A Birthday Getaway at Montelucia

Ever since we celebrated Beth’s 39th birthday in Vegas last year, we’ve been planning her 40th birthday outing.

A Birthday Weekend at Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

And, it was a pretty easy decision on where we wanted to go.  Beth chose one of my favorite places on the planet… Montelucia.  For the past 5 years, my friend Donna and I have been traveling to Montelucia a few times a year to unwind and relax.  It’s become a very special place to me… and I was so excited to have an opportunity to share it with Beth.

A Birthday Getaway at Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Together, we were a group of 10…. all the ladies in Beth’s family, myself and my mom.  Such a fun group of ladies.  It was so nice to see everyone after so much time had passed.

We spent our days at the pool, laughing and catching up, and soaking up the beautiful sun that Phoenix offered us that day.  The weather was in the 90s all weekend long!  How does it get any better than that??  Perhaps with this pretty, pretty cocktail.  Yum!

A Birthday Getaway at Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Birthday Getaway at Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Beth is an amazing cook and when she and the ladies in her family go on these types of “girls’ trips”, they take advantage of the fine dining in the area.  So, we ate very well during the trip, enjoying some of Scottsdale’s best restaurants.

And, leaving the property at night gave us an opportunity to get prettied up and head out…

A Birthday Getaway at Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Saturday was my favorite day of the trip, and Beth’s 40th birthday!  We spent the entire day on property, and most of the day at the beautiful Joya Spa.  This place never get old.

Joya Spa | No Thanks to Cake

We spent the day getting beautiful, being pampered, and relaxing.  BEST.  DAY.  EVER.

Joya Spa Crystal | No Thanks to Cake

Joya Spa | No Thanks to Cake

After a lovely day at Joya, we had to celebrate the birthday girl, and the folks at Prado were amazing and made sure the birthday girl was spoiled properly.  Actually, everywhere we went made sure that Beth got the VIP treatment.  There weren’t many meals that didn’t include a special birthday dessert with “Happy Birthday, Beth” written on the plates… super fancy, Scottsdale.

A Birthday Getaway at Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

A Birthday Getaway at Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

The weekend was just perfect, if you ask me.  Lots of laughs, lots of time with people who adore Beth, and a great getaway.

A Birthday Getaway at Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

And, best of all… I got to celebrate my favorite sister-in-law.  I’ve described her in the past as “my rock,” and she’s one of my favorite people on the planet.

Birthday Getaway to Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Thanks for including all of us on your fabulous birthday adventure!  Looking forward to celebrating the next landmark birthday in a few years!  xoxo

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Banana Nutella Scones

It seems like every time I travel to Montelucia, I come home inspired to cook something new.  This trip was not an exception!

On Sunday morning, I stopped by Crave Cafe to pick up some breakfast before my workout.  While I had fully intended on going with a bagel, the lady at the counter told me about the new Banana Nutella Scones they had, and I knew I had to try them.

Crave Cafe Scone | No Thanks To Cake

To say that this was the best scone I’d ever eaten was an understatement.  It was loaded up with banana chunks and lacked that crumbly texture that comes with most scones.  Instead, it was biscuit-like and moist.  So incredible and the perfect fuel for my workout!

Since I’ve been home, I’ve wanted to make an attempt to recreate them… and I got the recipe JUST right on Saturday morning!

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

While my version is much smaller than its original inspiration, the flavor was just perfect, as was the moist texture.  To me, they almost taste more like a banana nutella biscuit than a scone… but in the most delicious of ways!

Banana Nutella Scones

Inspired by Montelucia

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

1/2 cup Reduced Fat Bisquick

2 Tbsp. skim milk

1/2 banana, ripe

2 Tbsp. Nutella (or 2 mini cups)

4 Tbsp. flour

2 tsp. turbinado sugar

cooking spray

INSTRUCTIONS

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Mix Bisquick mix and milk.

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

3.  Add your Nutella and banana and mix to combine.

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

4.  Add flour to thicken the dough.  Note:  My dough was too sticky, so I added flour until it hit the right consistency.

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

5.  Add a dust of flour and lightly knead the dough 5-8 times.

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

6.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and roll each in the turbinado sugar.  Place each scone on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

7.  Bake in the oven for 11-13 minutes.

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

8.  Allow to cool for a few minutes, but serve warm.  DELICIOUS!

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

Banana Nutella Scones | No Thanks to Cake

Per 1 scone serving:

CAL 141; CARB 26g; FAT 4g; PROT 3g; FIB 1g; WW Points Plus: 4

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Learning about Tapas

On Saturday, Donna and I had a few spa appointments to attend to at Montelucia.  When we saw that there was an opportunity to attend a Tapas Demonstration at the beautiful Prado restaurant on property, how could we resist?

After a quick call to the spa to rearrange appointments, we were able to make the event!

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake
We had about 30 minutes between our facials and the tapas demonstration.  Being a spa resort, we showed up in casual spa attire and with freshly scrubbed faces and no one seemed to mind.  Thank goodness it wasn’t one of those facials where I walk out looking like Santa.  My sensitive cheeks often flare up, but this facial was just gentle enough to make us presentable to the public.  Phew!

