Monthly Archives: October 2015

Things To Do (& Eat!) In St. Augustine, FL

A few days ago I shared about our camping trip in St. Augustine. Anastasia State Park was great, but it wasn’t the only thing we saw in St. Augustine!

Things To Do In St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

There were several fun things we got to do in our day & a half in St. Augustine. This list is solely based off of our most recent trip; no one is paying me to promote their thing. I just wanted to share what my husband & I enjoyed doing in the oldest city in America.

Old City Helicopter Tour

Things To Do In St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Things To Do In St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

My birthday gift to my husband was a helicopter ride! Old City Helicopters offers a few different packages & routes. I got a good deal on Groupon for the Porpoise Point & Old Downtown tour. It was amazing! My husband was so thrilled. He says it’s the coolest thing he’s ever done.

Things To Do In St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

I did good!

Castillo De San Marcos

Things To Do In St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

 It’s a Florida tradition for 4th grade classes to go on a field trip to St. Augustine (see the two 4th graders in the picture?). I didn’t go on my 4th grade field trip, but I have been to St. Augustine & to this fort before. It’s pretty cool & definitely worth checking out. What we most enjoyed was the canon demonstration they do ever hour. The reenactors portray Spanish soldiers & do the whole thing in Spanish. It’s really neat! I think it’s really interesting how this fort (& the whole city, really) changed hands from the Spanish to the British & then back to the Spanish. The exhibits at Castillo De San Marcos really teach you something!
Things To Do In St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Historic Distric

My husband & I didn’t do too much in the historic district on this trip since we’ve both been here before, but it is worth checking out. There are lots of things to check out, such as the oldest wooden schoolhouse. There are also several shops & restaurants, plus it’s a nice walk (the buildings provide some much appreciated shade!)

Oldest Store Museum Tour

My husband wanted to go see the old jail, & when we went to buy tickets there was a special price if you purchased both the old jail & the oldest store museum tour. We said sure, why not. I am so glad we did! The oldest store museum was one of my favorite things from the whole trip! It’s a guided tour & the actors are amazing. The first one portrays a ‘snake oil’ salesman & offers all kinds of curios from the early 1900’s. The second actor shows you the storage area where the ‘new shipments’ came in – such as a goat powered washing machine! I want one! We were laughing the whole time, it was a lot of fun!

Old Jail

After we finished the oldest store museum tour, we did the old jail tour. This jail is unique because it’s actually quite pretty from the outside. When the Ponce De Leon hotel was built in flourishing St. Augustine, the local jail was too close for Henry Flagler’s comfort. So he had it moved & insisted that it not look like a jail from the outside. What’s also interesting is that the sheriff’s house was built not only adjacent to the jail – but connected to it! This tour was pretty fun, too, & describes how the jail was run back in the day.

Spanish Military Hospital Museum

This museum tour isn’t for the faint of heart. The Spanish Military Hospital Museum has all kinds of medical tools & medicines on display from the second Spanish period (late 1700’s to early 1800’s). The tour guide describes in great detail things like taking out bullets, amputating limbs, & removing teeth – all without anesthesia! We thought it was super interesting, but there definitely are some stomach turning moments! The Spanish were way more advanced in medicine than the British & had all kinds of home remedies that Hispanic people still use today! The tour guide was describing how they used things like calendula, lavender, & cloves medicinally & I was like, “oh yes, I know this. My mom taught me!”

Flagler College

Flagler College is a small liberal arts school that was once an extravagant hotel. It’s a fully functioning college campus, but they still offer historical tours. We didn’t do a tour, but we walked inside & marveled at the beautiful architecture & design. I think it’s interesting that St. Augustine has a couple of places that used to be hotels & are now something else – usually it’s the reverse!

Things To Do In St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Mission Nombre De Dios


In past trips to St. Augustine I had never even heard of this mission being here, but I am so glad we checked it out this time! This mission goes all the way back to the 1500’s. My husband & I are not Catholic, but the history & reverence at the mission & shrine were really intriguing. This is another location that was used by the Spanish, the British, & then the Spanish again. I find that extremely interesting since the British were not Catholic, but still preserved this area & used it as a holy place themselves. I, personally, really appreciate the emphasis on mothers & the unborn. The mission also has an archaeological excavation program with the University of Florida (go Gators!) as a collaborative project with the Florida Museum of Natural History & other organizations. My husband was most impressed by the old tombs from the 1800s. It is definitely worth taking a stroll through these grounds.

