Viva la Cuba!

Viva the people. The cars. The culture. The food. The cigars. The rum.

Have you dreamed about going to Cuba before the island changes forever?

This video is compiled from photos I shot on the incredible trip we took to Cuba this March. Hopefully it will inspire you to experience this unique place that everyone says is stuck in time.

I’m ready to go back!! 

And we are!!! Our next trip will be on Southwest Airlines first flight from Ft Lauderdale to Havana this December!! So looking forward to a whole new experience in Cuba around the holidays!!

Would you like to go to Cuba in 2017? We may try to get a group together to go back. Contact me at val110358@aol.com for more info. Meanwhile, enjoy our last trip… 

Magnolia House exterior transformation 

Ok. I might have been a house stalker. To a certain extent anyway. Our restaurant is in the same town that Chip and Joanna Gaines bought and refurbished the 1800s farmhouse in the middle of downtown McGregor. The bank we use for our business is right across the street. We have to go to that bank at least once a day. Every day. Seven days a week. Except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Magnolia  House B&B in McGregor before renovation copyright Valerie Citrano
That’s how I began noticing the work being done on my dear friend, Mrs. Truelove’s former house. The home had fallen into disrepair after her death. I’d often thought what a shame it was. In its former glory, it was such a beauty.

I don’t think there was anyone other than Chip and Jo that could have taken the house and transformed it as beautifully. It is now nationally known to fans of Fixer Upper as Magnolia House B&B.

Have a look at some of the photos I took with my iPhone as the house progressed.

Magnolia  House B&B in McGregor before renovation copyright Valerie Citrano

The Carriage House besideMagnolia  House B&B in McGregor before renovation copyright Valerie Citrano
the Carriage House beside the Magnolia house before renovation

Magnolia  House B&B in McGregor during renovation copyright Valerie CitranoMagnolia  House B&B in McGregor during renovation copyright Valerie CitranoMagnolia  House B&B in McGregor during renovation copyright Valerie Citrano
Is it really stalking if you tell the owners? No! Surly not! Right?

My husband and I both ended up going to the bank when the 18 wheeler furniture truck happened to be unloading all of the furniture for Magnolia House. We both took a picture.

Joanna's new furniture line being delivered to her Magnolia House B&B in McGregor, TX copyright Valerie Citrano

And then the next day we saw Chip and Jo.

I’m only posting this picture because the look on Chip’s face is just so priceless! Pretty sure it’s the way he looks every time he sees me. I’m really not sure why! Haha!

Chip and Joanna Gaines with Donald and Valerie Citrano www.pieladylife.com

And my husband showed Jo the picture of the truck unloading at the house.

(If I would have known a friend was taking these pictures, I promise I would have turned around!)

Jo told us the furniture was from her new line that would soon be available for purchase. She also told us that the producers of the show wanted to do the reveal at the end of the week. Cool insider information direct from the source. I was good. I didn’t tell anyone.

Chip and Joanna Gaines with Donald and Valerie Citrano www.pieladylife.com
Yes, I told them that we had totally been stalking the house and how wonderful it was that they chose the house in our little town of McGregor to open a B&B. So, when you tell someone that you may be stalking, it’s not really stalking. Right?

And they still took a photo with us! Haha!!


And then my friend Debby, who owns Greenlife Nursery and Landscaping showed up for lunch at The Coffee Shop Cafe and we were off for a whirlwind day …. I got to help her with the Fixer Upper house……. 

Visiting Singapore 

Friends we met on the road


One of my very favorite things that I love about traveling is making new friends. We have been blessed to meet some wonderful people whom we stay in touch with. 

We met Samuel and Rita on a group tour ‘following the steps of Paul’ through Turkey and Greece a few years ago. We totally clicked on our trip, sharing the gospel and just worshiping Jesus along the way. We stayed in touch after our journey ended.

Rita and Samuel came to Waco for a visit while they were in the United States a couple of years ago. We took them to The Texas Ranger Museum, walked along the Brazos River banks, over the Suspension Bridge and to a Wade Bowen country music concert. We had a lot of fun showing them our city and our restaurant in nearby McGregor. 

Well, this year we made a point to go to Singapore to visit them for a few days after our trip to Thailand. We were just too close to them to not drop by and catch up on their lives and I just wanted to hug my friend, Rita’s neck! 

They showed us a little of Singapore 

We began with a proper Singapore tea. 

Coconut jam and butter on toast! Something very new to us and very tasty! Try it at Toast Box. According to their website, they have several locations. 

We walked around the downtown area that is filled with street art! Even the buildings were amazing!

