Sunday, December 18, 2016

Disney's Grand Floridian Bakery Gingerbread Cookies ~ My Take

I love gingerbread cookies, so was eager to try this version from the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Bakery. A quick glance at the ingredients showed more the recipe used more than the usual amount of butter plus used confectioners sugar instead of granulated, so I knew it would have a different flair. The cookies are dipped in colored sugar before baking so that was a difference also, a welcome one since I always make too much royal icing, it always gets everything globbed up and I don't have much piping talent.
Here's the recipe with 'my take' changes and tips in parentheses.
2 sticks butter softened
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 eggs
3 2/3 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground star anise (I couldn't find this so just got regular anise and ground it in my coffee grinder)
1 teaspoon ground fennel (couldn't find this so left out)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup colored decorating sugar
1/4 cup milk

Combine butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer and beat until smooth.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, coriander, anise, baking powder, fennel, ginger, cloves, mace and salt into a separate large bowl. (I had massive problems with the dough getting too crumbly and had to fix it, so just to make sure this doesn't happen to you, I'd suggest just mixing the spices, etc., into ONE cup of flour. Then add that cup and mix well. You can then slowly add the remaining flour until the dough is the proper consistency, and if the entire amount isn't needed, at least you have all the spices mixed in).
Slowly add dry ingredients until dough holds together (see above);
Remove dough from bowl and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Divide dough in half, and return one half to refrigerator. Place the other half on a floured work surface. Roll dough to 1/8" thickness, flouring work surface as needed.
Cut out cookies with cookie cutter, dipping cutters into flour to make a neat edge (it's even better if you have a Mickey Gingerbread Man cookie cutter).
Lightly brush cookies with milk and sprinkle with colored sugar (I just flopped the whole thing in a plate of the sugar to coat it well).

Bake until firm and edges begin to darken, 10-14 minutes. Allow cookies to slightly cool on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire racks to completely cool.
Repeat with remaining dough.

 These are really good! I think I like them even better than traditional gingerbread men, since they have more of a shortbread texture and the sugar coating gives then a good crunch. Winner!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Disncy Cruise Line Reimagined Wonder ~ Tiana's Place Restaurant

One of the things I was most excited about when I heard of the Disney Wonder being reimagined was the addition of Tiana's Place from the Princess and the Frog. And this new spot lives up to any and all expectations.
The restaurant replaces Parrot Cay on the Wonder, and instead of entering the tropics as before, you are instead immersed in New Orleans.
Every detail, large and small is spot on and reflects just the sort of upscale, yet warm and inviting space Tiana would love.
From the menu, to the table settings, which includes lily pads, mason jar glasses and the most theft worthy themed plates of any Disney locale, take time to notice it all.
This is all well and good, but what about the food? With a distinct New Orleans vibe, you'll hope this restaurant in on your dining rotation more than once.
I had the delicious meatball appetizer and artichoke ravioli, but found many other options I'd like to try. I guess I'll just have to return!

Did I mention dessert? The menu lights up!
 And the choices are all tempting, but you must try the classic beignets and bread pudding.
It's always Mardi Gras (with Disney sensibilities) at Tiana's so be prepared for beads, a personal visit from your gracious hostess, live jazz music,  and a visit from Louis the Alligator. And of course there's a dance party for you to join in!
The wonderful Disney Imagineers have out done themselves here. Plan to sail on the Disney Wonder soon to experience it all yourself.










Friday, November 11, 2016

Top Five Dining Experiences at Disneyland Park

This title is a little mis-leading. There are way more than five great choices to eat at Disneyland Park, and depending on the day this list could change. However, I do find myself returning over and over to these five. As with all things Disney, don't get too attached to a certain menu item. Things change without warning, so be open to try new offerings.
Two are table service, so will take more time out of your day, while the other three are quick service and you can get in and out fast. In order of cost, here they are.
1. Blue Bayou. This classic and iconic restaurant is truly one of a kind. Although the food is fine and tasty, it's the locale that makes this dining choice an experience. Once you enter, you are in the bayou and it's always evening. You are also IN the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Boats drift slowly by and if you listen closely you can hear the faint screams as the drops on the ride are enjoyed.

A staple is the gumbo as a starter, so give that a try, as well as the shrimp cocktail.. They always seem to offer salmon on the kid's meal, so if you have an adventurous youngster in your group, it's a popular choice..

2. River Belle Terrace. This restaurant was once a favorite of Walt's as the view is a wonderful one of the Rivers of America. Recently changed from a quick service to a table service location, it's worth a visit for an interesting menu and great locale. Try the ribs.
3. French Market. Located in New Orleans Square area, this locale offers a good variety of regional tastes, like Po Boys, as well as standards. Nice.

4. Jolly Holiday Bakery. Located on the left hand side at the end of Main Street USA, this beautifully themed restaurant offers nice breakfast offerings in addition to standards for the rest of the day. They also have a wide variety of tempting treats on display. Quiche for breakfast and Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese sandwich for lunch are favorites. Its great to sit on the patio and people watch.

