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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cooking Disney - Hoop-Dee-Doo Cornbread and Honey Butter Love-fest!

One of my FAVORITE things about Disney World is the food!  I could spend most of my Disney time eating and when I am not in Disney; their food occupies a good portion of my thoughts.  I spend a great deal of my free time reading articles on DisneyFoodBlog.com and browsing menus on AllEars.net.  I am even in the process of organizing an eating schedule to optimize my snacking through the parks and other resort spots for my next visit in January ( I know, guys, I KNOW…).

One of my absolute favorite ways to have a little bit of Disney at home is to cook their recipes.   I own one of the original “Cooking With Mickey” cookbooks (Volume 2), it has many great classic recipes that have since been replaced on Disney menus, but I also get many recipes from internet sources like the recipes section of the Dining tab on AllEars.net. 

This time around I decided to try my hand at making the Hoop-Dee-Doo cornbread and honey butter.  For those of you who know, the cornbread and honey butter really are the highlight of the Hoop-Dee-Doo dinner.  For those of you who haven’t experienced the creamy, heavenly goodness yet, once you do it will change your life forever.   I was able to find the cornbread recipe on Allears.net, but I had to figure the honey butter out on my own.  Here is the “formal” recipe.   I made some minor changes to the recipe, but it did not affect the final product at all.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup cornmeal (I used 1 and ¼ cups of my own homemade sweet corn meal - recipe follows the honey butter)
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 T. baking powder
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk (I used one cup coconut milk)
2 eggs

Method of Preparation:
1. Blend flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, blend milk, eggs, and oil with a mixer.
3. Using that same mixer, slowly add the blended liquid to the dry ingredients prepared in step 1, mixing just enough to incorporate the wet and dry ingredients.
4. Spray a 9 x 13 in. baking pan with non stick food spray and pour the batter into the pan, spreading evenly.
5. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes. or until golden brown.
6. Allow to cool. 
7. Enjoy!

My changes comprised using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk and 1 ¼ cups of my own home made sweet corn meal.  If anything, these substitutions made the bread sweeter.

Here is my recipe for the Honey Butter:
Ingredients:
2 sticks salted butter warmed to slightly beyond room temperature (you want the butter to be almost runny)
3 TBSPs light clover honey
1 TBSP Vanilla Extract

Method of Preparation:
1. Mix ingredients together (either by hand or with an electric mixer on low) until the butter is creamy and all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated
2. Cover with saran wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving


Homemade Sweet Corn Cornmeal Recipe
Supplies:
Corn of choice (Freshly boiled is best, but frozen works just as well)
Oven set to a low baking temperature (125F – 200 F)
Coffee Grinder

Method of Preparation:
1. If you are using fresh cob corn, boil the corn like you normally would for eating.  About 5-7 minutes.  Slice the kernels off the cob. (If you are using frozen corn, you can obviously skip this step.  Frozen corn is precooked then packaged.) 
2. Spread the corn kernels evenly on a baking sheet.
3. Place your baking sheet in the warmed oven on the center shelf, leaving the oven door slightly ajar for the duration of the drying process (this will prevent the corn from burning).
4. Once the corn is completely dehydrated, remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the kernels into a coffee grinder and grind.  A fine powdered meal is better for muffins while a coarser meal is nice for breads.

FYI:  The dehydration process will take about 6-8 hours depending upon the temperature of the oven and the moisture content of the corn.  A 16 ounce bag of frozen sweet corn yielded approximately 1 ¼ cups of meal.

These recipes are super simple.  It really only requires mixing and the final products are fantastic.  The bread was sweet and moist but had enough of dryness from the corn to prevent the texture from being cake-like.  With the edition of the honey butter, I was instantly transported to Pioneer Hall and ready to wave my red and white checked napkin!

I would like to thank the authors of AllEars.net for their fantastic recipes section.  I would also like to ask if anybody has the original honey butter recipe for the butter served at Pioneer Hall and I would also like to know what you guys think of this post. 


Thank you for reading and look for more of our Cooking Disney adventures.

TTFN!
Kristin

Friday, August 9, 2013

EXTINCT: Taking time to remember some favorite WDW attractions that went the way of the dinosaurs…

Our first family vacation to Walt Disney World was in the summer of 1989.  I remember only a few things about that trip.  One is the sweltering heat.  Another is walking for thirteen hours through capacity-level crowds in the Magic Kingdom.  Yet another is my repeated insistence that Cinderella Castle was a ride, and why wouldn’t anyone take me on the castle ride?  WHY?!!!!! 

