Rosemary Olive Oil Focaccia with Caramelized Onions…A Great Side for Italian Dishes

By Jodee Weiland

Being Italian and loving Italian food makes me want to know how to cook all types of Italian dishes, not just the ones I grew up eating in our family home. We did have a wide variety of family recipes for everyday meals, as well as holidays and special occasions, but there were a few I had when out to eat at a favorite Italian restaurant or when we toured Italy several years ago.  One side to any Italian meal that I enjoy is Focaccia Bread.

It is almost like pizza because you can make it so many different ways.  The bread itself is crusty on the outside and like thick crust pizza dough on the inside. I especially love rosemary and olive oil with focaccia or any Italian loaf bread.  That’s why I decided to make my own version of focaccia.  After trying different recipes, I made my own recipe for focaccia adding on what I thought would be delicious, and it is.  I made Rosemary Olive Oil Focaccia with Caramelized Onions.

Rosemary Olive Oil Focaccia with Caramelized Onions…A Great Side for Italian Dishes


3 and 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 and 3/4 cups warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for pan preparation and to sprinkle over top prior to baking
1 and 1/2 to 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary finely chopped
1 medium onion thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
Freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese to taste
Coarse sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare parchment paper for baking sheet by brushing it lightly with a touch of olive oil.

In a small mixing bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast and a pinch of sugar with 1/2 cup of warm water, that is water that is warm to the touch, about 100 degrees. Stir this and let it rest for about 10 minutes until it becomes foamy.

Then in a large mixing bowl, gradually blend together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and water mixture, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (leave remaining 1 tablespoon for caramelizing onions), and remaining water as you begin to work this with your hands into a dough. At first, you may blend the ingredients with a spoon, but as it thickens you will work it with your hands. Once your dough is all blended, continue to work the dough with your hands and begin to knead the dough for about 8 minutes. Do this on a flat surface, where you will add flour as you go to the surface to keep your dough from sticking.

Once done, place your ball of dough into a bowl, smoothing a touch of olive oil over the dough.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap for about 20 to 30 minutes and let it rest.  It should double in size.

While the dough is resting, brown and sauté to taste the onion slices in 1 tablespoon of olive oil to caramelized your onions.  Remove fresh rosemary leaves from stems and finely chop, about 1 and 1/2 to 2 teaspoons.

When the dough is ready, turn it out on to the prepared parchment covered baking sheet.  Press into an oval or rectangle, whichever you prefer, to about one inch thick.  With oiled fingertips, make indentations all over the top of the bread, each about one inch apart. Using your fingers again, brush the entire surface lightly with olive oil. At this point very lightly sprinkle coarse sea salt across the bread top, if you want.  Cover loosely with plastic once again and let rest for an additional 30 minutes.

Now spread caramelized onions over top of bread, and then sprinkle the finely chopped fresh rosemary over the top.  Once done, freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese can be sprinkled across the top to taste.

Place the bread in the oven and bake until lightly brown at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

This Rosemary Olive Oil Focaccia with Caramelized Onions is a wonderful side to any Italian dish or even just by itself with a nice glass of Chianti or Sangiovese. The crust is just crusty enough with the inner bread much like the good pan pizza we love so much. The onions, rosemary, and freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese sprinkled across the top gives this focaccia bread a rich flavor that enhances your meal and adds just that special touch of flavor we so enjoy. Focaccia bread will always bring back memories of good meals shared in the past. Try it and I feel certain you will enjoy it as much as we do. Enjoy!

Disney World in Orlando, Florida…Epcot’s Annual International Food and Wine Festival

By Jodee Weiland

While making our plans for returning to the Annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Disney World this year, I decided I should share why we so enjoy this event and return time and again for it.

This event happens annually in the fall of each year. It has been scheduled for September 27th to November 11th of this year, 2013. Once again we will attend during that time, so we will be able to enjoy this wonderful event and create new memories.  Although we have visited Disney World several times during this event over the past few years, we never tire of it. Why? That question is simple really to answer.

Epcot’s Annual International Food and Wine Festival makes tasting foods, wines, and more from all over the world possible all in one place, Epcot’s World Showcase Park. In addition to their everyday international showcases, there are booths set up throughout the park for still more international venues from around the world. Signature dining experiences with celebrated chefs are available for those who would be interested. You can even arrange to attend a culinary demonstration or a wine seminar. A concert series called Eat to the Beat has nightly performances featuring some popular hit-makers, such as Big Bad VooDoo Daddy.  While there, we’ve enjoyed sitting in the America Gardens Theater in front of the American Adventure, while enjoying a New England Lobster Roll, one of our favorites. The concert series and the food choices have been outstanding when we visited.