After dinner, we headed to their colorful Chinatown 


The next morning, we visited the Singapore Zoo. The highlight for me was seeing both the panda and red panda.  

Visit Singapore Zoo for more info on their four very different parks and even a breakfast that I would have loved to have time to do. 

The Peranakan Museum

The museum focuses on the rich heritage of the Singapore people. 

For more information about their many lovely exhibits, visit their website: Peranakan Museum Singapore

Singapore Botanic Gardens

We spent a beautiful afternoon walking in the botanic gardens full of tropical plants. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a very special garden devoted to all types of orchids. A real must see!  For more information: Singapore Botanic Gardens

Samuel and Rita treated us to so much wonderful food! 

We visited restraunts in a mall, outdoor market and in a revolving tower! We tried foods that we have never tried before and everything was so delicious! 

 Thank you, our friends, for showing us your beautiful Singapore! We loved it and seeing you again was very special!

Have you ever met people on a trip and promised to stay in touch? Have you? Be sure to share your stories with us! 

Simple Strawberry Cake

This is a very easy cake to make in a hurry that is still very delicious and worthy of a family gathering. The basic recipe has been around forever and used in our household over and over.


It’s one of those basic recipes that is super simple to change out the flavors with different flavors of gelatin and fruit. Try peach, raspberry, apricot, blackberry or cherry! Use orange juice concentrate in place of puréed fruit for a very refreshing cake. All very flavors good!

 

Strawberry buttercream frosting is really yummy on this cake, but this time I decided to use a refreshing Cool Whip strawberry frosting to lighten it up. By the way… The Cool Whip flavored this way is great in a trifle or just spooned into perfect cups with fresh fruit.

Be sure to share how you used these recipes!! We’d love to see your cakes and deserts!

 

Here’s a beginning bakers guide to preparing your cake pans.

Purée frozen strawberries to be added to cake batter.

Slowly pour purée into the batter.

Mix well.

Separate cake batter evenly in two cake pans that have been lightly greased and floured.

This is a dense, moist cake that will need to be checked often for doneness.

Simple Strawberry Cake



1 box of white cake mix

1 box of strawberry gelatin (3 oz instant)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

4 eggs

1 package frozen strawberries in syrup (around 15 oz)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare two cake pans by lightly greasing and flouring them.
Purée strawberries in a blender or food processor. Or, just mash them with a fork. It will still be good!
Combine cake mix and gelatin in a large mixing bowl. Add oil, water, eggs and puréed strawberries. Mix at medium speed of an electric mixer until smooth. Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. (Ovens vary, so check early and often) Let pans cool 10 minutes before inverting them on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
For the quick, light frosting..

Purée fresh strawberries and add to Cool Whip in a medium mixing bowl.

Wisk the strawberries into the Cool Whip until smooth.



Strawberry Cool Whip Frosting



1 (16 oz) container Cool Whip

2/3 pint fresh strawberries (more for decoration if you’d like)

1 teaspoon sugar

Spoon Cool Whip into a medium mixing bowl.

In a blender (or magic bullet) purée the 2/3 pint fresh strawberries and sugar until smooth. Pour into cool whip and whip with a white wisk  until completely blended. Frost cake with this mixture when completely cool. Decorate with fresh strawberries, if desired. Store cake in the refrigerator.

Cool Awards: Best Pies in Texas, Best Breakfast in Waco! 

Wow! I can’t tell y’all how amazed and humbled we are about the awards and accolades we’ve been receiving lately concerning our restaurant! We wanted to be sure to Thank y’all!

Texas Highway Magazine, the official travel magazine of the state of Texas, named my pies third best in the state! What an honor!! I came in behind two cafes with a long tradition of having some of the best pies for longer than I’ve been alive! I’ll take being the newbie in this prestigious group. They also named The Coffee Shop Cafe one of the 40 Best Small Town Cafe’s in Texas! Crazy awesome, huh!?


Then, the restaurant was was given a readers choice award by Waco Today Magazine for having the best breakfast in Waco! Y’all, if you haven’t come out to The Coffee Shop Cafe for breakfast, you are really missing out! We serve breakfast all day and on weekend mornings we have a totally amazing breakfast buffet! All sorts of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes, gravy, fruit and lots more. My favorite, migas, are on the buffet too. It’s over at 10:45 AM on Saturday and Sunday, so come early and hungry!

We want to Thank all our friends and customers for voting for us! Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today! 

