Friday, April 29, 2011

Cabernet Marinated Fillets with Sauteed Mushrooms

Dry-aged, tender, juicy, and extraordinarily flavorful fillets, a glorious mouth watering extravagance that is worth each and every cent (rather, dollar!) that we spend.  While Bobby's (Flay) and Emeril's 25-plus day dry-aged beef fillets are definitely "all that", my 2nd tier (non dry-aged) beef from the local market is still good enough to melt in your mouth and elicit groans of pleasure with the first bite.

A hearty cab simply combined with soy, onions and garlic brings a rich flavor to the tender cut while a topping of sauteed mushrooms lends a touch of earthiness to the mix.  With a quick dip into the marinade, the beef is ready to meet the hot grill grates in as little as 15 minutes.  Grilled asparagus and a tossed side salad make a noteworthy meal without much fuss (shhhh... no one will ever know!)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jamaican Lime Banana Bread

I remember being a little girl and passing tables at my school where a bake sale was being held to raise money for some sort of event or occasion.  Tables laden with brownies, cookies, breads, cupcakes... and, well, the list goes on, were so tempting and appealing.  Peering over the edge of the table at the freshly baked and nicely wrapped goodies I'd try to pick out the very best treat to spend my pennies on, often coming away with some sort of peanut butter confection, the more chocolate the better.

As and adult, I still love bake sales.  Who can resist the adorable packaging that some people are so creative with?  As the aromas of the baked goods, often combined with a nearby steaming fresh pot of coffee, one can't help but be tempted.

With our Jamaican Lime Banana Bread, I'm hoping to tempt some of my San Diego friends to visit the San Diego Food Blogger Bake Sale which will be held on Saturday, May 14, from 10 AM to 2 PM at Great News Discount Cookware and School - 1788 Garnet Ave in San Diego.  Proceeds from this fabulous event will benefit the Share Our Strength Campaign to end childhood hunger.  On May 14th food bloggers across the country will be participating in bake sales in towns and cities near you, if you can't visit us in San Diego, check the Share Our Strength link above to find one near you where you can meet some of your favorite foodies and also help with this campaign.

Rum, lime and coconut are featured in our tempting banana bread bringing flavors of the Caribbean and thoughts of swaying palm trees and sandy beaches to the table.  A Cooking Light recipe that I've been using since its publish date in the year 1997, this zesty banana bread has been a frequent guest at our summer gatherings, and an occasional guest in mid winter when we need a tropical Jimmy Buffet-like pick-me-up.  With the plate always cleaned quickly, I can attest that this bread is a treat to be savored and won't last long on your table.

Saturday, May 14th 2011


Great News! Discount Cookware and School
Pacific Plaza
1788 Garnet Avenue

San Diego, CA 92109

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lemon Biscotti and Limoncello for Becky's Online Bake Sale

I'm having trouble getting past lemons this season!!  With another bucket of Dad's lemons on our doorstep I'm still searching for uses for the tart zests and juices.  While we have had Lemon Chicken, Lemon Muffins, Lemon Bread, Hummus with Lemon and Lemon Limoncello Cheesecake with our own homemade Limoncello we are still on the search for new and exciting lemon recipes to try (Feel free to link to some below if you have a suggestion!).

When Becky, of Baking and Cooking, a Tale of Two Loves, approached us about her online Bake Sale to benefit the American Cancer Society on May 2nd, lemon was obviously our first thought.  Putting some of our homemade Limoncello along with a bag of Lemon Limoncello Biscotti together I think we have a winner!

The highest bidder will receive a Limoncello Bottle with 200 ml of Limoncello made from lemons from my dad's tree along with a bag of our favorite Lemon Limoncello Biscotti, we'll also throw in a few of our favorite lemon/limoncello recipes!  Info on Becky's Bake Sale can be found on her site with bidding starting on May 2nd.  Becky is a 15 year melanoma survivor and is participating as Team Captain for The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in her county.  She is making a difference and you can too!

