Dining at Disney – Sanaa

Time for another disclosure, this is my second favorite restaurant at Disney World and there are days I have difficulty making that ranking decision between Sanaa and California Grill. They are dramatically different restaurants both in food and price, but the quality shines through in both locations. The food is so unique here that we verify all of our dishes are nut and fish free so that we all can share bites of everything.

I remember our first visit to Sanaa and encouraging my husband and boys to try the bread service with all of the toppings, they weren’t sure about it, but I had visited India and knew how good this could be. Sanaa executes this perfectly and we now order it every time we visit; yesterday was no exception and it vanished quickly.


We ordered a South African wine to pair with our food; most of the menu is African and Indian flavors and my husband and I learned long ago that a wine local to the type of food will pair well.


All of our dishes were amazing, and I have sincere compliments to the chef; that original visit inspired me to bring lamb into my own cooking. My eldest ordered the lamb shank, on our original trip it was the youngest, and I tought them both to make sure they get the marrow from inside the bone as well as the meat from outside. After the duration of cooking it’s perfect. The meat simply falls off of the bone when you pick it up: perfection.


I selected the duck; I can’t get it fresh and I haven’t had success reproducing recipes with frozen so this has not made it into my repertoire. It was served a perfect medium rare, with very crispy skin and duck confit (made from the legs and thighs) on the side. Like the lamb and other red meats, when cooked correctly it simply melts in your mouth.


My husband opted for the Braaivleis, a trio of grilled meats; the meats aren’t ever listed on the menu as they are subject to change. His came with pork tenderloin, lamb chops, and a boar meat sausage. All were perfect and flavorful, with the sausage as a clear favorite of my husband and boys due to the unique flavor profile.


My youngest selected the Spicy Durban Shrimp with Aloo Masala after researching all of the terms so that he knew what he was ordering. Again, another amazing dish, the shrimp were full of flavor, and we may have to start ordering extra bread to soak up the sauces.


When it comes to nuts, the desserts are different story and my eldest made sure he ate enough that he didn’t want dessert. My youngest got the Spice Trade Candy Bar and my husband and I split the Kenyan Coffee Petit Entremet. Both were amazing.

  

If you are willing to be a bit more daring in food options, definitely try Sanaa.


Dining at Disney – Via Napoli

Yesterday we enjoyed another favorite, not for dinner, but rather for a very late lunch. We try to do this at least once during our longer trips at Disney to get a pizza “fix” which we enjoy at home at least once a week. Via Napoli, is our well-established favorite for this with their flour imported from Italy, San Marzano tomatoes, and in-house made mozzarella. In the future, we may have to try Blaze in Disney Springs…maybe.

The meal is simple, red sangria, an appetizer (prosciutto and melon this time), a family style salad, and a large pizza.


The melon and prosciutto is easy to do at home, the saltiness of the prosciutto and the melon are simply a perfect complement. This is a very elegant simple appetizer on skewers if you are looking for something unique. And the salad was loaded with tomatoes, cucumber, green and Kalamata olives, marinated mushrooms, and peperocini and peppadew peppers with a simple red wine vinaigrette was perfect in the heat of the day.


We followed this with a pizza with some of our favorite toppings; this is always the difficult decision since we love them all. We selected Italian sausage, pancetta, and pepperoni.

All good!


We rounded out the day with snacks as we got hungry.

Dining at Disney – The Boathouse

My husband made yesterday’s reservations based on a recommendation from a friend. It is one of the new restaurants located in Disney Springs and it is right on the water. They have a collection of vintage Amphicars (they go straight from the road into the water) that you can take tours of the lake on. The evening was nice, so we elected to sit outside and enjoy the view. We began our meal with wine and bread.

  

They have a very good raw bar and we elected to have a dozen oysters as a starter, on a good/bad note the raw bar was so backed up that they didn’t arrive until our meal, but the manager made it more than right and they were really good. We had selected the Lucky Dux oysters which are harvested in Massachusetts for the Boathouse. They were served with a classic cocktail sauce loaded with horseradish and a cucumber mignonette (cucumber, garlic, lime, oil); I could not decide which complemented them better. 


For the table, my husband ordered Truffle Fries with Lemon Aioli; we rarely eat fries so these were a treat, even more so since they were tossed the the truffle oil and freshly minced garlic and parsley. They did however deliver a huge bowl of these, since we have plenty left I am considering turning them into hash browns or making a hash with those and the shrimp (see next paragraph) this morning. I thought I had a better picture, this will have to suffice.


Concerned about the portion sizes after looking around I selected a cup of Maine Lobster Bisque and the Firecracker Shrimp appetizer as my dinner (especially in consideration of the oysters and fries). I was right and still brought back over half of the shrimp. (I still need to get lobster bisque into my recipes.) The shrimp really were deserving of their name; I had been looking for some spicy food and these delivered. The shrimp are very lightly fried with sliced Serrano and sweet peppers, and then tossed in the sriracha mayo; wow.

