Friday, October 8, 2010

Boardwalk Brownies

Wow... this year has been crazy and it has made it hard to keep up with my adventures in cooking.  First of all, I moved into a place that has a teeny, tiny kitchen... so it is hard to keep organized and find counter space to actually cook.  Also, I got married in late August (yay!), so I was dieting most of the summer.  It is hard to lose weight for your wedding and also make Disney treats!

But now that things have settled down, it is time to dive into the thousands of recipes (literally) I have on my "have to try" wish list.  The hard thing is choosing what delectable treat to do next.

Well, I had a little bit of help from my in-laws, since they requested brownies for their birthdays.  The first birthday was my Step-Father-In-Law's, and he wanted chocolate brownies with frosting.  After perusing my recipes, I found the Boardwalk Brownie recipe (from Disney's Boardwalk Bakery) and then I added a frosting that I got from the Pioneer Woman (she has a great cookbook and website).

Here are the ingredients for the brownies...

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. The original recipe states 330 degrees, which seems weird... so we are going with 350!

Start with 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed, 1 1/8 cups cocoa powder and 1 cup light corn syrup (yep, there's a *little* bit of sugar in this recipe!)

Cream the ingredients together.  I used my handy-dandy Kitchen Aid Mixer.

Then add 6 eggs, one at a time...

You can see what the dough looked like before the eggs, on the top of the mixing paddle...and the creamy goodness that appeared when I mixed in the eggs on the bottom of the paddle.

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add 6 Tablespoons canola oil.   Mix.

Next, add 2 cups all-purpose flour.  Mix until it is all incorporated. 

Then line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment.  This is something I have never done before and it made life so much easier!  It was so easy to life the brownies out of the pan after they had cooled.  Make sure that you leave yourself extra parchment on two sides, to use as handles when you need to pull the brownies out.  

Pour in the chocolate-y goodness...

Spread it out as evenly as you can...

Then put the brownies in the oven for at least 35-40 minutes.  Since everyone's oven is different, keep checking them every 5 minutes at the 35 minute mark.  The original recipe says to bake for 15 minutes and that is just crazy talk.  It must be a typo and they probably meant 45 minutes. 

Ok, when the brownies are almost done, start preparing the frosting.  Now, the Disney recipe didn't include a frosting, but frosting had been requested, so I wasn't going to disappoint!  This is a recipe for an icing that went on a chocolate sheet cake, so I thought it would work.

First, melt 1 3/4 sticks of butter in a pan.

Then add 4 Tablespoons cocoa powder.

Stir and simmer, and then turn off the heat. 

Add 6 Tablespoons milk (I used skim since that is what I had in the house) and 1 tsp vanilla.

Stir and then add just about 1 pound of powdered sugar. 


I decided to switch over to a whisk to take care of any lumps...

Then admire your baked brownies...

 ...and smooth the frosting over the warm brownies.

Add decorations (candies, nuts) if you like.  I put some little Mickey Mouse sprinkles on top.

The frosting did wrinkle a bit as it cooled, but it didn't make it taste bad :)

Side view... after pulling the brownies out of the pan with the parchment (this helped sooo much!)

 I should have let them cool some more before cutting them, but I was in a rush to bring them to the birthday party, so they don't look as pretty as they might have.

A piece of frosted Boardwalk Brownie... 

As you can see, the texture of these brownies were very, very fudge-y and dense.  In a good way.

So, that is my experience making the Boardwalk Brownies.   They were delicious and were a hit at the birthday party.  The great thing about both of these recipes, but especially the brownies, is that it really only requires pantry items.  I always have cocoa in the house, and this is a great way to turn it into a decadant treat, when you absolutely have to have something chocolate-y!

When I visit Walt Disney World in November, I will have to buy one of the brownies from the Boardwalk Bakery and see how close my brownies are to the original.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Disney's California Food & Wine Festival

Here is my "better late than never" blog post on the day I spent at Disney's California Food & Wine Festival way back April.  I had a great time attending a few of the culinary and wine demonstrations. 