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

When we arrived, we were actually the first to the table.  The tapas grill is located across from the bar, and contains the most beautiful wood fire grill.  I didn’t realize until I took this class that this is where all the tapas magic happens.  How awesome to be part of it!

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

What are TAPAS?

If you haven’t had the pleasure, tapas are AMAZING!  Some might call them appetizers, but I think they’re missing the point.

Tapas are “small plates” or snacks, served hot or cold and often loaded with the Spanish flavors.  My favorite places to enjoy tapas are at Firefly in Las Vegas and here at Montelucia. The chefs do a wonderful job of creating incredibly tasty bites that are so satisfying and can be enjoyed by a group.  In most cases, several tapas can create a dinner for a group… and there’s always great conversation when you’re eating these, since there’s sharing and no one’s focused on their huge plate of food.

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Chef Gigi led the demonstration and prepared the most beautiful salmon dish.  Grilled salmon topped with avocado salsa served over mixed greens.  Just beautiful.

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

The more time I spend in the kitchen, the more I enjoy watching chefs create.  Everything from their techniques to create grill marks to the way they “measure” ingredients… I am fascinated.

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Gigi did quite a bit of prep before we arrived, including pre-grilling the salmon.  She shared that you can grill one side of the salmon the day before, so when you are preparing for guests you can just quickly grill the second side!

She also shared how important it is to let meat rest.  So often, we’re tempted to cut into the meat to make sure that it’s cooked to our preference, where allowing it to rest and finishing “cooking” on a plate can make for the most amazing dish.

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

To me, the avocado salsa was the star of the show.  She added some gorgeous red onion, jalapeno, avocado, chives, olive oil, mint (yes, mint!), salt and pepper to create the most beautiful salsa.  It was similar to a guacamole, but not as mashed and well combined. The flavor was INSANE.  And, from what I heard… it was PERFECT on the salmon.

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

My pickiness struck again!  I’m not a salmon eater…. nor anything that swims really.  So, my dish looked quite a bit different than everyone else’s…

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

The final dish was incredibly beautiful though.  I had to snap a shot of Donna’s before she dug in.

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

This dish was not on the main menu at Prado, but was one that we enjoyed getting a chance to taste.  The class itself was free to resort guests and $10 to visitors.  Not only did we have a good time in the class, but it appeared our chef did as well…

Tapas Demonstration Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Thanks, Gigi, for a fantastic session!  We will definitely be trying this recipe out at home… and visiting your kitchen again during our next trip to Montelucia!  xoxo

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An Arizona Getaway

When I booked my trip to Iowa in October, I pretty much thought that was going to replace my trip to Montelucia this fall.  After all, Donna and I would have a chance to catch up at the wedding… so, I assumed that would suffice as our fall catch-up trip. I’m so glad I was WRONG!

The Montelucia advertises specials this time of year, and a special that included spa credits and a great deal on room rates made it impossible for us to turn down.

And… how could I wait another 7 months to see this beautiful view?

Montelucia has very quickly become one of my favorite places on the planet.  While San Francisco caught my eye this year as a contender for favorite new city, Montelucia blows it away completely.

Prado Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Donna and I have been coming here for several years now… and it’s become a second home to me.  The service on property is phenomenal, the experience exquisite.  Frankly, I can’t get enough of this place.

Montelucia Pool | No Thanks to Cake

And, it’s not like we do the same thing every trip…. there are some commonalities (pool time, yoga for me, and Donna running her “loopty-loo” around the property), but there are always different events going on here to help us mix it up. This visit, for example, we didn’t even leave the property… not once!

Joya Spa Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

Some might argue that this trip came at a horrible time for me (due to majorly stressful work events greeting me when I return home), but I’d like to instead say that the timing was absolutely perfect.

Oasis Pool Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

I’ve ruined my share of vacations by overthinking what will come on the other side of trip.  I’ve spend too much time thinking about what’s going to happen… rather than just enjoying the now.  My escape to Montelucia has reminded me that THE NOW is beautiful and should be appreciated.

Joya Spa | No Thanks to Cake

It’s kissed by sunshine and drenched in laughter… and absolutely delicious.  And, you can kind of miss its delight if you’re just worrying about the tomorrow.  I refused to miss it this weekend.

Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

I think it also helps that I’m spending this trip with one of my favorite people.  Donna and I have been friends for years and years… and just get each other.  We can spend time in silence, soaking up the whisper room or reading a good book.  Other times, we’re enjoying the fire pit singing old Huey Lewis hits… yep, that happened this trip (Note to self: Must download more HL on iTunes when I get home.)

Oasis Pool Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

The conversations that cause me pause though are those where we’re talking about the things that matter.  The things that make us grow.  Everyone needs a friend that digs beneath the surface a little, and makes you think about those things that matter most.  Those dreams you’re chasing and the challenges that you’ve faced.  Donna is that friend for me, and I adore her for it.

Joya Spa Montelucia | No Thanks to Cake

As always, it was an amazing two days in the desert, and just what the doctor ordered.  While it’s difficult to say goodbye to this beautiful place, I know I will see it again in May… and look forward to the joy it brings me upon my return.

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