There are many more attractions that we didn’t get to, such as the lighthouse or the Colonial District. We did most of these things on a Friday; Saturday everything was considerably busier!

Places To Eat

We ate at some pretty yummy places while we were here!

Burger Buckets: This place has some really incredible burgers! I had the Hawaiian & my husband had the Bite of Fire: pepper sauce, ghost pepper cheese, & jalapeños! Both were really tasty with fries, corn nuggets, & a milkshake on the side. Our lunch gave us all the energy we needed to walk around the rest of the day.

Harry’s: It was my husband’s birthday weekend, so to celebrate we went to Harry’s Friday night. I’ve been to the one in Gainesville before, so I knew my hubby would like it. We took our server’s recommendation & ordered the following (descriptions taken straight from their website): Shrimp & Scallop Orleans -lightly blackened over a crispy grit cake with tasso ham cream sauce and Harry’s collard greens, & Crab Crusted Red Fish Royale – blackened red fish topped with crab meat served with corn maque choux, smashed potatoes and finished with our louisiana beurre blanc. If your mouth isn’t watering, then there’s nothing I can do to help you.

Borrillo’s Pizza & Subs: This place has some really good NY style pizza. The slices are huge & the prices are low!

Luli’s Cupcakes: This bakery is right next to the pizza place, so of course we had to stop in for dessert! They have a very wide selection & do both standard sized & mini cupcakes. We grabbed a couple of mini cupcakes for the road, as well as a frosting shot – which is EXACTLY what it sounds like! What a genius idea! If I ever open a bakery, I want to do something similar!

We had a great time in St. Augustine & we didn’t even get to half of what the city has to offer. I think a repeat trip is definitely in order, perhaps with our own 4th grader some day (if not before then)!


Camping In St. Augustine, FL

Last weekend I went camping for the first time ever!

Camping in St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

It was my husband’s birthday, so we decided to get away from it all  & go camping in Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine, FL.

The campsites there have water, electricity, & bath houses. We were hardly going to be ‘roughing it’, so I knew I could handle it.

My husband has had many camping experiences throughout his life, so he has tons of knowledge on what to do & what to bring. I looked up camping on Pinterest. So between the two of us we came up with our list of supplies.

He let me plan the food – more on that later!

Camping in St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Holy moly I did not know you had to bring so much stuff! I mean, it all makes sense, I just had no frame of reference – I had never done this!

Thankfully, I have a Jeep 🙂

Camping in St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

I was a little worried when we first got to our campsite. As soon as I opened the car door I got bit by TWO mosquitoes. I am a mosquito magnet – I got that sweet blood (probably from all the desserts).

Once we sprayed ourselves with bug spray & set up the mosquito tent, we were fine.

Camping in St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Camping in St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

The mosquito tent took longer than the sleeping tent to put together – but it was SO worth it!

I feel obligated to mention that while St. Augustine is in North Florida, it’s still Florida. Meaning that even though it’s almost November, it’s still decently humid outside & there are still bugs around. Sure, the temperature has dropped from the 90s to the low 80s/high 70s, but the air still has quite a bit of moisture in it. I have been reading all these other blogs about crisp autumn air & leaves changing colors – none of that here! On the plus side, I got to walk around in a tank top in late October (though I did get a little too much sun our last day there & am a bit red as a result).

Our trip wasn’t very long, just Thursday to Saturday. Thursday night we stayed in the park & just enjoyed the great outdoors. Anastasia St. Park is beautiful! We decided to take a leisurely stroll through the nature trail about an hour before sunset. That was probably not the best idea. The mosquitoes I mentioned earlier were swarming us! They didn’t bite because we had on some really good bug spray, but it was bothersome enough to turn our leisurely stroll into a brisk walk. The good thing was we worked up an appetite, so we got to work making dinner once we got back to the campsite. Cooking outside somewhere other than the backyard is fun! We had our dinner, drank some wine, & had marshmallows by the fire.

Camping in St. Augustine, FL - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Since the campsite had electricity, we brought one of those box fans with us. The nights were chilly, but the fan was nice to circulate the air inside the tent.