I was a bit concerned that the demonstration area looked a little small... and I wondered how long I would have to wait in line if I wanted to make sure I got a seat.   But a kind Cast Member said that if I got in line about 45 minutes early, I would be okay.  That didn't seem too bad to me. 

The first demonstration of the day was by Bret Thompson, of MILK cafe/bakeshop in Los Angeles.  I hadn't heard of him or his shop at the time, but oddly enough I just saw him on the Food Network today competing on "Cupcake Wars".  So, maybe he is a culinary star in the making. 

Along with his Executive Pastry Chef, David Baker (yes, that's his real name), he proceded to make Banana Dulce de Leche Ice Cream with Almonds and a topping of Banana's Foster. 

His easy receipe for making Dulce de Leche is to just take a can of condensed milk and slowly simmer the unopened can in water for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  Cool the can completely and then when you open it you will have a lovely caramel.  I remember a friend's mother doing this when I was a kid, and I couldn't believe that the condensed milk could transform into something so delicious.  I haven't done it myself, but I have to say I am going to have to give it a try.

Along with the ice cream, the duo also made Anzac cookies, which originate from Austrailia.  They are basically an oatmeal and coconut cookie with macadamia nuts.

I was pleasantly surprised by the generous size of the food sample (and the bottle of water Disney provided each audience member).   The quality of the food was very good, although I am not a huge fan of banana or coconut. So, neither the ice cream, nor the cookie would be something I would make myself.  The ice cream was very, very banana-y.. so, not a winner for me.  However, the cookie was delicious.  I couldn't really taste the coconut (a plus to me) and it was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Yum! 

Unfortunately, Bret did not have printed recipes to give out to the audience.  Instead, he directed everyone to his cafe's website.  However when I went to the the site, I could not find the recipes for these particular treats.  There is a recipe for a delicious-sounding double chocolate cookie... which I think I might like better, so I will not complain too much.  The website is and the recipe is under the Press section. 

Overall, the presentation was entertaining, but since it was hard to follow the actual cooking... and there was no recipe to take home, it wasn't as informative as I was hoping.

The second presentation of the day was by Greg Stillman, who is Executive Chef of Naples Restaurant in Downtown Disney and previously was the chef at Catal (also in Downtown Disney).  I had been hoping for some Italian cooking, but instead Greg decided to present a Spanish dish... Gazpacho.

Greg suggested using a Vita-Prep blender, as he says it is THE BEST.  Well, I hope it is, because I researched it and they run $500 and up.  Yikes!  I think I will stick with my food processor.

For the Gazpacho, he rough chopped in the blender:
1/2 red onion
a cucumber (the regular skin kind, not the english kind... he feels there is more flavor)
2 plum tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
2 red bell peppers
a serrano pepper (remove the ribs and seeds for less heat)
smoked paprika
apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper

He combined all of the ingredients into the blender and then chilled the gazpacho... but he did not strain it.  He really likes to have the texture of some of the vegetable pieces and not have it completely smooth.  His recipe is also different from a lot of gazpachos because it is more vegetable (red peppers, cucumbers, etc.) and less tomato. 

Chef Stillman also added a shrimp sauted with harissa as a lovely accent to the soup.  The whole dish was beautiful and delicious.




I really enjoyed the smokey flavor of the gazpacho and the fact that I could really taste the red bell pepper and cucumber.  It was refreshing and had a bit of a kick to it.  The shrimp didn't have a pronounced flavor from the harissa, but it was cooked nicely and went well with the soup.  Chef Stillman suggested that a nice dab of avocado would be great on top as well ... and I agree.  That would put it over-the-top.

Well, since this is getting long, I will end this post here.  I will continue with my "coverage" of the food & wine festival (including a wine seminar) in my next post. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chilled Strawberry Soup from 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort

I must disclose that I don't remember ever eating the Strawberry Soup from the buffets at 1900 Park Fare, but when flipping through my Disney recipes I thought that it sounded interesting.  Some people might think it sounds weird... like my sweet fiance who didn't complain when he thought that the soup was what we were having for dinner... not dessert.  He also thought it was going to be warm... ewww.  He was very relieved to learn that it would be cold and sweet... and we would have something more substantial for our entree.