Another favorite food choice of ours has been a miniature Lobster and Shrimp Shepherd’s Pie outside the United Kingdom attraction. Once again, we were able to taste something wonderful while watching an outdoor entertainment presentation nearby. There are so many choices, you will have a hard time deciding which food selection to try. You might decide to try the Kielbasa & Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream at the Poland booth. Or you might decide on the Kalua Pork Slider. Everywhere you turn there is another booth with another unique international tasting and more outdoor entertainment than usually there.

We enjoyed wines from Australia and beers from Argentina, plus many delightful tastings from around the world. The outdoor booths typically feature smaller portions of an international dish for you to try. There is a small cost for each tasting, but it is well worth it to be able to try something new and different as you walk through the World Showcase.  Many people make a meal out of several tastings rather than going to a restaurant to eat. You can buy a Food and Wine gift card with a wrist band that is reloadable and use it as you move throughout the World Showcase.

Along with the various countries featured are the souvenirs you can buy to commemorate your trip to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. It’s almost like attending an international outdoor street party that wraps around the entire World Showcase. This event is great fun and a great international food tasting experience for anyone who attends. As I make our plans for this year, various dining reservations and more, I thought of all the wonderful memories my husband and I have of past trips to  this event at Disney World. Remember there is the rest of Disney World to visit as well while you’re there and with Disney, you can’t help but make memories of your trip throughout the various parks.  Disney World is the kind of place where magical memories are an everyday happening.  If you get a chance to visit during Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, you will have new and different magical memories of Disney World.  Hopefully, you will get the chance to do so.  Enjoy!

Destinations in Florida - Florida Travel Specialists

Scottsdale, Arizona…Where Shopping is an Art!

By Jodee Weiland

Scottsdale, Arizona, has taken the simple experience of shopping and turned it into an art. Downtown Scottsdale has a unique approach to this experience, one that changes as you travel through the various downtown areas.

Phoenix AZ 049 (500x375)

Driving into the downtown area on Camelback Road, you will see the Fashion Square with stores like Nordstrom’s and Crate and Barrel among others, followed by the Scottsdale Waterfront Area with restaurants like Wildfish that feature a dramatic outdoor seating area for diners who prefer to see and be seen.  Turning on Scottsdale Road, you pass the Entertainment District on one side of the road and moving farther along, you will come to the 5th Avenue District on the right.









The 5th Avenue District is an area adorned with fabulous outdoor sculptures to view as you move down 5th Avenue to the galleries featuring varying styles of art. All the different outdoor pieces are placed up and down 5th Avenue as if they were exhibits in an art gallery, making it impossible to simply go from one place to another without stopping to take in the art work exhibited outdoors. The overall effect is distinctively surprising and aesthetically pleasing for those visiting the area.  Some unique places to visit in the beautiful 5th Avenue District are the On the Edge Gallery, which features over forty local artists ranging from traditional to contemporary in a wide variety of mediums and styles, and the Zemado Unique Creations, Scottsdale’s newest boutique featuring one of a kind hand crafted southwestern styled purses and accessories. The 5th Avenue District is also home to the Gilbert Ortega Museum and Galleries, nationally recognized since 1950 as an expert in Native American art and jewelry. Two more Gilbert Ortega Galleries are found in the Old Town area.

Moving down Scottsdale Road, on your left you will come to Old Town Scottsdale on Main Street, where you will find places like the Old Town Creamery, the Old Town Candy and Toys, the Old Town Tavern, and the Rusty Spur Saloon, plus so much more.  While there, visit the Grey Wolf Native American Gallery, where for over twenty-five years visitors have found Native American jewelry, arts, and crafts. The various shops of Old Town are filled with a wide variety of items from miniature animal sculptures to turquoise and silver jewelry. Any visitor could easily find a beautiful souvenir reminiscent of the old southwest and the Native American culture so prevalent in this area. Moving still farther down Main Street, there is a Historical Museum to visit near the Civic Center Mall. Then moving back to and across Scottsdale Road on Main Street, you can walk through the Arts District, where you can see more than fifty public art displays.

The shopping opportunities and variety in Downtown Scottsdale goes from one end of the spectrum to the other and is entertaining as well. Whether you walk through in the daytime or the evenings, there is plenty to see for everyone. There is a trolley car service you can use to move through the areas if you choose to do so. You will definitely need to take more than one day if you want to see it all, unless you are only interested in one or two specific areas. There are plenty of eating options throughout all the areas, so plan on lunch or dinner or both.  Whatever you decide, your visit will be filled with the enjoyment of viewing some beautiful art work and shopping for unique items when you visit this amazing downtown area. As I said before, in Scottsdale, Arizona, shopping is an art!  Enjoy!


Bolognese Sauce Made with Sirloin…A Family Favorite in My Home

By Jodee Weiland

Over the years one of the many ways I express my love for my family is through my cooking, especially when I make my Bolognese Sauce Made with Sirloin…A Family Favorite in My Home!