Friday morning I woke up & realized I had survived my first night sleeping outside! The only momentary panic ensued when my husband went to the bathroom around 7AM & I definitely heard something roaming around outside our tent. I didn’t think it through when I sleepily told him to go ahead without me because I wanted to sleep a little more. I was wide awake after that! I’m sure it was something harmless like a raccoon, or even a squirrel. I just had the ‘I’m sleeping outside in a plastic bag’ jitters.

The bath houses at Anastasia State Park were pretty clean! I thought it was going to be at least a little icky to shower there, but I was wrong. This park was just what this first time camper needed!

Friday after our outdoor breakfast, my husband & I headed out of the park for a day full of fun in St. Augustine. We came back to the campsite after dark, lit a fire & enjoyed our last night outside. After another yummy al fresco breakfast on Saturday, we packed the car up to go home.

There are plenty of things to do & see at Anastasia State Park. My hubby & I didn’t get to all of them! Besides our brisk walk on the nature trail, we also walked along the beach boardwalk & visited the coquina quarry during our stay.

It was a great weekend away! I think my husband made a camping lover out of me & I’m very much looking forward to going again soon!

Stay tuned to find out what else we did in St. Augustine!

In The New House Designs

Crockpot Fajitas with Salsa Verde

I’ve mention before how I had never used a crock pot until I moved in with my husband. Now, it’s one of my favorite appliances.

I love how it allows me to make a delicious meal while I’m at work. I’m very grateful that I can have people over on busy work nights & serve them something tasty. That’s exactly how this recipe was born. A friend of mine was coming over for dinner one Friday night & I wanted to serve something yummy without having to worry about cooking when I got home after a hectic week. The crockpot is the perfect tool for the scenario. Just a little prep the night before is all it takes.

I decided I wanted to do ‘Mexican’ food. I’ve seen several crockpot fajita recipes on Pinterest & they are all basically similar – chicken, peppers, onions, and a jar of salsa.

Blech. No gracias.

I don’t do tomatoes; never have. There is just something about tomatoes that makes my taste buds go NOPE. The closest I come to eating anything tomato related is pizza – & even then I have rules. No deep dish, no chunks of tomatoes, & any sauce not covered by cheese is getting scrapped off.

Every now & then I will try something with tomatoes in it to see if I have gotten over my aversion. Nope. I still absolutely abhor tomatoes.

I know some of you might be thinking, “but what about your lycopene intake?  The ketchup bottle says lycopene is very important.” Well, don’t worry. Red peppers are also a good lycopene source, & they are featured in this recipe.

I have a love/hate relationship with red peppers in food. Since I made this recipe myself, I know that all of the red pieces are peppers. But when I go out to eat, it’s a different story. Luckily, my husband is the designated “is this a tomato or a pepper?” taste-tester.

So what did I do to replace the offensive tomato salsa? I did what I usually do; I used the green option.

When I go out for Mexican food, or make it at home, I always go with the green sauce option. Enchiladas? Salsa Verde. Chipotle Burrito? Green Chile Salsa. Taco Bell? Verde Salsa.

The fact that green is my favorite color is a total coincidence to green things being delicious.

Crockpot Fajitas with Salsa Verde - Mrs. Dessert Monster

This recipe is pretty simple: seasoned chicken (Sazón is my go-to seasoning for Hispanic food), red & green bell peppers, onion, pickled jalapeños, & a can of green chile sauce.

I always end up using my crockpot on low for 10+ hours because of my work schedule. According to some research I was doing, cooking it low & long results in shredded chicken, while high for 4-6 hours gives you firmer chicken you can chop up.

It was pretty liquidy, so I used a slotted spoon to put everything into a serving dish.

Crockpot Fajitas with Salsa Verde - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Add some nice soft tortillas, cheese, & any other toppings you’d like!

Crockpot Fajitas with Salsa Verde - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Like any other fajita/ taco type dish, you can totally customize it with toppings. You can also make it as spicy or as mild as you like!

Crockpot Fajitas with Salsa Verde - Mrs. Dessert Monster

If you have any chicken left over, save it to make flavorful chicken quesadillas another day like my husband & I did!

Crockpot Fajitas with Salsa Verde

  • 2-3 chicken breasts, seasoned to your liking
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 tbsp pickled jalapeños
  • 1 can of green chile sauce
  • tortillas
  • toppings such as cheese, guacamole, sour cream, etc.
  1. Chop peppers into strips & onion into slices.
  2. Place seasoned chicken, peppers, onion, & jalapeños into crockpot.
  3. Pour over can of green chile sauce.
  4. Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10 hours. Cooking on high results in firmer chicken you can chop. Cooking on low will result in shredded chicken.
  5. Shred/chop chicken & serve with tortillas & toppings. Enjoy!