Another reason I decided to make this soup is that I bought a HUGE bag of frozen strawberries from Costco, with the best intention of making heathy smoothies for breakfast every day.  Well, that didn't happen.  So these strawberries had been taking up half of my freezer for a long time.  Time to use them up!

The recipe is so very easy.  I defrosted 2 1/2 pounds of frozen strawberries and placed them in a large bowl.  In the bowl I added 2 cups of heavy cream... this is not a light recipe  :)

Next, add in 1/4 cup sour cream...

... and a 1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used greek yogurt)

Then, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, if your strawberries need it. 

As you can see, this is super simple.  Just adding ingredients to one bowl.  Next, take a hand blender (or put all of this into a regular blender) and blend to a smooth consistency.  

Isn't it a pretty pink?

After chilling for an hour or so, I served it in bowls with a dollop of yogurt.  Those more talented than me might be able to dollop the yogurt in the form of a mickey head :)

So that's it!  My review of the soup is that it was good, but not great.  The creaminess was delicious, but it wasn't sweet enough for me (and I added extra sugar).  I think that it might have been better if I had used strawberries that were frozen in syrup and then used that syrup in the soup.  My Costco strawberries did not have any added sugar. 

This made such a  large vat of soup that I ended up making strawberry ice cream the next day... by using the soup as my ice cream base in my ice cream maker.  That turned out well, although even with more sugar added, just not sweet enough.

Nevertheless, this recipe was very simple and can be easily adapted for different tastes.  I bet it would still be good if someone wanted to make a lighter version with half and half and reduced fat sour cream and yogurt.  I am eager to try this soup at 1900 Park Fare the next time I visit WDW, and see if I came close to the original.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Disneyland food pics and reviews...

Hi everyone...

It has been awhile since I have posted, the holidays got the best of me... but that doesn't mean I haven't been visiting Disneyland (and eating!). 

I am going to post a few pics of items I ate at the Disneyland Resort over the past few months and I am going to try to be better about keep it up-to-date.

October 23, 2009... I told you I have to go back a ways :)

I decided to have lunch at one of my favorite sitdown spots in Disneyland, Cafe Orleans.  I love sitting outside and watching the world go by.  Also, I always have received excellent service.  I tend to judge good service in a restaurant based on how many times I get my Diet Coke refilled and let's just say I almost float away when I leave this restaurant!

I really wanted the Pommes Frites (French  fries covered in garlic and parmesan cheese) even though I was eating alone and I wouldn't be able to finish them... they are soooooo good.

And because I felt odd just eating fries for lunch, I also ordered a cup of the New Orleans Gumbo.

This was very good as well.  Thick and hearty, with a little bit of a kick to it.  A winner. 

Being right before Halloween, I also took a few shots of the cute holiday food items.

I think there was some sort of chocolate mousse inside the Mickey mug, but I did not purchase it.  Looking at how cute that mug is, now I wish I had!  There are Nutty Caramel Apple Cupcakes on the left.

November  6, 2009:

This was a decidedly non-gourmet day in the park.  In a rush to find get something for lunch, I popped into Redd Rockett's Pizza Port.  In the past I have purchased the spaghetti with ginormous meatballs or a pizza slice, but they have changed over to mini meatballs... and they didn't look good to me.  I ordered something different and got the Chicken Fusilli in a cream sauce.  Pardon the bad picture taken with my cell phone:


The flavor was alright... cheesy and a nice garlic taste, but the texture was a little goopy for me.  It filled me up, it fact it was way too much food for one person, but I wasn't really satisfied. 

November 13, 2009

This week I was in the mood to try the Plaza Inn for lunch.  I had taken my nephew to the Minnie & Friends character breakfast a few times (which is GREAT), but hadn't tried lunch or dinner here in quite a while. I couldn't resist the fried chicken platter and am so glad I ordered it. 