Using our own Limoncello, the Lemon Limoncello Biscotti receives a second dose of lemon from a helping of zest bringing even more of a lemon flavor to the table.  Somewhat delicate in taste, these cookies are ideal with an evening tea or prefect with your morning coffee.  I can also personally attest that they just may curb any afternoon snack craving you may be experiencing.

Bid on our package on May 2nd and we'll be happy to get a box in the mail to you quickly!  If Lemon is not your thing, be sure to visit Becky's site and check out the other bakers that she has on board.  I'm sure you will find some of your favorite bloggers in the midst with offerings that will help make a difference.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ina's Orzo with Roasted Vegetables - My Grilled Veggie Version!

Growing up, vegetables were not really high on my list of favorite foods.  My mom would make dad stuffed bell peppers frequently and I would always turn up my nose with a resounding "EEEwwww!", sort of like my kids do now.  However, last year I stuffed my own Poblanos and loved it.  I've also been grilling zucchini and asparagus and I actually find myself craving arugula and spinach salads.  Ina's Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, which I tweaked using my own veggie favorites and turning to my trusty grill, became a favorite after the first try.

Filling the salad with grilled zucchini, onions, and asparagus has me even making extra veggies so that I can nibble as I put the salad together.  A few sprigs of basil from my garden, a zesty dressing with lemon and oil and a handful of crumbled feta complete the salad while my mouth waters in anticipation.

Serving the salad along with our grilled fillets yesterday, my Mother in Law literally skipped dessert in favor of two extra salad helpings!  If that isn't a testament to its wholesome goodness I'm not sure what is.

An ideal salad for spring and summer with versatility being key.  Out of zucchini?  How about eggplant instead?  Have a few roasted red peppers on hand?  Toss 'em in!  Cherry tomatoes make a nice addition when those little red fruits overload your summer garden and any sort of summer squash fits nicely with that lovely lemon dressing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tuscan Lemon Muffins... and a poem by Liv!

What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake??  Snacking on Tuscan Lemon Muffins from Cooking Light's latest issue, I posed that very question to Liv and her friend Piper as we drove to dance a few days ago.

Having recently written a biography on the esteemed Dr. Seuss, Liv phrased her response below:

Lemon Muffins are Something Nobody Can Beat

What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?
The Easter Bunny tells me they are pretty easy to make.

Is it the frosting that sets them apart?
Or that a cupcake could be a work of art...

Or is it some muffins are as plain as can be
yet this one is something special, can't you see?

Lemon and sugar are the very best, 
now it's time to put them to the test.

As Piper and I took our very first bite
our eyes were quickly shiny and bright.

The flavor and taste were quite a score
and we found ourselves reaching for more!

That is something nobody can beat
and to think that I tasted it on Valley Middle School Street!

So there you have it, Lemon Muffins that can't be beat!  Filled with lemon juice (hmmm... wonder if I could have used my Limoncello there?? :)  ) and lemon zest, tenderized with a helping of ricotta cheese and made slightly more healthy with a dose of whole grain spelt flour these muffins seem to blur the lines between muffins and cupcakes.  While both girls declared them "most definitely muffins", they are truly a sweet treat.

Happy Easter, my friends!  May your day be filled with love and treats!

Don't forget to check out Becky's, Baking and Cooking a Tale of Two Loves, online bake sale which is set for May 2nd.  We are donating a bottle of our Limoncello along with some of our favorite Lemon Biscotti.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mad about Macarons... the Giveaway!! (This Giveaway is closed)


Ahhhh... Springtime in Paris, what a dream!  Leisurely drifting from cafe to cafe I can see myself enjoying robust European coffees, tempting teas and most definitely partaking in more than my fair share of the delectable pastries.  My visit some 25 years ago still stands fresh in my memory and I dream of returning as a "more mature" adult and truly appreciating the delicacies of the city.

