15th Anniversary Trip to Las Vegas, NV: The Food

Josh and I were married 15 years ago on January 5th, 2002, a few months after 9/11 and the day after Josh’s 22nd birthday. That certainly was a crazy time. It was even crazier a year later. We had been planning to go to Las Vegas for our 1st anniversary, but the military changed our plans. We hadn’t had any concrete plans to go to Las Vegas anyway; maybe we kind of knew that we would not be able to go.

For the next 14 years, every anniversary, we threw around the idea of trying to go to Las Vegas, but it never happened until this year. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, since we had never been there, but we ended up having a great time!

We really enjoyed just walking around and looking at all the hotels and shopping, but I think the food is what we enjoyed most.

Our first night we went to a restaurant near Paris called hexx. This is also where I discovered the only bean-to-bar chocolate seller in Nevada. I buy from Nibble here in Southern California, but hexx’s chocolate was about equal in taste and texture.

068.JPG

073
Antipasto salad

The food here was very good, but also very expensive! It was worth the price though because everything tasted delicious and fresh. We thought about coming back but later decided we would try the buffets for the next two days.

The buffets actually worked out well for us. We would eat breakfast at our hotel (loved our free breakfast at our hotel!), head out for the morning to play tourist, skip lunch or eat a light snack (one day our light snack was macarons!), and then go to a buffet for dinner.

075
The macarons we bought from Le Macaron, a shop in the Grand Canal Shops in the Venetian. Flavors going clockwise starting at the top right: Passion fruit, Hazelnut praline, Basil White Chocolate, Lavender White Chocolate, Orange Chocolate, Salted Caramel. $17.40 for 6. I think the Salted Caramel had gone bad by the time we ate it. The Basil White chocolate was good, but the Lavender was too lavender-y. I think my favorite might have been the Passion fruit.

I did some research before we went to any buffets and had read a lot about Wynn hotel’s buffet. It lived up to all the reviews. I wish I had taken pictures of the actual buffet, but it went on forever! And the dessert buffet was like a dream.

The hotel itself was gorgeous inside. So many flowers everywhere!

079.JPG

vegaswynn.jpg

081.JPG
A lot of the Christmas decor was still up even though it was a few days after New Year’s.

We ate too many desserts as you can see, but they were so small that we didn’t feel too bad about eating all of them! Each one was beautifully presented.

bellagio2

The next day we ate at Bellagio.  They were still running their holiday pricing for their buffet so it cost us quite a bit to eat there.

We wanted to see the gardens at Bellagio, but I think they were in the middle of changing from their Christmas decor.

bellagio1

There was a LOT of seafood at the buffet, so that is what I ended up eating! We don’t eat seafood at home since I am the only one who really likes it.

The dessert buffet had just as many (or possibly more!) beautiful desserts as at Wynn. There were also cannoli! I haven’t had one of those in such a long time. We used to live in Philadelphia when I was a kid (when the base was still there), and I still remember the cannoli my mom and dad would buy for us!

After our dinner at the Bellagio, we had to watch the dancing fountains. We got to watch them twice!

bellagio3.jpg

We were only in Vegas for a few days so we did not get to try any other restaurants. I guess that just means we will have to go back someday!

-Lynn

 

Advertisements

Almond Biscotti with Ghirardelli Cocoa Nib Chocolate

Biscotti is something I have not made in years. I think they were okay the last time I made them (but I don’t really remember when that was!) but then I made these! I happened across a recipe for almond biscotti in Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. There was one ingredient in the recipe that caught my eye: cornmeal. I had never thought of cornmeal as something you would use in biscotti!

So I made one batch of Lenox Almond Biscotti and it disappeared so fast that my children were asking me to make it again!

Recipe: Lenox Almond Biscotti

This time, I decided to play around with the recipe a little bit and add in a chopped-up bar of Ghirardelli chocolate. But this bar was a little different. It had cocoa nibs in it. My kids are a little spoiled when it comes to chocolate, since I am always on the lookout for really good chocolate. My kids LOVE dark chocolate and they prefer that over milk chocolate. Once, I shelled raw cocoa nibs and had a hard time keeping my kids away from the bowl.

almondbiscotti

I think this was a 3.5 ounce bar. I chopped the bar up into the smallest pieces I could.

almondbiscotti2

We buy a lot of our food at Costco, just because there are so many of us. Dried fruit, flour, milk, eggs, and nuts are usually on our shopping list. So biscotti was a good use for the huge bag of sliced almonds I had bought from there.

almondbiscotti3.jpg

The batter for the biscotti before adding flour is almost pretty. It becomes a soft yellow color and looks fluffy and light after beating.

almondbiscotti4.jpg

almondbiscotti5.jpg

Here is the batter after adding the dry ingredients. Next, the chopped chocolate and sliced almonds go in.

almondbiscotti6

At this point, it was time to shape the dough into logs. I hate getting dough all over my hands (even when making bread… so I don’t work with sticky bread dough very often), so I cheated and just smoothed out the logs with a spatula and a bench knife.

almondbiscotti7.jpg

When I first made these, 1½ inch wide logs seemed awfully narrow, but the logs bake up much larger than that. So I now always keep them skinny. Also, shorter biscotti are easier and shorter to “second bake.”

almondbiscotti8

See how wide they are after the first bake? You want to bake these logs until they aren’t shiny in the centers. Once, I made the mistake of not baking them long enough for the first bake and then they didn’t bake long enough for the second bake. So the centers of some of my biscotti were soft instead of crispy. After they cooled for about half an hour, I sliced each log into 3/4-inch-thick pieces with a serrated knife and set them up for their second bake.

almondbiscotti9.jpg

In the oven for their second bake!

almondbiscotti10.jpg

These are the perfect size! Not too big and not too small. And a perfect combination of crunchy and chewy!