And then, I remember Horizons (cue angel music).  Horizons, the awesome ride where you got to take a trip into the future and unitard-clad animatronic people showed you things like robot butlers, exercise equipment for use in zero gravity, and skyscrapers overlooking impossibly clean cities full of happy future people.  There was an instrument that you played by hovering your hands above the right keys.  And an underwater city.  And then, you got to choose your own adventure to get back to the present!  Sigh.  It was one of my favorite rides.  True, my six-year-old self clearly did not understand the implications of a future spent entirely in spandex.  Nor did she understand how quickly Horizons’ overly nostalgic portrayal of the future would become dated and irrelevant.  Now as an adult (in number only), I definitely have a better idea of why this attraction was closed in 1999.  But it’s still fun to daydream sometimes about the “future that never was.”  And to this day, I miss the smell of oranges from the desert farm scene (although you can get a similar citrusy whiff while gliding over the orange groves in Soarin’).

Ah, Horizons.  It’s definitely one of the most lamented extinct attractions in Walt Disney World.  And while it was one of my favorites, it’s certainly not the only thing that I wish I could ride just one more time.  So, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane and talk about some of my most-missed experiences throughout the four theme parks.  Who knows?  Maybe we share a love for some of these gone-by-the-wayside attractions, and can consume copious amounts of wine and chocolate together while we cry into each others’ virtual shoulders.

Magic Kingdom

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that this ride is still alive and well in Disneyland.  But it’s not in Walt Disney World, and I miss it.  Yes, the Pooh ride is fun (who wouldn’t want to bounce like Tigger?) and more relevant.  But I miss Toad and his little toady antics.  I also miss the ridiculousness that was Toad going straight to Hell for all of his aforementioned toady antics.  Classic. 

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:  Another classic ride where you got to see underwater mermaids, treasure, and Atlantis!  I definitely miss it, but the lines for this used to be beyond craaaaazy.

Mike Fink Keelboats:  Does anyone else remember these?  These were free-floating flat-bottomed boats that brought guests on a guided paddle around Tom Sawyer Island in Liberty Square.  I only remember riding these once, but our guide was hilarious, and the experience of riding in a non-tracked boat may have sparked my love for rafting, canoeing and kayaking.  Or maybe not.  Either way, these boats were a really fun way to see the Rivers of America while not packed sardine-like on the Liberty Belle or one of those super hot sun-scorched rafts they use to get you over to Tom Sawyer Island.  They shut down in 1997.

Exhibition Hall:  Originally sponsored by Kodak, Exhibition Hall displayed interesting (and sometimes random) photography exhibits.  However, the real attraction (at least in my opinion) was the mini movie theater where you could watch classic Disney cartoons.  There was nothing like coming in, out of the heat after a long Magic Kingdom day, and kicking back to watch Donald Duck get disproportionately pissed off about something while Mom and Dad shopped for souvenirs for other people.  Between you and me, I have a secret wish to someday recreate that experience in my house.  Yes, I know I have a problem.  No, I will not get help for it. I can stop any time I want.

And now, it’s on to EPCOT

Horizons:  But we’ve already been over that one.  Waaaaaah.

Wonders of Life:  Home to Body Wars, Cranium Command, and several other smaller attractions (including Disney’s version of “the birds and the bees” which pretty much scarred me for life – here I was, on vacation…but I digress…). The Wonders of Life Pavilion was a fun, immersive, totally climate controlled reprieve from the rest of the park.  However, like many other EPCOT pavilions, it lost sponsorship and most likely became too expensive to maintain or update.  Unlike many other EPCOT pavilions, however, this one remains totally shut down with the exception of during the Food and Wine Festival and other special events.  Personally, I miss the corny 1980’s antics of Cranium Command the most.  Anyone else remember Buzzy?  Come on, you have to remember Buzzy!

