Semolina Cake – A Mediterranean Delight

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Semolina Cake

Semolina Cake

It has been many years since I’ve made a Semolina Cake. I remember purchasing a mix for it at a middle eastern store and had made it at home.

This cake pictured above is from a restaurant.  It is one of my favorite Mediterranean desserts.  It has the same sweetness as baklava, and that’s because it is drenched in the same simple syrup.  They usually make a large pan of it, cut it into diamonds and place an almond in the center of each piece.

The consistency can be a bit grainy (like cornbread) but it is so delicious, the syrup makes it soft and moist.  If you want to try making one at home, you can search for semolina cake recipes online, they also call it Basbousa, Basboosa, Harissa, Harisa, Harisi, there are many variations on the name.  If you enjoy baklava, I’m sure you will love this.

 

Immaculate Baking Company Organic Fudge Brownie Mix

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Just baked a batch of Immaculate Baking Company’s Organic Fudge Brownies.  They came out really well.  The taste is rich and chocolaty, very sweet. The baking mix, which also contains tiny chocolate chips, only requires 1 stick of melted butter and 2 eggs to bring the mix together. (I think the box I had was an older version, the new directions say add 2 tablespoons of water as well).

It is a really thick batter, it actually formed a ball by the time I was done scraping the mix around the bowl.  I had to push the batter down into baking pan.  It had said on the box that you would have to push it into the pan.  I’m glad it said something because it was way thicker than most mixes.

This batch took about 30 minutes to finish in a 350 degree oven. The end pieces got a bit crunchy, the center stayed pretty moist. Some people like the crunchier ends. Overall, I was very satisfied with the end result. Brownie mixes can be hit or miss, even when you follow all the instructions properly.    It’s a good thing I didn’t cook it any longer, I think it would have really dried out.  If you decide to make these yourself, be sure to set your timer and recheck as needed. I set my timer for  22, checked it and it was still soft, and then reset timer again for 8 minutes and it was done.

I’m glad there is an organic option available on the market, I’d definitely buy this mix again.

 

Crockett’s Tavern – Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

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Tucked inside Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness, you will find Crockett’s Tavern. It’s a small bar that serves beer, wine, mixed drinks, as well as some food.  It is strictly bar seating, there are roughly 8 seats available if my memory serves. Their menu is limited, but it is a satisfying nonetheless. We enjoy their pizza and chicken wings, and we’ll come here just for pizza and beer sometimes.  They are open until about 10 pm each night. For Disney food their prices are pretty good, a large cheese pizza is about $15 before tax and tip.

The pizza itself has a thick crust, the dough is slightly biscuit-y, the sauce and cheese is good, and it’s really filling. I can usually only eat two slices. Their chicken wings are huge, they don’t separate the pieces, so you have a wing/leg combo.  Their blue cheese is really good. I’ve been known to dip my pizza crust (for families with dogs, this is often called a pizza bone) in blue cheese.

Crockett’s Tavern Menu:

Smoke-House Nachos – with Shredded Beef Brisket, House-blended Cheese, Salsa, Pickle Jalapeno, and Chive Sour Cream $11.49

Uncle John’s Taters – A blend of Fried Peppers, Onions, and Potato Skins tossed with Parmesan Cheese, and topped with Chive Sour Cream and Green Onions $11.99

Chicken Wings – with Celery Sticks and Blue Cheese Dressing served with your choice of Buffalo, Garlic-Parmesan, or Honey Barbecue Sauce $9.49

Smoked Cheese-stuffed Jalapeno – Wrapped in Campfire Bacon with Peach-Pepper Jelly $7.99

Cheese Pizza $13.99

Pepperoni Pizza $15.49

There have a couple beers on draft, usually a seasonal Sam Adams and Yuengling, other beers available in the bottle, and a full bar.

If bar food isn’t your thing, Trail’s End offers a full dinner buffet.

The Fort Wilderness settlement area is off the beaten path and surrounded by lovely pine trees. If you are there during the day, you can see some of the ponies over at Triple D Ranch, you can watch fireworks from the lakeside, you can also watch the Electric Water Pageant.  There are even wagon rides  (I believe adults wagon ride is about $8 each) and carriage rides available (I believe they are $45+).

Do you have a favorite restaurant or bar at Disney? A favorite comfort food?

Pressed Pennies – Affordable Disney Collectibles

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Pressed Pennies are a great affordable Disney collectible, there are many different designs, and many different machines located on Disney property.  The cost of a pressed penny souvenir is 51 cents. You will need two quarters and one penny, you’ll get the penny back once it is pressed.  These are great for adults and children alike, anyone who enjoys Disney collectibles.