Luckily, I have a good friend who just happens to be living in Paris!  I'm not sure she really knows we are friends, but we've spent quite a bit of time together recently.   Jill Colona, the author of Mad about Macarons, has kindly accompanied me on many of my travels.  From simple drives to school and dance pick up, to the dentist, to the beach and even on my recent trip to Yosemite, Jill - or rather her book - has been my constant companion.

Seeing macarons on blog after blog and even in magazines and on cooking shows for years I admit I am a bit behind the curve in trying them myself.  Their vibrant colors and perfect shapes have always been appealing yet intimidating.  Being somewhat impatient I didn't see myself with the ability to make them look as lovely as others and I questioned if the time it took to make them was really worth it.  Would they really be that good?  In a simple answer, "Yes!"

After viewing Jill in action on the Scottish morning show "The Hour" I knew I had to try these little meringue-like cookies.  Making the process look so easy on the show, I promptly ordered her book and Liv and I read it cover to cover the day we received it.  

Jill's directions are exceptionally clear and provided us with the inspiration and knowledge to create beautiful macarons on our first try!  The book is filled with macaron lore, tips for creating and baking, recipes for a number of macaron variations in addition to recipe ideas for those left over egg yolks.  The pages are splashed with lovely photos depicting the endless colors and flavors of this delicate French patisserie.

With Jill's tip to use egg whites that have been "aged for four to five days" and the requirement to have patience and wait another 24 hours before enjoying, these confections are not something to whip up on a whim for an afternoon treat.  

Precisely weighing the ingredients also put me to the test as I'm usually more of an estimator, however I pulled out my scale, set it to grams and measured with care.  Whisking our egg whites to beautiful "glossy firm peaks" and mixing in the remaining ingredients proved to be fairly straight forward.  Piping the "macaronnage" (I'm loving that word!  Basically meaning the prepared batter) was far easier than I had imagined, and Liv happily took over that job creating some fairly non-traditional shapes in the process.

Macarons make you smile!

Having had varying results with prior meringue escapades, butterflies flitted in my stomach as I placed the set macarons into the oven to bake.  With crossed fingers Liv and I waited patiently to see if the frilly foot, or pied, would magically form in our oven.  And it did!!  We did a little dance of excitement as we pulled the first perfectly baked pan onto the counter and simply stared and our beautiful frilled shells.

Vanilla Macarons (pg. 35) with pied!!

Tasting them we thought they were "good".  Still not seeing the excitement we baked the rest and filled them when they had cooled with a blueberry filling of Liv's creation.  Tasting again, they were still "good".  The pretty little guys were then placed into the fridge for the requested 24 period and we waited...

Tutti-Frutti Macarons (pg. 83) with Liv's  Blueberry Filling
The next afternoon I pulled the plate from the fridge before taking Jill (well, her book...) to school for pick up.  Returning home 45 minutes later Liv and I each took a macaron and tasted.  Our eyes grew wide and met across the table within seconds as the textures and flavors melded on our tongues bringing something special that neither of us had ever tasted before.  

Jill, you were right!  These little confections are truly worth the effort.  Sharing them with family and neighbors brought smiles and thanks all around and we promptly cracked more eggs to begin aging for our next batch - Vanilla with a Guava filling.

Vanilla Macarons (pg. 35) with Guava Filling
With my eye opening discovery that macarons are truly a delicacy that one can make at home and that the effort, when planned ahead, really is not overwhelming, I want to tell the world!  Jill's publishers have so kindly offered me a copy of the book, Mad about Macarons, to give away to one of our lucky readers.  Filled with the history of Macarons, wonderful recipes, stunning photos and tried and true directions, anyone can make these little treats themselves and revel in their own little version of Springtime in Paris.