Test Track 1.0:  Yes, you read that right.  While I know the current version of Test Track is more interactive and allows guests a view into the process behind vehicle design, I preferred the first one.  I have many reasons for this.  One is that I LOVED the first Test Track.  Loved it.  The queue was entertaining, the pre-show just the right amount of hokey, and the ride a funned-up version of actual vehicle testing processes.  So, when I heard that Test Track was closing, I was instantly nervous and, honestly, I think I was right to be so.  I think that Test Track 2.0 is a cheap redesign of what was once a really good ride.  It relies on easier to maintain screen technology and neon lights instead of actual sets and moving parts, and it’s not really that well done.  The queue is now a humongous advertisement for Chevy.  The one redeeming factor in my eyes is that guests can design their own “sim-car” and then see how it holds up to the “testing conditions” on the actual track.  However, when we rode the ride in January of 2013, that feature wasn’t working – we did not once see our car while riding.  I’m extremely disappointed in the new version of Test Track and I miss the old one.

The Living Seas:  While I love Nemo and company, the redesigned attraction lacks the educational and “researchy” feel that the old one used to have.  I’ve also noticed that there are far less aquarium residents than there used to be…  Hmmm…

Journey Into Imagination 1.0:  Another long lost friend that I still love with my whole heart.  When Disney unveiled the second reincarnation of this ride, I almost puked along with every other guest who’d ever seen the first one.  I feel like the current version of the ride is quite a bit better than the last, and definitely includes way more of Figment than 2.0, but it still lacks the grandeur that the original had.  However, I do sincerely love the newer, slightly more obnoxious Figment character…   

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Backlot Studio Tour 1.0:  This tour, although still in operation, used to be waaaaay longer, and included many more stops such as Residential Street, the special effects shop, and soundstages.  I especially used to love dorking out in the prop warehouse while waiting to board the tram.  It was awesome.  Sadly, this tour is now quite a bit shorter and you don’t see nearly as much, but the current version is good enough that I’ll still sometimes ride it.

Magic of Disney Animation:  Sadly, this tour became kind of defunct once the Studios was no longer a working production facility.  However, I have very fond memories of watching animators work on various movies as well as meeting an animator who would sketch characters in front of the tour group.  It was a wonderful look into the process of hand-drawn animation, and I definitely miss it.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Tree of Life Gardens:  Yes, these still exist, but they have far less variety than they used to.  One used to be able to turn a corner and have an up-close and personal encounter with an animal every other step.  I’m wondering if the animals have been moved for their health and/or well-being.  If that is the case, I completely understand why the gardens are often empty of residents these days, and completely support Disney’s decision to move them.

Tarzan Rocks:  This super fun interactive show with rollerbladers and acrobats was replaced by Journey Into the Jungle Book and then Finding Nemo: The Musical.  While I liked Tarzan Rocks, both of the shows that came after it are excellent, and I can’t say that I would replace Nemo with Tarzan.  It’s just nice to think about how much fun that show was.


Well, there’s my breakdown of my most missed extinct attractions.  Hope you enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane.  Did I miss any of your favorites?  Let me know what you think?!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Run! Run! Run! Running the Disney Marathon



The Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon:  What I wish I could say to everyone planning to run it. Disclaimer:  Author is not a doctor, nutritionist, trainer or other medical professional of any kind.  She is an experienced runner who decided to provide some tips.

Welp, WDW Marathon weekend is six months away (tiggeriffic!), it’s almost time to book hotel and airline reservations and, for many of us, it’s also time to start building our mileage base for the January race(s).  Our family is going to be all over the 2014 Marathon Weekend, with my little sister and my baby sister’s boyfriend running their first half marathon on Saturday, and myself and aforementioned baby sister running the marathon on Sunday (her first!).  No, none of us is running Goofy (too expensive) or Dopey (we don’t want to die).  13.1 and 26.2 miles are long enough for us for one weekend.  Mom (and hopefully Dad too) will be travelling down to see us run, so it will be like a full on family party for the weekend.  Sweet. 

But, now that the six month mark has rolled around, I was thinking about the Disney races and some of the things I wish I’d thought about going in for the first time.  And I decided to share them, because so many people are clamoring to hear everything I have to say.  And because I’m such a marathon expert (not really) and a total Disney geek (absolutely) and therefore who better than to bore you with some not so revolutionary tips for your Disney race experience.  Sadly, I have no tips for anyone running Goofy and/or Dopey (see above).  I have never run either of those challenges, and don’t really have the time/money/body to do so.  If you’re running either of them, good luck, but I got nothin’.  Just take care of yourself.  And don’t try to run anything hung over.  And try not to sh*t your pants (this is a family weekend, people).  But, I digress, so onto the tips! 