  

My husband selected the New Smyrna Beach Wild Cobia from their daily fish features; it was cooked perfectly and well complemented by the roasted vegetables.  


My youngest select the Grilled Fresh Fish Tacos, which arrived with huge chunks of fish (we forgot to ask the variety) and avocado along with a jalapeño-lime crema. He simply devoured the plate and commented that they were amazing. He did have enough space to help me with a few shrimp, taste my husband’s cobia, and devour some fries.


My eldest, with the fish allergy, selected the Grilled Sea of Cortez Shrimp & Grits. Somehow I didn’t get to taste this either, he said it was delicious and that the grits were amazing.


This was certainly some of the best seafood we have had, not only at Disney, and we will be returning!

  

Disney Dining – Homecomin’

Day two we elected to try one of the many new restaurants in Disney Springs, Homecomin’. The house specialties are moonshine and fried chicken. 

We decided to start with drinks and fried green tomatoes. The drinks arrived quickly, I had a Muleshine in respect of the specialty and my husband opted for the Basil Smash. Both were good drinks, but slightly sweet.

  
The fried green tomatoes were simply awesome with a salad of spinach, watercress, and arugula.

My husband and I split the hangar steak cooked medium rare with a side of Southern coke slaw. The steak was cooked perfectly and they split the plate for us (just nice). Good call by the chef, the menu said asparagus and there was none on the plate; it’s out of season and would not have been as good as the tender zucchini. The slaw was crisp and fresh, but with it being Southern slaw, I was expecting a hint if jalapeño; definitely good, but no heat at all.

  

My boys had two different fried chicken meals, the famous fried chicken and fried chicken with doughnuts. The seasoning was good, the skin was amazing, but the chicken itself was a touch on the dry side. The mashed potatoes were creamy and buttery. My son said that the doughnuts tasted as if they were fresh from the apple orchard. (If you are not from Michigan, that is high praise.)

  
So, in summary, it was a good option for our late lunch/early dinner, the ingredients were clearly fresh and high quality. It won’t make my list of favorites, but it’s certainly an alternative for classic Southern food at Disney.

Dinner for Two

With our eldest in France and our youngest with activities that run through dinner we are finding ourselves learning what life will be like once they in turn leave for college. Tonight’s dinner is just the two of us and there are no allergies to contend with. When I went to the store, I had most of a grocery list, but only fish in mind for tonight. At the meat counter I pursued the selection and was excited to find beautiful yellowfin tuna (1¼” thick steaks)  for only $10/lb. and that is all we needed! With the weather abnormally awesome today (66 and sunny – in Michigan) I quickly decided on grilled tuna with a citrus pepper crust, lemon garlic broccoli, and couscous. I also came across shishito peppers in the produce section and decided that they would make a great appetizer. 

I started by making the citrus pepper marinade/crust by zesting ½ of an orange, lemon, and lime and adding the juice from the lemon and lime halves. (I always cut the end off the lemon so it juices better.) 

  
I then chopped the leaves of a few sprigs of parsley and a sprig of basil that I had on hand. 

    
I added a very generous amount of pepper, about ½ teaspoon of coarse salt and two very large cloves of garlic, then covered the mix with olive oil (1-2 Tbsp.).

      
Then I patted the tuna dry with paper towels and coated them with the marinade and set them aside. (You need to wait at least 20 minutes, but can set them in the fridge for up to an hour.)

  
I also cleaned the peppers and the broccoli. 

  
The peppers are simple, cook them in hot oil over medium heat until they blister, ~3-5 minutes. When they are done, drain them briefly on paper towels, squeeze fresh lemon (¼ lemon/pound) on them, and sprinkle them with coarse sea salt. (YUM!!! This was inspired by a dish at The Sardine Room in Plymouth.) 

          


While we had our tasty appetizer, I was heating the grill. 

After our appetizer I started the couscous and broccoli, adding the lemon to the broccoli after 5 minutes and with only 5 minutes left on the couscous I started the tuna on the hot grill. 

        

  
The tuna should be served rare, so it only takes 2½ minutes per side. After the first side, I added the garlic to the broccoli. 

  
All was perfect. 

Cheesy Artichoke Tarts

Happy New Year!

We are so close to starting off a new year which for us, will include a lot of changes. We are headed off to a dressy party with good friends and I’ll be taking over an appetizer as I did last year. This year I selected a recipe that I have made before, one I found years ago on a box of Land O’Lakes butter.

It’s VERY easy, and good as written, even though, as you will see in the pictures, today I substituted roasted red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts.

As always, I got out my ingredients:


And then I prepped my pans. It says to use a non-stick spray (which is fine), but I’m not a fan of propellants in my food, so I use a light olive oil in a Pampered Chef spray bottle for this task.