Raised by a health conscious Italian mother, like her I want my family to live long and enjoy healthy lives.  I want their lives filled with fun, laughter, happiness, and love.  But I believe eating healthy does not mean giving up great tasting and delicious meals.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  My belief has always been that I can cook delicious meals for my family that are both healthy and satisfying, while adding to their fun, laughter, happiness, and love when we share that meal together.

For that reason, I began making my Bolognese sauce with lean ground sirloin years ago.  My mother used lean ground round for her meatballs and I followed her lead, but later I chose to go leaner still by using lean ground sirloin when I made both my meatballs and my Bolognese sauce, a choice I have never regretted.  When my mom and dad ate Bolognese in my home, they both loved it, so I knew I made the right choice.  Knowing my sauce is more heart healthy makes my choice a winner for my family.

Bolognese Sauce Made with Sirloin


2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium to large onion sliced or chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 to 2 cups fresh mushrooms slice or one 4 ounce can sliced mushrooms
1 pound lean ground sirloin
1 teaspoon basil or use 1 tablespoon fresh basil cut up
1/2 teaspoon dried or ground oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar (some people prefer to use 2 carrots finely shredded and chopped for sweetness)
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
6 ounce can tomato paste
Water (1/2 cup red wine is optional)
Freshly grated imported Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Pasta of your choice

Sauté onions, garlic, and mushrooms in olive oil.  Brown slightly breaking apart the ground sirloin, and then add the meat to the onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  Add the seasonings to this and stir together.  Then add tomato puree or crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water as needed, usually about I/2 cup of water, depending on desired consistency.  Add in the sugar if you do not use carrots.  If using carrots, sauté the carrots with the onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  Let the sauce begin to bubble and then cover the pot lowering the heat to simmer for one hour or longer, stirring every so often.

Be ready to boil the pasta of your choice once the sauce is ready or nearly ready.  By the way, if you lay a wooden spoon across the top of your pot of boiling water for the pasta, so it will not boil over.  I was surprised myself, but this works well.  When the pasta is ready, drain your pasta and add you sauce, gently mix the two together.  Then serve with freshly grated imported Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

Pasta with Bolognese sauce is a wonderful meal to share with your family.  At our house, we share this meal with a crusty loaf of bread and a glass of good Chianti.  Growing up, we always added a fresh salad to this meal as well.  Whether you decide on pasta with bread and salad or just pasta, you won’t be disappointed.  One thing for sure, this delicious meal always leaves everyone feeling satisfied and usually is accompanied by great conversations, shared laughter, and feelings of love.  Bringing a family together for a great meal is so important in making shared memories.  I hope you have an opportunity to try this meal and make some memories of good times with your own families!  Enjoy!


Balboa Park in San Diego…Museums and More All in One Place!

By Jodee Weiland

Balboa Park in San Diego is a must see for anyone visiting!  What a great place to go to while in San Diego, mainly because it is not just a park.

Balboa Park has museums and cultural attractions, theaters and performing art venues, gardens, the San Diego Zoo, restaurants, shops, and so much more making it a place with recreational opportunities of all kinds.  The fact that there is so much all in one area reminded me of the Washington D.C. mall, where one can visit many different museums in one area, but it was different in some ways because it really was more of a park like setting with outdoor art shows and an open air pavilion.  For those who want less walking, Balboa Park has a tram as well that has various stops throughout the park, including a stop at the Visitors Center.

Before arriving at the park, I expected it to be an interesting part of our trip, but I never imagined it to be such an all-encompassing area of cultural enrichment.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The brochures had referenced all the attractions, but I visualized an area where we would stop, park, and visit different venues as we went.  I never pictured parking in a beautiful park like setting and walking to and from one museum or attraction to another, while enjoying the sunny weather outdoors, all in one area.  It was easier to go from one place to another than I expected, and we were entertained by many outdoor venues as we went.

With all the possible venues available to us at the time of our visit, with both permanent and temporary venues, we saw a lot on the day we went there.  We visited the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Air and Space Museum, The House of Pacific Relations Cottages representing 31 nations, an outdoor art show, and we listened to a vocalist on stage at the open air pavilion.  Although there was much more to see and do, we quickly realized that we would need more than one visit to do it all.  That is just one of the many reasons why we are looking forward to returning to beautiful San Diego County one day soon.

There is so much to see and do in San Diego County that one visit could never accomplish seeing it all, but after visiting there this past February, my husband and I look forward to returning soon.  We had a wonderful time in San Diego and found the sunny skies, the pleasant temperatures, the beautiful coastlines, the great seafood, and the friendly people to be enticement enough to find time to return in the near future.  Our memories of this last trip are wonderful, and we can’t wait to make new memories down the road when we are able to go back to beautiful San Diego.   If you plan on visiting San Diego, Balboa Park should be on your list of places to see, and when you go…enjoy!


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