I’ve made this recipe about 3 times and here are just some quick notes about what I’ve discovered:

  1. Make sure you bake them long enough for that second bake to get them crunchy! I made the mistake of not baking long enough the second time and ended up with something more like mandelbrot (which I’ve never tasted but sounds like the texture I got) than biscotti. They still tasted good, but they just weren’t crunchy enough to be biscotti. 15 minutes won’t always be long enough. It depends on your oven or the rack position you are using.
  2. Sometimes the original is the best. If I make these again, I think I will go with no additions! The third time I made these I added mini milk chocolate chips… Honestly, they didn’t add much in the way of flavor. Maybe because they were milk chocolate?
  3. Don’t leave out the cornmeal. I think it’s what makes these so addicting!

-Lynn

Pomegranate Curd

We had about half a bottle of pomegranate juice left in the fridge. Instead of just drinking it, what did I want to do with it instead?

It’s a little bit crazy, but I wanted to make pomegranate curd!

Of course, I googled it and found a recipe that looked like it would work for me at A Cookie Named Desire. There is something about a blog that has really beautiful pictures that I just love. Right now, I’m afraid my pictures won’t be very pretty, but they do help a post to be interesting! I’m also one of those people who likes to know what my ingredients are supposed to look like while I’m working through a recipe. Even a few pictures of the process helps me with that.

(Quick Note: I’ve found though, that in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbooks I don’t need any pictures. She describes her recipe methods so well and so concisely that it is very clear what your ingredients will look like after each step. I love her cookbooks so much. I think eventually I will buy them all!)

Pomegranate Curd Recipe

I used POM juice since that is what we had in the fridge. We also happened to have pomegranates in the fridge, but pomegranates are so difficult to juice (much like passionfruit) that we tend to use our pomegranates for eating or cooking.

pomegranatecurd1

The method is similar to when making lemon curd. I’m still a bit of a novice at making any curd, so I still had to push mine through a sieve when it was done.

pomegranatecurd2

This curd took a little bit longer than I expected to thicken. It’s so crazy how quickly it happens though! One second you feel like you’re stirring juice and the next you’re pulling it off the flame and hoping you didn’t ruin it!

pomegranatecurd3

I actually don’t think the color is that appetizing, but boy, does this curd taste yummy! I’m not sure what I could have done to “brighten” the color any. It almost looks like the brownish side of burgundy.

pomegranatecurd4

This recipe made a one pint jar of pomegranate curd. We have used it on scones, biscuits, and pancakes. We still have a little bit left, and I am hoping to use it as a filling in lavender macarons.

-Lynn

 

Lego Fun Build Day: Hot Air Balloon

A few days ago, Corran was reading through our blog (which I thought was pretty neat) and he asked why we don’t do the Lego Challenge Tuesday anymore. So I thought we’d start a Lego Fun Build Day; it won’t always be the same day every week, since our schedule can be unpredictable, but we will try to do one every week. These are just for fun builds and can be as creative or as simple as you want them to be.

To help me out with ideas for Lego Fun Build Day, I looked through this book:

img_6326

It truly is an Ideas book as it has no actual build instructions in it, but it is great to as the cover says, “Unlock the imagination.”

You can buy The Lego Ideas Book at Amazon.com for a little under $15.

I decided on the Hot Air Balloon Build because it looked fun and would be an easy and quick build for my boys. The book has some general instructions on how to build a hot air balloon. My boys’ creations looked nothing like what was in the book. But that’s okay. We’re trying to help them be creative!

The only two things that I required for their hot air balloon:

  1. It had to be hot air balloon-shaped (no square balloons!).
  2. It had to have a basket.

It is always interesting to me how different the boys’ builds are.

ihotairbaloon

My middle child, Ian, modified his hot air balloon a few times. He wanted to make sure a minifigure could fit in the basket, specifically Zane, from Ninjago. I’m not sure why he didn’t include Zane in his picture.  I thought he did a good job with his balloon.

mhotairballoon

Matthias’s balloon looked the most hot air balloon-like. I liked his flame that he used in the basket. Something about Matthias’s Lego builds always makes me think of art for some reason. Sadly, no minifigures can ride in this balloon or they would burn up!

chotairballoon

Corran did not have much time to build his hot air balloon. He spent most of the afternoon working on his math problems and then he had to write a five paragraph essay for his World Studies class. His balloon looks like it is just the basket, but it does have a light inside for a flame. He said that his balloon looks more like the beginnings of a lighthouse or a hot dog stand. I’m just glad that he still wanted to build something even though it was almost dinnertime!

Next week’s Lego Fun Build: Microbuildings!

Save