Giveaway "fine print":

  • To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment with your favorite macaron flavors and colors.  Please be sure to leave an email address if your link does not take me to your contact info.
  • The giveaway will close on April 26 at 4 PM, PST.
  • The giveaway is open to shipping addresses in the United States and Canada in addition to the UK, France, Austria and Germany.
  • A winner will be chosen at random on April 28, we will notify you and forward your address to the publisher for shipping. 
Thank you, Jill, for being my BFF (even though you didn't know it!!) and for making us Mad about Macarons!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Orange Pork Stir-Fry

With "orange season" coming to a reluctant close I found myself using up the last of my dad's prosperous orange crop.  His tree, now barren of fruit, is popping with beautiful orange blossoms and lending a lovely orange blossom scent to his yard.  The blossoms give promise of yet another season to come, however we will miss our daily orange until the new fruits make their appearance.

Making our first sit down family dinner in nearly a week I went back in time to 2007.  Eating Well provided a recipe base that I was able to turn into my own with the ingredients I had on hand bringing a dinner to the table that the entire family enjoyed.

Sliced pork is stir-fried and then combined with chopped veggies and a bright sauce of orange juice, peel and soy ties it all together.  A touch of sesame oil and rice vinegar give the dish a bit of a kick and the optional addition of crushed red pepper made my husband's meal a hit for him.  Quick to put together, popular all the way around and healthy to boot, this is one of those meals I feel good about.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Arugula Cucumber Salad

Someone throw me a life-vest!  Whew.... this last week has been one of "those" weeks.  You know, the one where you just can't seem to get a handle on things, where nothing goes as planned and no matter how hard you try you just can't seem to get it together.  Sleep deprivation, two sick pups, dishpan hands and hundreds of miles on the car have all combined to leave me very little time for myself and even less for cooking.  I haven't baked in over a week, and with a deep yearning for my whisk I feel a bit out of sorts.

A visit to the vet today will hopefully "plug" up the puppy issues with a round of antibiotics.  I've done more laundry in the last 5 days than I did when my kids were babies, thank goodness we opted for the larger washing machine when we replaced it a few years back!  That washer has been a trooper.

A quick note about Becky, from Baking and Cooking a Tale of Two Loves and her Online Bakesale which will be taking place on May 2nd.  Becky invited us to participate and we will be sending one lucky bidder a bottle of our homemade Limoncello along with a bag of our favorite Limoncello Lemon Biscotti and a few recipe cards.  The proceeds to the sale will all go to Becky's Relay for Life efforts benefiting the American Cancer Society.   Thanks Becky for your efforts in this event!!  (Time is still available if you would like to become a baker - simply contact Becky here)

Back to my busy week, my helpful husband offered to take over some of the kid activity driving this evening giving me a much needed opportunity to return to the kitchen and play with food.  Finding fresh salad ingredients in the fridge and remembering a recipe I'd seen in a Food Everyday Magazine from 2007 that I recently borrowed from my mom I adapted what I had on hand into a zesty yet simple salad.  Filled with spicy arugula (my new passion!) and spinach then cooled with cucumber, this vibrant salad is packed with Vitamins C, A and K bringing a healthy side to any meal.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Nope... not a typo.  We bring you the ever popular "Snicker-Poodles".  Wrapping up our Spring Break adventure in Central California we have a treat for the Pups.  While some of us were back in the Yosemite Valley shooting away with our lenses, Liv and Fran whipped up a batch of treats for the canine members of our families.  

Liv found a new friend!
Arriving three days earlier at Tom and Fran's house we were thrilled to meet Wrinkles!!  Wrinkles is a full of life, 5 month old Golden Retriever with the sweetest personality.  He's working his way through his toddler years and starting to realize that there are some rules in the world, but as any true toddler would, he tests his boundaries on occasion bringing smiles to all of our faces.  Wrinkles is filling a portion of our friend's empty hearts with their recent loss of Who, another golden who passed away about 8 months ago.  Yes, his name was Who!  A bit confusing on occasion, but the name suited him and we had many laughs reminiscent of "Who's on first".