Then the cheeses, pepper, and mustard go into the mixer, followed by the chopped artichoke hearts and bell peppers.

  

  

  

  
Just like making chocolate chip cookies, two spoons are the best tools for the job of filling the wonton cups.


I’m baking them just before we head out and topping them with chopped parsley.

Have a great evening and a wonderful start to the new year!


Cheesy Artichoke Tarts

Paprika Recipe File

Cook 18-20 minutes ∙ Makes 32 appetizers ∙ Difficulty Easy ∙ Source Land o’Lakes
INGREDIENTS

  • 36 won ton wrappers, 3½” squares
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 14 ounces artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
  • parsley, fresh, chopped (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 36 miniature muffin cups with no-stick cooking spray. Gently press 1 won ton wrapper into each muffin cup, allowing ends to extend above cups. Spray edges of wrappers with no-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine cheese, cream cheese, ground red pepper and mustard in medium bowl; mix well. Stir in bell pepper and artichoke hearts. Spoon about 1 tablespoon cheese mixture into each cup.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until cheese mixture is set and edges of wrappers are lightly browned. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve warm.

Savory and Sweet

A New Year’s party also needs appetizer treats, not just dessert. So, I also decided to make a savory treat. My MIL brought these over for Christmas Eve and I had to send the boys away from the kitchen just to ensure that the rest of us got to enjoy a few. She didn’t really have a recipe, but I have put one together to make it easier to share.

Proscuitto Pear Cups

Prep 30 mins ∙ Cook 15 mins ∙ Makes 48 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 24 thin slices proscuitto, cut in half
  • 2 pears, diced in ¼” cubes
  • ~5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • olive oil
  • crushed black pepper
  • 8 oz. crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 T. chopped fresh thyme

DIRECTIONS

Press ½ slice of proscuitto into 48 mini muffin cups and bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes to form crisp cups.

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While they bake, sauté the pears in a touch of olive oil with the sprigs of thyme and a couple quick grinds of black pepper.

When the cups are done set them on your serving tray and put goat cheese in the bottom of each cup. Follow with a layer of pears. Sprinkle the remaining goat cheese over everything and then follow with the chopped thyme.

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Happy New Year! Welcome 2016 and goodbye to 2015!

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Round 3

Today was indeed leftovers… but they were hard to find in the final dish.

We eat dinner at around 6 on Thanksgiving, so we do have appetizers near the game. Each year I invite both family and friends; one of those friends brought a red pepper and fennel appetizer.


Not only beautiful they were also delicious (and she gave me the recipe!). She made two dozen, and although we had 20 people this was more than enough with the other appetizers and dinner on the way. She mentioned that she had used the leftovers in the past to make a pasta sauce and a soup. The pasta sauce idea stuck with me and we split the leftovers.

When I made my weekly menu, I knew I needed a protein (the men of my house insist); I decided on Caprese Chicken.

Today, I pulled the peppers out of the fridge with my chicken and set to prepping my dinner. I started by making a quick pesto (2 small packages of basil (3.4 ounces each) and 1 minced clove of garlic chopped in a food processor and then process in salt, pepper, and shredded parmesan, finishing with just enough olive oil to spread it). I spread this on my 4 chicken breasts and then baked it at 400 for 25 minutes. While it was baking, I boiled water for pappardelle pasta and set to work on peppers. I used 6 of peppers; my first task was peeling the peppers and then I chopped them before tossing them in a large skillet.


I heated them through while the pasta cooked to al dente. Just before the pasta was done I topped each of the chicken breasts with 2 large basil leaves, sliced plum tomatoes, and sliced fresh mozzarella and returned them to the oven for 5 minutes longer.

I then tossed the pasta directly in the sauce and served.



Roasted Red Peppers Stuffed with Fennel

Makes 8 as a first course
INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large red peppers
  • 2 small bulbs fennel
  • 1 x 14 oz (400 g) tin Italian plum tomatoes
  • 8 dessert spoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 rounded teaspoon mixed pepper berries
  • ¾ level teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • ½ level teaspoon fennel seeds
  • juice ½ lemon
  • finely chopped spring onion for garnish (optional)
  • sea salt

DIRECTIONS

Slice each pepper in half lengthways, cutting right through the green stalk end and leaving it intact; though it won’t be eaten, it adds much to the look of the thing. Remove all the seeds.

Place the pepper halves on the baking sheet, then drain the tomatoes (you don’t need the juice), and divide them into eight equal portions, placing each portion inside a pepper half.

Now pare off any brownish bits of fennel with your sharpest knife and cut the bulbs first into quarters and then again into eighths, carefully keeping the layers attached to the root ends.

Now put them in a saucepan with a little salt, pour boiling water on them and blanch them for 5 minutes. Then drain them in a colander and, as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, arrange two slices in each pepper half.

