shrimp, basil garlic and mushrooms in a white wine lemon butter sauce - as well as the Meatballs & Ricotta appetizer and the Minestrone soup. The fettuccine was very tasty, and we loved the flavors of the meatballs. 

Plus, our meals were so filling that we were able to take leftovers home. We rarely get to do that anymore when eating out! We also enjoyed eating outdoors in a nice atmosphere in Sanford. 

Where: 4675 St. John's Parkway, Sanford, Fla. (near Seminole Towne Center mall)

See the complete photo album from our dinner on Facebook.


Top Reasons to Visit The Smiling Bison - Sanford

Outback: Great Food For The Price

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Must-eat in Houston: Irma's Southwest

Guest blogger: Shad Bookout

Yesterday, we ate at Irma's Southwest Grill in Houston, Texas. There is no menu here; it is whatever is on the board for the day. 

We had good service, especially for an off time. My buddy Will enjoyed a combo with a shrimp taco, beef fajita, and a cheese enchilada. I had wild boar tamales. Both were delicious, but the best was by far the wild boar, which has the right blend of savory sauce to complement the gamey meat.

See complete photo album on our Facebook page!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Must-try: Brunch at The Porch

Winter Park restaurants, Orlando restaurants, Orlando
The Porch in Winter Park, Fla., recently started serving its brunch on Saturday from 11:30 am - 3 pm, in addition to its Sunday brunch. Of course, the brunch menu is as inventive and delicious as The Porch's regular menu. There were so many dishes from the brunch menu that we wanted to try, including Candied Bacon and an amazing Hawaiian French Toast dish. 

However, on this visit, I chose the Croissant Egg Sandwich with crispy bacon, arugula and tomato, with a side of smashed potatoes. This sandwich was truly the perfect bite, as egg yolk ran into the bacon, arugula and tomato. I also loved the smashed potatoes, which are like breakfast potatoes but smashed - and with more oil and seasoning.

My husband stuck to his favorite at The Porch: fried chicken tenders with tater tots. The fried chicken is always tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, with a tasty breading.

Bottom line: we will be back for brunch at The Porch and you should check it out too!

Also see:

Yummy TV dinners and more at The Porch

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Where to hike in Seminole County

While my husband and I love visiting beaches and hiking trails all over Florida, we also want to enjoy the beauty in our own backyard...Seminole County. We live in this county because we believe it has the most natural, scenic beauty in Central Florida.

Recently, I explored Black Hammock State Park in Oviedo. The park is massive, so I just went on a short hike off of the trailhead. One small section of the path was the boardwalk, as you can see in the photo, but most of it was gravel and then just dirt. I wish I had my hiking boots as I carefully stepped over many tree roots.

It was a beautiful day, and we truly enjoyed the beauty of this hike. See more photos on Flavorful Excursions' Facebook page. Also, let us know where we should explore next!