Tom and Fran have been family friends since I was a wee-one myself and staying with them is always a true pleasure.  Both retired from the education field they now pursue new hobbies in addition to welcoming their new canine friend.  Fran has amassed a somewhat gigantic pig collection over the years with her home sporting pigs of all types (figurines, dishes, towels, lamps, pillows, benches, hood ornaments, etc) tastefully incorporated into the decor.  Some 10 years ago we arrived for a visit with my then 4 year old son and we had told him on the drive up that he should count the pigs at Aunt Fran's house.  He excitedly began the moment we arrived with the pig stepping stones in the front of the house.  A few hours later he came to us crying saying "Mommy... there are too many pigs, I can't take it, they are everywhere!  I can't count them!!!"  We have laughed at his expense for year since then and always enjoy seeing what new pigs Fran has added to her collection.

Garden pig decor
Tom on the other hand turned his eye to photography and wine-making.  Planting his own vineyard a number of years ago, Tom's hobby has developed into delectable wines.  With the '08 Zin being my favorite we are eagerly awaiting a taste of the '09 version which is nearly ready.  Presenting us with Cabs, Zins and a few other blends we had quite a fun time tasting and generally partaking of the ambrosial liquid every evening as we reminisced about our day and edited our photos.

Bringing the pig/wine theme together they have titled the Vineyard the Eggboldt "Swinery", which perfectly suits their personalities.  First place ribbons from the Fresno Fair have been handed out on more than one occasion and hung lovingly on the wall of their stand alone tasting room.  While the wine is not for public sale, all of the ambiance of a true, open to the public winery surrounds their personal vineyard - right down to the musty/winey aroma when you enter the tasting room.

Wrinkles loves playing in the vineyard and can frequently be seen charging around the still dormant vines, thankfully not digging them up.  After his afternoon romp he was more than excited to partake in his own Snicker-Poodle tasting.  With a recipe from The Good Food Cookbook for Dogs, Liv and Fran put together a tasty afternoon for this toddler.  Filled with oatmeal, flour, and applesauce and then spiced with cinnamon and honey these treats had the house smelling like their snickerdoodle cookie companions and we had one happy Pup.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Balsamic Grilled Artichokes and another day in the Yosemite Valley!

The Thursday of Spring Break had the adults in our party heading back into the Yosemite Valley for a Valley photo shoot, the kids worn out from the adventures of the prior day's tour.  Along with us, our hosts in Oakhurst having literally hundreds of days in the Valley and a neighbor who is a Yosemite Volunteer, who could ask for better guides??  Packing 3 DSLR's of varying levels of wonderfulness, numerous lenses of differing lengths, 3 tripods and 1 Canon pocket camera (my husband's!) we set off in hopes of that much sought after crystal clear cerulean blue sky highlighting the granite monoliths of El Capitan and Half Dome amongst the gushing waterfalls.

Boulder from a rock fall
With our hosts providing a steady stream of Yosemite lore and history we made our way past the raging Merced River.  Kent pointed out various points of interest along the way including large rock fall areas illustrating in vivid detail how much of the Valley was created.  I can't begin to say how much we enjoyed having our own personal tour guides for the day who not only were experts on the Valley itself, but who are "in the know" on perfect photo spots.

My husband was a trooper and he kindly pulled over at a seconds notice without complaint when one of us yelled "Stop!  I need to take a picture of that!".  Pulling quickly to the side of the road and chuckling as Tom and I hopped out of the car running to some remote site we noticed he often trudged along behind us to take a few of his own.  One such stop provided this shot of what I call the "Ice Tree", one of my favorite shots of the whole trip.  The tree, set amongst the rocks and waterfall, just seemed to gleam with the spray of the water freezing on its branches.  Set against the green of the other trees it was simply stunning.

The Ice Tree
Once again Mother Nature had her say and gave us anything but those crystal blue skies.  Dressed in my borrowed boots, extra layers of clothes, a warm scarf and borrowed gloves I still froze my fingers and toes (along with the rest of me!) in the 27º temps (not including wind chill!) and falling snow.  Covering the Valley floor and trees with a fresh layer of glistening snow the four of us were treated to stunning views that only days before were showing signs of spring.