Sprinkle 1 dessert spoon of olive oil over each one, using a brush to brush the oil round the edges and sides of the peppers.

Next, lightly crush the pepper berries, coriander and fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar or rolling pin and bowl, sprinkle these evenly all over the fennel and peppers, and finish off with a grinding of sea salt.

Then bake the peppers for about 1 hour on a high shelf in the oven until they are soft and the skin wrinkled and nicely tinged with brown.

After removing them from the oven, sprinkle the lemon juice all over, cool and serve garnished with a little finely chopped spring onion or as they are.

Pesto

Cook 10 minutes ∙ Makes 4 ∙ Difficulty Easy

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups basil leaves, fresh, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a food processor, pulse the basil and garlic until roughly chopped. With the machine on, slowly pour in the oil until just blended. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper and mix until just blended.

Caprese Chicken

Prep 5 ∙ Cook 30 ∙ Makes 4
INGREDIENTS

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 8 basil leaves, large
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced (optional)
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Place chicken in a medium sized baking dish and coat with pesto.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Remove from oven; top with basil, tomatoes, and cheese. Bake for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Happy Halloween!

We have great friends who have hosted a fabulous Halloween party for number of years. I am so happy that we have been able to attend the past few years. This year was no exception:


I was happy this year that my offer to contribute was accepted; I am happiest when I can share good food (although they had plenty). I brought 3 new items that can all be made in advance.

Monster Eyeballs

 

Monster Eyeballs

makes about 80 eyeballs ∙ source Epicurious.com | October 2009
INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ cups creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 (3-ounce) package miniature M&Ms

DIRECTIONS

1. Blend the peanut butter with the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. (I recommend a pastry blender or your hands.)

2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper. Roll the peanut butter mixture by teaspoons into small balls and place on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm up the eyeballs.


3. Put the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and melt the chocolate in the microwave: Heat on high for 60 seconds, and then stir well. If it’s not quite smooth, heat in two or three 10-second bursts, stirring well after each burst. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, in a double boiler, over just-simmering water. Avoid overheating, which can cause chocolate to seize up into a stiff mass.)

4. Take the sheet of balls from the refrigerator; use a fork or a toothpick to dip each one most of the way into the chocolate, leaving a round or oval opening of undipped peanut butter on top. (This opening in the chocolate will be the cornea.) Hold each ball over the chocolate to catch the drips, and then return to the wax paper, cornea side up.


 5. Place an M&M in the center of the peanut butter cornea to make an iris. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store the eyeballs in the refrigerator or freezer and serve chilled.

 

Scary Barbecue Snack Mix


Scary Barbecue Snack Mix

(Way better than Chex Mix and good for all of fall (football season), not just Halloween.)

makes 8 servings ∙ source Gourmet | October 2012

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 cups popcorn (1½ ounces; see Cooks’ notes)
  • 2 cups coarsely broken blue corn tortilla chips (2¾ ounces)
  • 2 cups Cheddar fish-shaped crackers or other cheese crackers (3¾ ounces)
  • 2 cups corn nuts (6½ ounces) or smokehouse almonds (or 1 cup of both)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (sometimes labeled pimentón dulce)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco (optional)
  • Special equipment: Large (18- by 13-inch) rimmed baking sheet

DIRECTIONS

  • Heat oven to 300°F with rack in middle. Grease rimmed baking sheet with oil.
  • Combine popcorn, tortilla chips, cheese crackers, and corn nuts in a large bowl.

  • Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove pan from heat and whisk in barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, paprika, chili and garlic powders, and Tabasco, if using.
  • Drizzle barbecue sauce mixture over snack mix and stir until combined well.

  • Evenly spread mixture in baking sheet and bake, stirring and turning mixture over every 10 minutes, for a total of 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack (it will crisp as it cools), then break into pieces.



NOTES

Cooks’ notes: Snack mix keeps in an airtight container for up to 1 week. If you want to pop your own popcorn, we recommend using a hot-air popper. To end up with at least 6 cups, use 1/4 cup kernels.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle  (so sad, I forgot to take a picture)

makes 16 ∙ source Bon Appétit | November 2013
INGREDIENTS

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • A candy thermometer

DIRECTIONS

Spray a parchment-lined baking sheet with nonstick spray; set aside. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 3 Tbsp. water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Fit saucepan with thermometer and cook until thermometer registers 290°, 3–4 minutes.

Stir in pumpkin seeds, butter, and kosher salt and cook, stirring often, until pale brown and thermometer registers 305°, 3–4 minutes.

Stir in baking soda and cinnamon (mixture will bubble vigorously), then immediately pour caramel onto prepared sheet. Using a heatproof spatula, quickly spread out and sprinkle with sea salt; let cool. Break brittle into pieces.

Do Ahead: Brittle can be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight, layered between sheets of parchment paper, at room temperature.