We also had a really fun honor when the producers from HGTV’s show, Fixer Upper stopped by and filmed part of our decorations for their Christmas special featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines new bed and breakfast in town, Magnolia House. How fun to see a quick flash of our restaurant on their show! Of course, it went by so fast that if you hadn’t ever been to the restaurant before you would have never even known where it was filmed! Haha! Still super cool for Donald and I and for our regular customers that spotted us! We appreciate all of their business with us too. Lots of wonderful people!

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

All the glory goes to God! 

 

 


Our Italy Tour Special Offer!

imageThe Time To Book is NOW!

Turin, The Italian Riviera, Bologna, Verona and Venice!

SPECIAL OFFER: We would love everyone going with us to experience beautiful Venice, so Donald and I are personally offering a $100 payment on new bookings when you extend your tour with us to Venice! Just book by January 31, 2016 and add the Venice extension. We will directly pay GoAhead $100 on your bill!

This is in addition to a $75 credit for an excursion for every person booking by Jan 31 that Go Ahead Tours is offering!! 

When you make your final payment, just leave an open balance of $100.00 and we will take care of it! Super Simple! Venice is a city not to be missed! One of my favorite places in the world!

By the way… Go Ahead is working on our group phone/tablet site so our tour consultant, Emily, told me to pass along her direct line in case anyone would like any information at all since it still isn’t working. Her number is (617) 619-1516 and you can give her my name, Valerie Citrano or our group tour number 68796229. The site seems to be working on my laptop and desk top computer. Hope you are able to go with us! It will be a lot of fun!

You can view all the great places we will be visiting on the Group Tour website: Coffee Shop Travel Club

Only a few spaces left!

 

France and Italy 1292

 

Classic Pumpkin Pie & Made From Scratch Crust

There’s just nothing better than Classic Pumpkin Pie

As the temperature drops, fall means pie to me. Pumpkin pie in particular! I’ll admit, it’s one of my weaknesses. It’s a vegetable, after all! Right?

Our forefathers may not have had this classic at the first Thanksgiving, but I don’t know many tables that it does not grace now a days!

This recipe is adapted from the back of every can Libby’s 100% pure pumpkin. It’s the best I’ve ever eaten. There’s no reason to mess with a classic.

By the way, I only use Libby’s. Did you know that most other brands aren’t even real pumpkin? They are actually another type of squash. Check the label to be sure before you buy that store brand to be sure.

I’m sharing the easy pie crust recipe my Grandmother Duty taught me many years ago. I know, I should have added a few more ‘manys,’ but who’s counting anymore? Not me!

Really, it’s easy to make pie crust from scratch. Give it a try!

Pumpkin Pie

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 can (15 oz) Libby’s 100% pure pumpkin

1 can (12 fl. oz) evaporated milk

1 unbaked deep dish pie crust

Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl mix sugar and spices together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add the can of pumpkin and sugar/spice mixture to eggs and stir until well blended. Shake can of evaporated vigorously before opening, then add to pumpkin mixture. Stir until well blended and smooth.


Pour custard mixture into pie crust.

Place on baking sheet and then into your preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake an additional 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least two hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

My Grandmother’s Pie Crust

One crust for 9 inch pie
1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening

3 tablespoons cold water
Sift flour and salt together. (I just use a wire whisk to blend and fluff the flour. The air mixed into the flour makes a lighter crust.)


Cut in shortening with a pastry blender, until size of small peas. Sprinkle water over mixture, while tossing quickly with fork, until particles stick together. Form into smooth ball.


Foe ease in rolling out pastry, wrap dough in waxed paper and allow to chill in refrigerator. Lightly roll pastry into circle one inch larger than pie pan. Lift loosely into pie pan. Pat out air. Fold edges under and crimp.


Prick entire crust throughly before baking. This prevents bubbles and excess shrinkage. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and fill.

A simple, fun way to dress up a pie is to use a shaped pastry cutter with a plunger that you lightly press into your rolled out crust. They come in lots of designs, but my favorites are leaves. Very versatile.

Just cut the shapes out with the plunger. Place on a non stick baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. When cooled, add them any way you’d like on top of your pumpkin pie. Be creative!

Is this one of  your favorite fall pies too? Do you do something really creative with your pumpkin pie? Share your thoughts below and photos if you have them! I’d love to see yours!

Hey y'all! I'm Valerie or 'The Pie Lady' to some, because I'm known for my made from scratch pies sold at The Coffee Shop Cafe in McGregor, TX. I've also been a professional photographer for over 35 years who loves to travel around the world! I'll share recipes along with our adventures both near and far. Be sure to take a look at my Coffee Shop Travel Club link and come along with us on an upcoming trip!