Tip #1:  TRAIN.  Yup, that’s right.  It seems like a no brainer, but it’s the most important thing you can do for yourself coming into the Disney races (any race, really), which is why I put it in bold, italics, and all caps.  Both 13.1 and 26.2 miles take an enormous physical and mental effort, and nothing will prepare you for that except a solid training base.  Yes, there are probably people out there who can (or have) run a long distance race with little to no training.  No, you’re probably not one of those people.  So go online, find a training program that works for you, schedule your workouts, and start putting one foot in front of the other.  Jeff Galloway has some very approachable training schedules that he shares for free on the RunDisney webpage.  If you don’t know Jeff Galloway, google him to find out what he’s all about.  He’s awesome.  Just sayin’.

Also, don’t underestimate the distance you’re about to tackle.  Yes, you’re running through WDW (yay), and you’re going to be very entertained.  However, even in Disney World, 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles, and it isn’t easy (the same goes for 13.1 miles).  Mile 22 is probably going to hurt.  A lot.  So is mile 23.  Your hurt might start at mile 18.  If you’re having a really bad day, it might start at mile 12 or mile 14 (it’s happened to me at mile 9).  Sometimes, your training runs might hurt too.  I’m not saying this to scare you or be Debbie Downer or anything.  Running is very rewarding, and can even be fun.  Running can be especially fun when you’re swearing and calling the huge hill you’re on every nickname for the male reproductive organ you can think of and then you get to the top and there are people up there, and you realize that you are officially the crazy lady in the neighborhood.  Running is super fun then.  But it can be hard.  So, please, don’t let your longest run leading up to the races be 6 miles, and think that you’ve got it in the bag.  Sh*t happens.  Sometimes we can’t always get optimal training in.  But do the best you can to prepare yourself as well as possible.  Pretty please.  With a cherry on top.
Tip #2:  Eat right.  Both during your training and up to the race.  Yup, another no brainer.  Jeff Galloway says it well here:  “garbage in, garbage out” (I’m really not obsessed with this guy, it’s just a good quote).  So nourish your body with good food, and watch good things happen.  We’re all grownups here, so I’m not going to tell you exactly what and when you should be eating.  I’m not your mom.  I will say a couple of things, though.  The first is about carb loading.  For some people it works really well, and for others, not so much.  One of the worst things you can do to yourself, however, is to eat yourself sick the night before a race.  That’s almost a guarantee for sh*tting your pants right in front of Mickey.  No fun for you or him or your fellow runners.  Just eat a reasonable amount the night before, and make sure you get your pre race meal in before the start gun goes off.  Hopefully, you will have rehearsed your pre-run nutrition well before race day.  I also recommend that you avoid the booze for at least a few days before the big distance.  No, I’m not a teetotal – I can belly up to the Rose and Crown bar with the best of them.  Probably better than you can.  But alcohol dehydrates and causes hangovers (duh) which involve gastric distress (here we are at sh*t again), headaches, fatigue, etc.  It also lowers your inhibitions and makes those nachos in Mexico, that brat in Germany, and more alcohol seem like a really good idea.  It’s not, especially before a big race, and I’m not talking about why that is because I’m tired of potty talk.  You’ll also probably sleep like sh*t (not the potty kind but kind of like it), and be a miserable bastard the morning of the race.  And no one will want to be your friend.  So, yeah.  Avoid the booze, and stop whining at me.  It’s only a few days and I believe in you just like we all believe in Tinkerbell.  Now, clap!  Clap!!!!!

Tip #3:  Guess what?  I’m going to stop being such a pain in the ass now, because it’s time for the fun tips!  Hooray!  My first tip is actually more for before the race than during, but whatevs, you’ll still like it.  Tip #3 is to be patient with and proud of yourself.  The fact that you even signed up for a race like this takes super huge balls.  Especially if you’ve never done this kind of distance before, pressing that registration button is really brave.  And really awesome.  But it’s also the easiest part.  So, be patient with yourself, and understand that it’s going to be a process with many challenges and rewards (see Tip #1).  Don’t be angry with yourself if you have a bad workout, or you miss a run because you’re sick, or you’re slower than you want to be.  Running is like that.  Sometimes, it’s going to be bad, but learn from what happened and move on.  And don’t beat yourself up for any perceived failures you might have.  Chances are, they’re not failures anyway, and you’re still more awesome than most people you know for trying something like this.  Also, take the time to celebrate every new milestone you hit, no matter how pretty you may have looked or felt getting there.  Did you just finish your first ever 7/10/15/20 miler?  Did you just PR your 5k time on a midweek training run?  Get through your first long distance without wanting to murder everyone you saw?  Celebrate it.  And when you toe that starting line at the ass crack of dawn on race morning, celebrate that too.  You made it there.  Awesome.