Fern Creek
Starting our day in the Valley at Fern Creek, a favorite stop for our host, Tom, we shot a number of photos of this small water flow which provided differing colors depending on the available light.  The reflections on the slow moving water lit up our lenses giving one gorgeous shot after another.

Snow at Yosemite Falls - that's Tom in the background!
Next up the Yosemite Falls were flowing as much as or even slightly more than the day before, the Frazil Ice however was barely visible.  Arriving at the Lower Falls viewpoint the skies opened up and the wintry scene became even more magical with a full on snow shower.  Living in San Diego, we see snow so infrequently that the gently falling flakes were a real treat.

Freezing our fingers out of our gloves snapping photos we deemed it time for a hot drink at the Ahwahnee.  Just around the corner from the falls we found a perfect spot in the bar area and thawed ourselves in the warm surroundings.  After my average meal the prior day in the Ahwahnee main restaurant I was somewhat hesitant to order much off the menu.  With assurances from our hosts though, I chose the chili and was more than pleased with the hot, cheesy bowl that arrived quickly.

Chili and a Firefall - Lunch at the Ahwahnee

Ahwahnee Dining Room on Urbanspoon
The others ordered hot drinks including the Firefall (Hot Chocolate with tequila and a hint of cinnamon) and Keoke Coffee.  Again, the drinks were somewhat aggressively priced at $9 a piece, but with the snow falling outside the large windows and the warm fires burning in the hotel I was completely content so spend a bit of time enjoying the chili and drinks.  Definitely one of the high points of our day in the Valley, simply a lovely location to warm your bones and rest your feet a bit.

After more touring we left our snowy winter wonderland and headed for home.  Liv had spent the day with her brother and Tom's wife, Fran, and lucky for us Liv and Fran had been cooking for a good part of the day.  Walking into the house we were greeted with aromas of roasting pork and rosemary, artichokes that had been prepped for the grill along with other veggies and a salad ready to be tossed.  What a treat to have such a meal prepared for me.  Fran wouldn't let me do dishes either, talk about a true (and much needed) vacation!

Artichokes have not really been high on my list since I was a kid, but with urging from everyone at the table I gave these gorgeous grilled beauties a taste and found myself promptly reaching for seconds.  Marinated with a simple mixture of oil, balsamic and crushed garlic these little guys couldn't have been much easier to put together and the flavors were out of this world.  Sipping a glass of '08 Zin from Tom and Fran's personal vineyard we relaxed near the fire, content and warm, the memories of the day filling our conversation as we sipped our wine and drifted towards a good nights sleep.

Grilled Artichokes and Veggies!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Limoncello Lemon Cheesecake Squares in Yosemite

The natural wonder of the Yosemite Valley has held my rapture since my dad took me there on my first visit as a child.  In the beginning I simply loved the raging of the waterfalls, but as I studied geology in college (I'm a bit of a rock geek - Geology Minor) I began to look at the Valley in a new light with an understanding of how the glaciers, rock falls and avalanches, and water have carved and eroded the Valley to its present day beauty.

Even as a wee-one I was thrilled to come home with photos of the falls, the sheer granite faces of El Capitan, and the stunning views of Half Dome.  With a stop at Tunnel View being somewhat of a tradition, I've always yearned for that dazzling clear Valley shot, you know the one... with the cerulean blue skies, perfectly lit rocks and crystal clear air.  Unfortunately Mother Nature has not been on my side and all of my visits have also included haze, fog or rain.  With spring currently shining down on us I brought high hopes for my "perfect shot" of the immense Valley on this Spring Break trip.

Leaving San Diego early Wednesday morning had us dressed warmly and driving through a chilly out of season rain storm.  Arriving at our host destination in Oakhurst (we stayed with friends about an hour outside the Valley) some 6 hours later we all felt overdressed in the 74 degree weather, and we doubted the weather guy's forecast of snow within the next 24 hours.