Each machine usually offers three different designs, you may come across some machines that offer four designs.  Some machines have to be hand-cranked – and the selection of the design has to be pre-aligned to the one you want before you start cranking. If you are going to use the manual hand-cranked machine be sure to double check you have the right design at the arrow pointer before you insert your money and start cranking.  For the automatic style machines, like the one pictured above, you simply press the button for the design you want.

The variety of designs is amazing – you will be surprised at just how many different ones there are, and at about 50 cents each, it is the most affordable collectible Disney offers.

If you want to get fancy with it, Disney sells pressed penny books in their gift shops. With the book, you can organize and store your pennies.

I carry around an Altoids box in my purse that is filled with quarters and pennies in case I see something I want.  I’ve read that the newer pennies are silver colored when smashed, if you want a solid copper penny you should search through your pennies for something from 1984 and before – these were solid copper.  You can probably see the differences in penny colors from a few of them in my photo, some look streaked with silver.

Next time you visit Walt Disney World be sure to look around for these Penny Machines. Happy Collecting!

 

Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday Movie Review

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If you haven’t had a chance to watch Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday yet, it’s on Netflix instant streaming.  I’ve probably watched it 4 times already since they put it up.

I was really surprised by how much I instantly loved this movie.  It has a lot of that retro movie charm of classic 1980’s movies that I loved growing up. We have our familiar lovable Pee-Wee Herman in a brand new adventure. Paul Reubens looks terrific, and he just nails it, silly, funny, charming, plus Joe Manganiello was a perfect choice.

Of course you can’t take the movie too seriously, it’s Pee-Wee Herman! It’s just for laughs and entertainment. It’s full of jokes and gags, and just out and out ridiculousness. I’m no critic, but I know what I like. I’d say it would probably make my top 10 favorite list simply because if I was flipping through channels and this movie was on…I’d stop to watch it, and there are only a hand full of movies that I like that much.

Easy Pumpkin Muffins – Basic 3 ingredients (+toppings)

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Homemade Pumpkin Muffins

pumpkincake

Are you getting ready for fall? I’m looking forward to fall.  I’m not really a die-hard pumpkin fan, but I do like pumpkin pie, and who doesn’t like the smell of home cooked baked good wafting through the house.

I’ve been craving something sweet lately and was wondering what to make. I found a two ingredient recipe but thought it was missing something, so here is my version, I think a little milk helps in the mix and gives them a better rise.

Easy Pumpkin Muffins!

Healthy – low fat, no added vegetable oil or eggs. 

Ingredients:

1 can 15 oz. puree of pumpkin (I used an organic pumpkin puree, already had it in the pantry from last Thanksgiving!)

1 box cake mix – carrot cake or spice cake (I used carrot cake mix)

1/4 cup of milk – soy milk or almond milk is okay (I used organic soy milk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix ingredients together in a medium/large bowl with a spatula or spoon until combined well.

Spoon approximately 3/4 full into cupcake molds or cupcake wrappers in a muffin/cupcake pan.

That’s it, really simple and easy.

I made 6 muffins and one small cake, I used a 9″ square Pyrex baking dish for the cake.

If you decide to make a cake or loaf, be sure to spray it with light cooking spray like canola or veggie oil (not olive oil flavor).

At this point you can add toppings, like shredded coconut, walnuts, almonds, dried fruit, cinnamon and sugar, brown sugar, oats, chocolate chips. If you have these items already then why not mix it up a little.  I’d recommend adding no more than about a teaspoon or tablespoon on top of the uncooked cups.  The batter is going to swell as it cooks and the topping may fall off if it is overloaded.

Put in the oven and set the timer to 15-18 minutes and check it, add time if needed and recheck.

My batch took about 20 minutes until they cooked through with no more wetness. You can use a toothpick or knife to check for done-ness. When the toothpick or knife comes out clean it is cooked all the way through.

I tried one and it was really delicious, can’t wait until tomorrow, it will be even better out of the fridge!

 

Bourbon Tasting at Walt Disney World

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My husband and I were in Orlando recently. We had eaten at a local restaurant for dinner and were thinking of what to do with the last couple hours of the evening, it was about 9 pm.  Our choices were go to Animal Kingdom theme park which was open until 11 pm, or go to Magic Kingdom which was open until Midnight, and then lastly choose a resort bar (which usually close at Midnight as well).  We decided on picking a bar, Sanaa seemed like a great choice.

Once we got there we checked the bar menu, it was still early enough to order food from the bar menu, but we were still full from dinner.  After a little consideration, we decided to try a bourbon flight.  They also offer a tequila flight, if you are a tequila aficionado.