Tip #4:  Relax.  So, this tip is actually more for race day (which you get to trained, nourished, and rested see Tips 1 and 2) and applies in more than one context.  First of all, relax in the sense that you’ll be well taken care of.  I have run one Disney race (more on that later), and many local and city races.  I’m always racing at least a half marathon, so I’ve seen widely varying levels of organization, support, and spectators.  Disney is the best, bar none.  So have some peace of mind, you’ll be in good hands.  They have aid stations about every 1.5- 2 miles which are stocked with water and sports drink.  They provide gels and bananas in at least three places, and there is always prompt medical help if you need it (and I sincerely hope you don’t). 
“Relax” also applies to the idea that race day can be a tossup for an infinite number of factors.  You might have had an awesome training cycle, have eaten perfectly, and slept like a baby only to wake up to a runny nose, headache, and cough on race morning.  You probably won’t run your best on that day, and that’s okay.  You can’t control that.  The same applies to the weather, which can be hugely inconsistent in a Disney race.  For instance, when I ran the WDW Marathon in 2010 (my first!) it was 30 degrees at the start.  The Powerade froze.  There was ice all around the aid stations.  I ran in a hat, gloves, and underarmor.  My toes went numb.  In 2013, however, it was in the 90’s at the finish line, and people were getting heat sickness.  Both of these scenarios will make a huge difference in your running, but they are not the only things.  You might get attacked by a stitch (or a Stitch!!!) at mile 4.  You might develop a minor strain (never race with a major illness or injury).  You might get stuck behind a huge pack of walkers who lied about their expected finish time or snuck up into a higher corral or didn’t train and bonked at mile 2 (don’t do that – it’s obnoxious, and there’s no need for it – it’s Disney, not an elite race).  It might happen.  It might not.  But if it does, relax, adjust, and go with it.  You’ll have a better race experience.

Finally, relax.  The race should be fun and, quite honestly, Disney works really hard to ensure that if you get to the starting line, you’ll get to the finish line.  So take a deep breath, and calm down.  Psycho. 

Tip #5:  Take a minute to drink it all in, and appreciate where you are, what you’re doing, and how far you’ve come.  You’re running one of the most unique races on the planet and, despite how mentally and physically challenging it might be, you’re still running through all four theme parks, past dozens of characters, and with the cheering of thousands of spectators.  You’re also running maybe the friendliest, most supportive race on earth (and don’t be that a$$h*le who knocks everybody down at every aid station in order to keep running full speed – again, it’s Disney, and unless you’re running in the “elite” category, you can take a few seconds to be polite.  A$$h*le).  So look around and notice the magic because, yes, it’s magic.  Be proud of yourself and enjoy your race.  And, after you cross the finish line, enjoy your bling, and all the glory that comes with it when you wear it around the parks and resort for the next week.  Because you can’t do that in the real world, people will think you’re craycray. 

And I’ll meet you at The Rose and Crown, where we can party our faces off, you awesome (half) marathoner, you.

And try not to sh*t your pants.                            

Monday, August 27, 2012

101 Followers on Twitter

Hi everybody! Our Mousecapades just hit a milestone: 101 followers on Twitter! We're over the moon about it and we hope that we can continue to grow and improve. With your help (via tweets and comments), we hope to make Our Mousecapades better and more exciting over the coming months. Thanks again for the support.

Have a magical day!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shun the Non-Believers!


*Disclaimer: Please don't really shun anybody because they act the way Kristin's co-worker does in the story below. They just don't get it.*

For those of you who may not know, I am in the midst of planning my next trip to Disney.  A few weeks ago, I was using one of my breaks at work to review some of the travel plans I have already made.  A co-worker came up behind me and very condescendingly said “You’re going again?  How many times has that been?  It can’t be that interesting!  You really should go someplace else.”  My first reaction was to defend myself:  I do travel elsewhere.  I have been all over the east coast, have been out to California. I have traveled to various places around the Caribbean, have started my European adventures and am in the midst of planning an extended stay in the Middle East within the next calendar year. 