The chicken was delicously crispy and a huge portion.  Easily splitable.  The biscuit and mashed potatoes were also good, but the green beans were a little soggy.  Oh well, who wants to eat grean beans when you have all that chicken?  Another good thing about this restaurant is that it feels like a table service restaurant... nice decor and they clear your trays for you...but it is cafeteria style.  They also allow you to refill your soda at the soda fountains, which I consider a "table service" benefit. 

At the end of the day I also bought a really, really cute caramel apple at the Candy Palace on Main Streeet.

This is my snowman caramel apple :)

It was covered in caramel and then white chocolate.  With candy Mickey ears, chocolate chip eyes, candy nose, m&m buttons and a sour candy strip for the scarf.  It was also beautifully dusted with some sparkle-y sugar.  Almost too pretty to cut... almost...


Awww.... he was delicious!

Ok.... lets move on to November 19, 2009:
It was blissfully uncrowded this day and on a whim I approached the podium at the Blue Bayou to see if they were taking walk-ups. They were! I hadn't been to this restaurant in a while because it is on the pricey side, even for Disney, and the last time I went I wasn't impressed. But, I was in the mood to give it another shot.

The interior of this restaurant is dark and romantic with the lanterns strung across the room.  It is really nice to get a table next to the "water" (the Pirates of the Caribbean ride), however, I didn't ask for... or get one of these prized tables.  When I first arrived, there was a guitarist performing, which was lovely, but he stopped playing soon after I sat down and he didn't come back (he is up on the balcony in this photo).

Here is the menu...

Originally, I had wanted to order the crab cakes, but I asked the waiter if the restaurant just ordered frozen crab cakes... and... they do.  This was disappointing because for $31.00 (for lunch!), I think that they should be making fresh crab cakes.  Moving on...   I have had the monte cristo sandwich both here and at Cafe Orleans before, so it wasn't a bold move, but I figured I couldn't go wrong with that choice.

They started me out with some delicious bread.  I knew I was going to be too full for my entree, but I couldn't resist.

And the cutest butter (Hidden Mickey!)...

Each meal includes a cup of gumbo or salad, and I chose the gumbo.  It was very good. 


Then my monte cristo sandwich arrive, with a side of scalloped potatoes and some side vegetables.

This monte cristo was nicely crispy on the outside, yet tender on the inside.  I recently had the monte cristo at Cafe Orleans, and this one was much better.  The Cafe Orleans version was more doughy.  The potatoes were decadent... buttery and cheesy.  And the veggies weren't bad either.  Good thing that is is so dark inside the restaurant... If you can't see the food, it doesn't have any calories, right?

Overall, it was a good experience.

December 9, 2009:

For this trip, I arrived in the evening because I wanted to watch (and videotape) the Holiday fireworks show.  I walked throught the gates of Disneyland just as the Holiday parade was starting on Main Street, so I had to make my way through the crowds to get to the Plaza Inn for dinner.  Everyone was watching the parade, so it was uncrowded inside the restaurant.

I had just gotten engaged this week, and I know that I am going to want to lose weight for our wedding in 2010.  I don't know why I think I can "diet" at Disneyland (not that they don't have any healthy options... they do..  I just don't have the willpower), but this night I was looking for a salad.  The Plaza Inn has a cobb salad on the menu which looked pretty healthy until the girl mixing the salad put a ton of salad dressing on it.  Oh well. 

The salad was freshly mixed when I ordered it and came with a soft, yummy breadstick.  It was a delicious meal... not as diet-friendly as I had been hoping for, but very good.

December 18, 2009:

On this visit I decided that I just wanted snacks instead of full meals.  I had just seen a holiday special on the Food Network with Guy Fieri in Disneyland and his son had a peppermint ice cream in a waffle cone that looked fantastic.  THAT was what I was in the mood for. 





Okay.  On that delicious note, I am going to end this looooong blog post.  I will pick up my eating adventures in my next post :)