For the bourbon tasting, you get three 3/4 ounce pours: the first one is the Maker’s Mark Wheated, then your choice of one Rye and one Straight bourbon.  Their choices for Straight: Knob Creek Disney Select Single Barrel and Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight. The choices for High Rye bourbon are the Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight.

We started with one flight which comes with the Maker’s Mark Wheated, and chose the Buffalo Trace and Knob Creek Disney Select, only available at Disney.  After we started tasting, we decided to just order another flight with the opposite choices so we’d be able to taste all 5 bourbons. The second flight had the Maker’s Mark again, plus the Angel’s Envy and Woodford Reserve.

Some observations…

The Angel’s Envy was the harshest, it reminded me of a young whiskey, I drink Jameson at home, and it reminded me of that, it numbs the taste buds a bit.

The Knob Creek Disney Select had a nice nose, pleasant and not too strong, the best nose of all the choices.  The taste was complex.

The Buffalo Trace was earthy and smokey smelling, tasted more mellow to than the Knob Creek.

The Woodford Reserve had the most overwhelming nose, very strong.

The Maker’s Mark Wheated was definitely the softest tasting, very nice, very smooth.

After straight tasting, we added a bit of cold water and a small ice cube to each selection.

The most improved by adding water was the Angel’s Envy, followed by the Woodford Reserve. It took away a bit of the harshness, definitely would recommend doing your own tasting to see what preferences you have, also try with a bit of water.

We spent about 2 hours just relaxing, it was really nice. Sanaa’s bar is open until midnight and it clears out after dinner ends, so you have a beautiful setting and not many people.

The cost per flight was $13.50 not including tax or tip. It was well worth the cost for the experience, I could imagine doing a tasting activity at the Food and Wine Festival and it would probably cost quite a bit more. If I were to buy a bottle of bourbon for home, I’d probably choose the Maker’s Mark Wheated. It was fun to sample them all, and I feel like I’ve learned a bit in the process.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2016 Dates, Prices, Overview

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MNSSHP 2015 Candy

MNSSHP 2015 Candy Haul

In about 10 days, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party season begins. It will go on for two months on select dates.  For many people attending the Magic Kingdom, this means shorter hours on those nights, meaning that non-party goers will need to leave the Magic Kingdom by 7pm! It is going to be important to check the calendar before hand to make sure you don’t use a full day’s admission if you aren’t going to be able to stay the full day.

To attend the party, you will have to purchase a separate event ticket for each member of your group.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2016 dates:

September 02, 08, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 29, 30

October 02, 04, 06, 07, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31

Pricing this year is staggered again, the cheapest prices are at the beginning of September, and incrementally rise up to Halloween, those prices being $72 and going up to $105, and there is a very small discount for Annual Passholders or DVC Members. Their premium pricing structure is most likely based on demand, as we have seen their recent tiered pricing structure revealed and implemented earlier this year.

The most popular night has always been Halloween, however, we have always attended earlier events.  Last year we did mid-September, and the year prior we did beginning of October.  The weather is still pretty hot in September, but at least the event is at night, and it is pretty enjoyable if you dress comfortably.

Activities included, the Halloween parade “Boo-to-You” which runs twice in the night, the 2nd parade is usually less crowded, Trick or Treating locations, most of the rides are open as well, there is Hallowishes – the special themed fireworks of the evening, and a Hocus Pocus themed stage show.  There is also a dance party over in Tomorrowland, and sometimes in the Diamond Horseshoe building.  If you are looking to do any merchandise shopping, the stores are pleasantly less crowded during these events – at least on the occasions that we attended.  Special event merchandise is available, and sometimes sells out early in the holiday season.  In years past, they have offered a special Sorcerer’s of the Kingdom playing card, that you can pick up from the Firehouse or the podium next to the Christmas shop.

Definitely catch the parade, the Headless Horseman is amazing he starts off the parade. Do some trick or treating, I’d also recommend watching the fireworks.  We haven’t watched the stage show due to the crowd levels, we usually spend the time trick or treating. There is also some special characters around, you can usually catch a special character at the Haunted Mansion, or perhaps see the Cadaver Dans quartet. In the Storybook Circus area, there are also Halloween themed characters, usually Jack Skellington and Sally, as well as Donald and Daisy.

In the past, we’ve had so much fun trick or treating, we have always ended up with way too much candy.  I’m hoping we can attend this year, but we’ll probably not be trick or treating “competitively” this year.  By competitively, I mean we have tried to break our own records from year to year and it has just gotten to be silly, no one needs 18+ pounds of candy.  Even family and friends can’t help us eat that much candy.

I’d say to make sure to walk around the whole park and see as much as you can, and do a little of everything.

$200 Disney Gift Card offer for New Chase Disney Members – Apply by 9/30/16

Still have some referrals left as of 8/23/16

nightshade

It is that time of year again, just received some promotional offers from Chase Disney Visa Credit Card for referring friends and family.  I have some referrals left.