Then it occurred to me, WHY should I feel the need to defend myself?  I enjoy vacationing in Disney World.  It is fun for me and who cares whether or not SHE finds it interesting, I find it interesting.  To me Disney is more than just a series of theme parks.  The attractions are only a small part of the appeal to me.  I enjoy the food, the environment, the music, and the smells.  I enjoy my time there.  I love to let go and allow the silly part of my personality take over.   I love the new memories I create with my loved ones and I love reliving some of the old.  I love watching the resort evolve over the years and having new and exciting experiences in a place I know and love so well.

To me this is no different than vacationing at the same beach house every summer or going on a bi-annual camping trip.  So what if instead of hiking through Yellowstone or going on a cruise or taking a ski vacation every year, I choose to travel to and stay in Disney?  This is what I enjoy doing, this is a place I LOVE to be.  I intend to travel there with my future husband and the new family we create.  I think about how wonderful it will be to have a complete family vacation there with my parents, sisters, our husbands and any babies that may be running around.    I love that Walt Disney World and the Disney experience has become such a foundation within my family.  In many ways, I grew up in Walt Disney World and it has become a part of me.  

So, to this nosey co-worker and anyone else who may scoff at my vacationing choices, judge all you want.  I love my time at WDW and I will continue to do so.  There are always going to be people out there who judge our choices just because they do not understand them.  As I said earlier, my first reaction was to go on the defense; however, since I have taken a step back from the situation, I realize that being content and excited with my choice to go to WDW again is far better than trying to explain myself to a non-believer.   

Never be embarrassed to say that you’re going back to WDW!  Only those who have already experienced the magic can truly understand why you want to return.

TTFN!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tonga Toast


Yesterday (August 8, 2012), the Disney Food Blog posted a copy of the recipe for Tonga Toast: a South Pacific take on French toast served at the Polynesian’s Kona Kafe. Well, as luck would have it, I needed a special breakfast recipe for this morning. (My roommate is finishing her job from hell today, and I wanted to make her a congratulatory meal.) I have to admit, I’ve never had the Tonga Toast at the Kona Kafe, so I have no idea how my own version will match up and I won’t try and compare them, as I have nothing to base a comparison on.

Normally, I’m terrible at breakfast foods. I can make a mean omelet, but that’s pretty much it. You hand me pancake mix, they come out dense and tasting decisively not like pancakes. You put me in front of a waffle iron, they all burn or come out with holes in the middle. Despite my dismal past attempts at breakfast time, I thought I would give the Tonga Toast recipe a try. (To get a copy of the recipe, go to the Disney Food Blog. http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2012/08/08/disney-recipe-tonga-toast-from-kona-cafe-in-disney-world/#more-62918)

Preparation for Tonga Toast was surprisingly very easy. It took maybe 10 minutes and smelled just like snickerdoodle cookies. YUM! The most difficult part of the prep was not letting the bananas fall out of the bread while I was dipping it in the batter or flipping it over in the pan; however, overall, I’d say this recipe was a huge success. There were a couple of really great things that I noticed about this recipe that I’d like to share with you.

1.)   You really do want to cut the bread at 3 inches thick, or thicker. The reason being that the batter seeps into the center of the bread and when you put it in the pan to fry, the outside gets toasty (or crispy, depending on how long you fry it) and the inside stays tender and delicious.
2.)   I didn’t need all of the batter or all of the sugar/cinnamon mixture. You could, probably, cut the batter in half and the sugar/cinnamon mixture by a little bit and still have more than enough for what you’re doing.
3.)   I used a slightly under-ripe banana. I was worried about how this was going to work when I woke up and the bananas were still not ripe, but it worked great. The flavor sweetened and the texture softened while the banana cooked. Now I’d be afraid that things would get too mushy if I used a ripened banana.
4.)   This meal cost less than $15 to make and can definitely serve 4 people. Especially if you pair it with a protein like sausage, eggs or bacon, this meal is very filling. Maybe not the best breakfast for a hot morning in August, but definitely one that will fuel you for a few hours.