This weather guy, however, was right!  Some 16 hours later we were back in the car, dressed in the warmest clothes we had with us along with borrowed gloves, hats and jackets.  Heading into the Yosemite Valley for our lunch reservations at the esteemed Ahwahnee Hotel the snow covered trees flew by.  Branches heavy with a few hours of snow glistened in the sun that occasionally popped through the stormy clouds.  Moving up and down in elevation our views ranged from brilliant blooming Red Buds to more snow laden trees and vistas.  The Merced River raged alongside of us in places and meandered in others providing stunning scenery for our hour plus drive.

Lower Yosemite Falls
Dazzling vistas greeted us upon our entrance to the Valley with El Capitan soaring above our car.  Bridal Veil Falls fell gracefully over the granite walls and the snow covered meadows entertained squirrels and deer, the bears however did not show themselves.

A stop at the Yosemite Falls provided us with a rare sight in the lava-like flowing Frazil Ice.  Frazil Ice provides dramatic natural ice flows which begin in the falls of Yosemite, but only during proper weather conditions and usually only in March and April.  Our friends who have had literally hundreds of days in the Valley had never seen the incredible Frazil, but on this day we were all excited to view this rare treat.

The Ahwahnee Hotel, our lunch destination, holds beauty, history and a most perfect location in Yosemite Valley in that the site for the Ahwahnee, once a village of the native Miwoks, was chosen because of its exposure to the sun and stunning views of Yosemite's icons – Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point.  Giant fireplaces are available for guests to warm their chilly fingers in addition to the magnificent dining room lined with floor to ceiling windows providing stunning views of the gushing Yosemite Falls.  Described as the "crown jewel of Yosemite dining", the dining room boasts a 34-foot-high beamed ceiling with large sugar pine trestles that complement the room’s granite pillars.  The exterior of the hotel was designed to reflect the natural beauty of the Valley and to blend in with its beautiful surroundings.

The Ahwahnee Hotel with a Bacon Burger and French Onion Soup
Ahwahnee Dining Room on Urbanspoon

While the room is indeed magnificent, the food was "fine".  Nothing special, however I do believe it tasted just a bit better sitting in front of one of those floor to ceiling windows while watching the snow fall in front of the ravishing Yosemite Falls.  Basic restaurant fare included burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads with a few more substantial entrees including beef, lamb and pasta.  A child menu is available which happily includes ice cream.  Aggressively priced (burgers are $17), the meal is worth it simply for the view and surrounding ambiance.  Our hosts frequent the dining room often and have had what they described as incredible meals (especially breakfast) in addition to the so-so meals that we experienced on our visit.  Service was impeccable, the views were beyond belief and the room itself was breathtaking.

Snowy view from Tunnel View
Heading back out for our Valley Tour we entered lightly falling snow which lent a somewhat magical feel to our surroundings.  The trees were covered and glistening, the falls were gushing, and the fog meandered about the tops of the giant granite monoliths, hiding Half Dome from our view.  While our trip to Tunnel View provided an exquisite elevated view of the entire Valley, the cerulean blue, crystal clear skies once again eluded me, providing instead a different but no less incredible frozen wonderland.

Back home, dinner was filled with the laughter of good friends reminiscing about our day in wintery Yosemite with jabs between my kids of who threw the best snowball.  We set our faux Ugg boots by the fire to hopefully dry by morning (note:  Ugg boots are NOT waterproof!) and as we thawed out our frozen and very wet toes we enjoyed a ray of sunshine in the Limoncello Lemon Cheesecake for dessert.

Giada has once again provided a luscious finish to our meal, this one bursting with lemon flavors and with an excuse to use our freshly made Limoncello.  The addition of ricotta added a slightly different and lighter texture from the traditional all cream cheese cheesecakes and the lemon biscotti crust urged the lemon flavors even higher.  Bringing smiles all around the table, Limoncello Lemon Cheesecake was the ideal finish to our awe-inspiring day.