If you are looking for the referral info for the $200 gift card offer, let me know at mydisneyblog7777@outlook.com
Please include your first and last name, and your zip code and that you need the $200 Disney Referral info. If you want to use 2 referrals please let me know, as I need to keep track of how many referrals are given and used. It is appreciated when you let me know that you did use the referral.  Thank you.

Must apply by phone by 9/30/16, **you would get $200 Disney gift card by mail after spending $500 within 3 months of account opening**. This is the NO ANNUAL FEE card. Most of the time they only give a $50 bonus.

Also, a married couple can…

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Worst things I’ve seen at Walt Disney World

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  1. Animal Abuse – I’ve seen dozens of children that hurt animals  while on Disney property. This happens on a daily basis, chances are you have seen it yourself on more than one occasion while on your Disney vacation. Often times the parent(s) or chaperones of the children are not educating them on proper manners and proper respect for animals.  They are usually self-involved and socializing with other adults, or extremely lax about letting their child do anything.  Sometimes they even encourage sadistic behavior in their child or children, encourage them to chase and kick ducks, rabbits, squirrels, or other animals.  This is a serious concern, when children are not supervised they can even kill animals be it intentional or not.  The absolute worst thing I’ve seen at WDW was a 7 or 8 year old throwing rocks at ducks – and he hit one.  Angry Donald
  2. Complete disregard for the rules  – both children and adults are guilty of not following the rules.  Children often like to climb on things they shouldn’t, they like to run, peep into other people bathroom stalls, and swing their plastic light sabers into other people, and parents will usually let them get away with it. I have been ran into more than once by children who are not paying attention to where they are going. Commonly adults break the rules too, it can be something like smoking in non-designated areas, line cutting, or sneaking in more people in line in front of others, or letting their kid(s) or grandkid(s) hop on the electronic scooters with them. Worst thing, when parents let their children run wild.
  3. Rudeness to others – there are times when people completely lose their minds at Disney. Sometimes you will find adults behaving badly towards others, examples are rude behavior to cast members or other guests. Things like being overly drunk or out of control, tour groups being annoying with their cheering, line cutters (especially parents who let their kids just line cut and “follow” their kids up the line), or space poachers (people who crowd you after you have camped out a spot), people who block walkways and stand in the way, or those not paying attention to the line, people running others over with their scooters or strollers.  Sometimes you have to suffer through listening to people complaining loudly or making a fool of themselves. People should be aware of their behavior, but most of the time people who are being rude just don’t care, they aren’t even embarrassed for themselves. I think the worst thing I’ve seen was a guy punch his “friend” in the face outside of the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. 
  4. Filthy behavior – It may seem trivial, but littering is wrong, it is disrespectful to leave garbage around for others to pick up.  You wouldn’t throw garbage on the floor in your own house, why would you do it somewhere else where you are a guest? Yes, you pay for admission, but that doesn’t mean you own the place. Next level filthy behavior is like sneezing on others, not giving enough personal space/touching other people/sneezing or coughing on others, or those who poop or pee on things. I particularly hate when sweaty people brush up against me and rub their sweat on me. Many times I’ve caught a cold or flu from going to Disney, no matter how much I try to keep my hands clean and be careful, inevitably you will catch germs from someone. I’ve seen dirty diapers in public where a parent has just left the diaper for someone else to clean up.  One time at the Biergarten restaurant, part of the bathroom stall was smeared with poop. Now, if your child smeared poop all over a bathroom stall would you just leave it? And the worst was probably a pair of kids shorts that had a log of shit in them that was left in a public bathroom at Saratoga Springs Resort.

diaper

Disney has millions of visitors every year, it is mind-boggling to imagine the distance and expense involved for everyone who comes to visit Walt Disney World.  I try to imagine this every time I visit WDW. When you have lots of people in a confined space, it can be taxing, especially for those who have introverted tendencies.  For anyone who is like me, it is best to avoid big crowds and big lines, often hard to do.  My coping method is to take it easy, if the line is too long, I’ll skip it.  Often times when there are loud talkers behind me, I’ll pull over and let them pass. I can’t stand for someone to be right on my heels and loud enough to bug me. For those travelling from all over the world to Disney, they don’t have that luxury of skipping rides or attractions, they have a set amount of time to do everything.  My best advice is to make and use FastPass+ selections, this will significantly reduce wait times.  Be flexible, avoid people who are annoying you.  If you see something worthy of reporting, report it to a cast member, don’t try to police others on your own.  Rude people are rude, chances are it won’t end well if you confront them.

What is the worst thing you have ever seen at Walt Disney World?