I’d like to thank the Disney Food Blog for posting this recipe. I feel like a budding breakfast pro now that I know how to make this dish. And I’ve decided that the next opportunity I get to have breakfast at the Kona Kafe, I’m going to give the Tonga Toast a try and see how my own stands up in comparison. I’m pretty proud of this culinary venture, so here’s a photo showing today’s delicious breakfast.



Have a Magical Day!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Park Passes 101


One of the questions I am most often asked by friends or family members vacationing in Disney is: which park pass is the best?  Well, honestly, that depends upon how long you are staying and what extra activities you may want to do. Currently, Disney offers four types of passes: Single Day Passes; Magic Your Way Tickets; Theme Park Annual Passes and the Disney Premier Passport.

Michelle and I have purchased and used both the Magic Your Way tickets and the Annual Passes.  I currently hold an annual pass that I purchased a few years ago and have continued to renew (an annual pass is only good for one year and must be renewed – at a discounted price- every 13 months).  Annual passes can be purchased as either a basic pass, or a premium pass.  In addition to unlimited park-hopper access to all theme parks, the premium pass buys you unlimited access to the water parks, the golf courses, DisneyQuest and the Wide World of Sports complex.  I’m not a big water park person and I don’t play golf, so I didn’t see the point of paying the additional cost for the premium annual pass; however, I do want to try out DisneyQuest.  Maybe I can convince Marco to go when we are down there in November.
Now, for the GREAT stuff!   Besides yearly park hopper admission to all the theme parks owning an annual pass buys you something you wouldn’t imagine- DISCOUNTS!  Being an annual pass holder entitles you to discounts on accommodations, dining and merchandise all over WDW.  These discounts are at the discretion of the Walt Disney Company and can change at any time.  Most of the dining discounts are available at sit-down restaurants for lunch and are only applicable to food and non-alcoholic beverages.  However, some of the discounts are pretty reliable, especially the accommodations discounts.  These discounts, in some cases, can be as high as 35% off deluxe resort rooms.  When we went last September and this past February, Michelle and I were able to score a 20% discount on both rooms with our annual passes.  THAT IS CRAZY!  So, if you’re either planning on staying in Disney for a LONG vacation (10 days or more) or if you are planning on booking more than one Disney vacation in a calendar year, I suggest purchasing an annual pass.
  
The Magic Your Way Tickets are a bit more complicated.  These are essentially length of stay passes which you can alter to accommodate your needs.  The base price ticket entitles you to admission to ONE park PER DAY of your length of stay.  This is VERY important and most often, the most misunderstood feature of this ticket.  If you purchase the MYW base ticket and do NOT purchase the Park Hopper Option along with it, you are limited to attending ONE park in one day.  This means whenever you enter and leave a park, the computer system at Disney counts this as ONE FULL day whether it has been a full day or not.  Then, if you choose to attend another park within the same day, your ticket is deducted ANOTHER day.  This means that if you and your family are attending Disney for a week and decide to go to the MK on Monday, leave at 5 pm to go to dinner in France at EPCOT, each ticket has been docked two days despite the fact that it is still Monday.  So, unless you are either OK with attending only one park per day or purchasing additional tickets at the end of your stay, then pay the extra bit to add the Park Hopper Option to your ticket. 

The Park Hopper Option allows you to enter and exit any park on any day as many times you want for the length of your stay.  So, if you or one of your kids wants to spend Monday walking in and out of the admission gates of the Animal Kingdom, then you’re covered!  Your ticket will not be docked any days and will only run out on the day after your vacation is over.  For an additional cost, you can also add the Water Park Fun and More Option which buys you access to the water parks, golf, mini-golf, DisneyQuest and Wide World of Sports.  The third additional option to the MYW ticket is the No Expiration Option.  Which means your unused theme park days never expire.  WHAT?! WHAT?!  I am fo-shiz here!  If you purchase this option any unused days your have on your ticket at the end of your vacation are still viable and can be used at a later time.  In my opinion, the MYW tickets are great if you plan on going for one Disney vacation within a year.  If you plan on traveling to Disney more than once within a calendar year, even if it is only for a long weekend, I highly recommend investing in an annual pass.  It will be more expensive up-front, but it will save you money in the long run. 

For information, including current prices, on all four passes, you can access the Walt Disney World Site Here:

For annual passholder accommodations discounts, you can either call the reservations line at Disney and ask, OR you can check out www.mousesavers.com This is a great website that deals with all discounts Disney!

TTFN!