In The New House Designs

Wedding Shadow Box

A few weekends ago I finally got around to making the last of my post-wedding crafts.

Shortly after our wedding last December, I bought a shadow box for wedding memories. I knew I wanted to display our guest book records along with it – more on that later.

Wedding Shadow Box - Mrs. Dessert Monster

So, I got to work on my shadow box on this free Saturday I had. It was a wonderful Saturday, one that had absolutely no plans or schedules. My husband & I got to stay home all day. We did some stuff around the house. I did some crafty things. We watched college football. We grilled up some steaks for dinner. I baked brownies for dessert. It was very relaxing & much needed.

I had been saving extras of all of my wedding stationery, ornament favors, & cake decorations for this shadow box. I also saved my bouquet – no fancy preservation or anything. My mom grabbed it for me the day of the wedding & it has been sitting in a mason jar on my vanity for months, drying nicely.

Wedding Shadow Box - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Obviously it isn’t as bright & vibrant as when the flowers were alive, but it still looked pretty good.

Red Bouquet - Mrs. Dessert Monster

I didn’t want to use the entire bouquet, just one or two of each flower. So I disassembled the bouquet & made my own little mini arrangement before using the original ribbon to wrap it up.

Wedding Shadow Box - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Stanley kitty was hanging out with me while I assembled everything.

Wedding Shadow Box - Mrs. Dessert Monster

I love how it turned out!

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies

A few weekends ago I had the type of Saturday that only comes around once every couple of months. It was a glorious Saturday with absolutely no plans. It was a no-need-for-pants kind of day.

This is not to be confused with the type of Saturday where you are bored & wishing for plans. This was a much needed break from busy lives. My husband & I did things around the house. We watched college football. We had the whole day to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. After a delicious steak dinner, I realized we did not have any dessert. My husband said, “we haven’t left the house all day – do you want to go out for some frozen yogurt?”

I said no.

We hadn’t left the house all day! I was not about to put pants on, especially not after dinner.

So instead, I decided to make some brownies. Then I remembered I had a meeting at church the next day & decided to make a big batch to share.

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies - Mrs. Dessert Monster

I had actually never made brownies from scratch before. I looked up several recipes & tips before arriving at Epicurious’ Best Cocoa Brownies. According to this recipe, these brownies have a soft center & a nice top crust because of butter & granulated sugar. I looked up the differences between cakey & fudgy brownies. This post from Fine Cooking has great explanations. I had no idea there was such a wide variety of brownie techniques, but I think I found my niche with this recipe. I prefer the fudgy kind.

The original Epicurious recipe calls for some fancy & very specific steps.

“Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.”

Umm, what?

I did no such thing.

I know baking is a science, & I mean no disrespect, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

My brownies still turned out amazing.

I didn’t just throw everything in the bowl, I just kind of used previous baking experience with a little common sense to come up with my own steps. Plus my handy dandy KitchenAid mixer. Also, the Epicurious recipe is for an 8 x 8 pan; I doubled it & used a 13 x 9.

The one instruction I did follow properly was lining the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper, leaving ‘handles’ on two opposite sides. THAT is great advice.

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies - Mrs. Dessert Monster

The whole thing came out very easily. This is a great idea so you don’t end up cutting the brownies in the pan. I have ruined a few pans by cutting baked goods in them.

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Don’t be like the old me.

These brownies were so amazingly rich & fudgy. Perfect with a glass of milk.

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Walnuts for me, none for my hubby. Compromising can be delicious & fun!

I must make these again.

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies

Adapted from Epicurious Best Cocoa Brownies

  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut pieces (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. Melt butter. Add melted butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, & salt to a bowl & use lowest setting on electric mixer to combine. Add eggs one at a time.
  3. Add flour. Once fully incorporated, mix on medium-high for 30 seconds. Stir in walnuts if desired.
  4. Spread batter evenly in the lined pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brownies should be set in the center, but still moist.
  5. Lift brownies out of pan using parchment paper. Once completely cool, cut into squares.
In The New House Designs