5. Corn Dog at the Red Wagon. Is this a Quick Service location? Not sure. It's just a wagon located by the Plaza Inn on the right hand side of the street. You stand in the always there line to get the best freshly made hand dipped corndogs ever. You can go eat at the outside area of the Plaza Inn. This is a good time to sneak in a 6th choice. Lunch and dinner at the Plaza Inn are wonderful with the Fried Chicken and Roast Beef plates both big winners.
Hungry yet?









Monday, October 24, 2016

Disney's Grand Floridian 1900 Park Fare Southern Spoon Bread Recipe

I'd always heard of spoon bread, but never actually tried it until I make this heritage Disney recipe. It's not actually a bread, but more of a savory pudding, and it does eat better with a spoon. For homey comfort food, this is a great side dish..or bread...or pudding. Whatever. Just enjoy it.


2!/2 cups water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup yellow corn meal
1 1/2 cups milk
5 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat over to 350 degrees
Combine water, butter, sugar, and salt in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, add corn meal slowly, and stir until thick.
Remove from heat. Place mixture in a large bowl. Blend in milk, then eggs, then baking powder.
Pour batter into a 9x13x2-inch greased cake pan.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve warm, with a spoon.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Disneyland's NEW PhotoPass+ Program


One thing constant about all things Disney is change. I was a long time fan of the old PhotoPass+ program (see  ), and was saddened when it all disappeared during my trip in January of 2016. The worst part was that no one seemed to know what was coming, so we were given different answers every time a question was asked, and the program changed without notice mid trip. Essentially, the program went to a $39.99 per DAY charge. An OK price if you knew this and jam packed every character encounter to one day, and didn't mind not getting any ride photos. No thank you.
Therefore, I was glad to see the announcement of a new program that ties in the per day choice with a per trip option.

To recap:

First off, what IS PhotoPass and how is it ‘plussed’?
PhotoPass is Disney’s version of having your own professional photographer along with you on your vacation. As you go around the parks you will notice folks in their blue pants and light blue shirts standing by perfect photo spots. Before you have your first picture taken, you are given a PhotoPass card which identifies the photos taken with it. You can use the same card for your entire stay, but be sure and take a picture of the back of the card with your phone so you have the number in case the card is lost. In many cases the photographer will ask you to mime a movement. This is so something special can be added to your photo before you view it…Tinkerbell in your hands, holding balloons, pointing at Stitch, etc.
PhotoPass is available on your phone or through the website:

Mobile: Disneyland App

New options are:
Disney PhotoPass+ One Week. Basically you get all the pictures linked in your PhotoPass account for a seven say period, including some attraction and dining photos. This new product can be purchased for $69 online before, during or after a visit to Disneyland..
 Disney PhotoPass+ One Day is what they began offering in January 2016 and runs $39 at or in the Disneyland mobile app.

Disney PhotoPass Collection ($99 plus tax)
Option includes Digital downloads of all Disney PhotoPass photos linked to your account when you redeem, plus a voucher for a dining print package (cannot be redeemed online, only at dining location).  You also receive a disc of standard Disney images.

This option must be purchased in the parks at PhotoPass, dining or ride locations that offer PhotoPass service.

Disney PhotoPass Collection + Disc ($119 plus tax)

This option is the closest to the previous PhotoPass+ option, although more expensive than the no longer offered pre pay option. With this choice you get a DVD disc with all Disney PhotoPass photos in your account at the time of purchase, plus the voucher for a Dining Print Package, plus the disc with the Disney images.

This product can only be purchased at a Disney PhotoPass Sales Center!


Saturday, September 10, 2016

World of Color Dessert Dining Package Disney California Adventure

Let's face it. The best thing about any special event package that includes a show is a chair. Oh, the food is lovely, the service friendly, the views (usually) great, but the true star is the chair. No jockeying for position to see around the lady with big hair, or fighting off the constant crush of folks trying to creep closer. Or worse, while having to sit, no hard bum numbing concrete to park on hoping your falling asleep legs don't kick someone. Fantasmic used to have a lovely dessert party (see:  ). It was a sad day when that was replaced with a dining package with 'preferred viewing' on the concrete (see: )And, the little foam pad they gave you sit on didn't help.

So I was thrilled to see that, for the first time, an option was now available for a World of Color Dessert party...with a chair! I've tried the other options for 'preferred' viewing with dining packages for this show with mixed results, still having to stand, and occasionally actually have a worse view than with just taking my chances with the FastPasses.
I'm happy to report that Disney finally has gotten this right! For a pre-paid amount of $79.00 (including taxes and gratuity), you are smoothly lined up at a well marked designated spot on Paradise Pier. You are checked in as in a restaurant, where your table with chairs is assigned. You may be given a choice of a regular table or a taller one with pub type chairs. Choose the latter. The added height helps a great deal with the view of the show.
You are served your dessert plate, on a real plate, and offered beverages, including those with alcohol. How very lovely!

See all those folks standing in front of you being uncomfortable? Not you, you eat and drink and visit with table mates until the show begins.
Folks promptly hoist their kids on their shoulders. No bother, you can still mostly see.
This added priced event is completely worth it! I hope Disney keeps it around for awhile. World of Color's enjoyment factor skyrockets with a good view, not to mention nice snacks, a bubbly drink, and, of course, a chair.