Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Disney World Vacation, I Want One. Now. Please?

I love the Disney Parks Blog. It keeps me updated daily on the goings on at one of my most favorite places on Earth, Walt Disney World. [insert pic of me with big “Goofy” grin as I think Disney] 

I’ve been reading the updates as they’ve been posted about the new Star Tours ride in Disney Hollywood Studios. Actually, it’s not a new ride, but a revamped ride and it has reopened this week. To check out some pics from the opening here’s the link to the Disney Parks Blog page with all the cool scoop. 

For the last week or so I’ve been thinking Disney World. As in, I really, really want to take a Disney vacation. I want to stay at Coronado Springs, ride the seas with the Pirates of the Caribbean, trek to Everest, hang out with Crush and the gang from Finding Nemo and of course journey to a galaxy far, far away via Star Tours.

I could make a list several pages long of all the things I love to do when we visit the Disney parks. As a family, we have made five magical visits. We always stay in one of the Disney resorts and include the Park Hopper into tickets plus the Disney Dining Plan. We are veteran users of the Disney FASTPASS and we always, always spend at least one night enjoying the shops, sites, and sounds of Downtown Disney. It’s one of my favorite places to Christmas shop!

Like any Disney World fan, I have favorite, must-see rides. A couple of these are childhood favorites that I ride and am immediately transported back into my 10-year-old self.  Others are favorites for a multiple reasons, too many reasons to count but mainly because they bring me joy and warm fuzzy memories of laughter shared with my husband and son.

My 10 Favorite Disney World Rides 
(in random order because if I tried to rank them it would take me forever!)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (Magic Kingdom) 
  • Star Tours (Disney Hollywood Studios) 
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (Magic Kingdom) 
  • The Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom) 
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic (Magic Kingdom) 
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Disney Hollywood Studios) 
  • Test Track (EPCOT) 
  • The Great Movie Ride (Disney Hollywood Studios) 
  • Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom)
  • Primeval Whirl (Animal Kingdom)
Of course only two of my favorite rides were around during my first visit to Disney World when I was a child; the Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Both have been updated in recent years but neither has lost their magic. The Tower of Terror was the first ride my husband and I rode together when we arrived at the parks for our honeymoon. We rode it at night while a storm was brewing in the distance. It was amazingly eerie and unforgettable. We STILL talk about that night and that ride while we wait in line to enter the infamous Hollywood Tower Hotel aka THE Tower of Terror, bwahaha.

It looks like it will be more than a year until our family can enjoy another magical Disney World vacation. By that time thousands will have careened through space on the new Star Tours but I know when we finally get back there will be seats waiting for us.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Easy Jambalaya...Not So Easy This Time

I've not really shared any recipes here on the blog. I've done a few for Helium.com but after my Saturday meal experience I thought I'd share this with you. My family, the Hubs in particular, enjoys spicy food. We've had some outstanding jambalaya when traveling in the southern states so when I found a recipe for in my "Simple & Delicious" cooking magazine I decided to try it.

Now I am one of those cooks who will tweak a recipe even the first time I try it, especially if I think it will make my life easier and not affect the overall taste of the finished dish. This jambalaya recipe is from the February/March 2011 magazine on page 14 and is called Captain Russell's Jambalaya. I went to their website (http://www.simpleanddelicious.com) and tried to find you a link to the original recipe but it did not appear in the search.

Anyhow, it's a simple recipe combining pantry ingredients. I make a few substitutions and tweaks. Here's what you need:

1 can condensed French onion soup
1 can beef broth (I use reduced sodium)
8 oz. tomato sauce (I use no salt)
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon crushed fresh garlic (you may use less to suit your tastes, I like a lot of garlic)
2 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning)
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (again use less if you don't like as much spice, or more if you do!)
1 bag frozen cooked/deveined small shrimp (the original recipe calls for uncooked med. shrimp but I short cut to save time & I don't like the ick factor of cleaning shrimp.)
2 links turkey smoked sausage (I can't buy decent andouille in my town. Bummer, I know.)
3 cups COOKED rice (brown, white, long-grain...it's up to you)

Cook the rice. In a large saucepan combine first 8 ingredients and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Gently stir in sausage, shrimp and rice. Transfer everything into a  9 X 13 baking dish. Cover with tin foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes. Let stand for five minutes and then enjoy.

Now this is the way I made this recipe the first 3 times I served it to my family. And it was a HUGE hit! However, this weekend I decided to follow the original recipe and use 2 cups of uncooked long grain rice. I like long grain rice. I followed the recipe, popped the dish into the oven and within fifteen minutes the delicious aroma of jambalaya began to emerge from the kitchen.

After 30 minutes, I removed the foil and looked the rice. Hmmmmm. Not looking very cooked. I set the time for 15 minutes and crossed my fingers. After the full cook time, I removed the dish from the oven and it smelled AMAZING! But.....the rice was hard! H.A.R.D.


Now every time I've made this recipe using the cooked rice, it comes out beautifully. This time I use the original recipe and Bleh...hard, uncooked rice. So the Hubs comes in, enticed by the intoxicating smells and suggests adding another cup of water, recovering the dish with tin foil and letting it cook for another 30 minutes. GASP! Are you sure, I ask him? I was afraid that everything else in the jambalaya would turn to mush if we did that. He said, "Well, we can't eat it with the hard rice and it's not like you can pick out each little grain." Smart man, that Hubs of mine.

Water added, tin foil replaced and dish back in oven. 30 minutes later I pull it out. Rice is about 2/3 cooked! And veggies aren't mush and shrimp aren't rubber. Alrighty, maybe we are onto something. I add about 1/2 cup more of water, recover with the tin foil and pop it back in for about 10 more minutes. After that time rice is done. I let the whole dish stand for about 10 more minutes and FINALLY, almost an hour later than I had planned to sit everyone down to a great meal, it is FINALLY ready.

And it was good. Regardless of the additional cook time, this meal is sooooo flavorful. It was a hit, the HUBS had second helpings and it was still delicious the next day reheated as leftovers. I recommend this easy jambalaya recipe but I really recommend precooking the rice before adding it in. Especially if you want to eat within an hour of preparing the dish.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

When the day gives you lemons, make Rice Krispie treats!

So I was going to post this yesterday, but Blogger was down. That makes sense because that was the kind of day I had been having.

Anyhoo...in the early A.M. hours as I was hustling and bustling to get my teen out the door to meet his school bus, I quickly measured out the grounds for my favorite coffee, a French Roast Amaretto. Oooh, so delish! I deftly added the water to the machine, hit the "go" button and diverted my attention to more pressing matters, the teen who now only had 60 seconds to get out the door and down the street to meet his bus.

After seeing him out the door and returning my attention back to the kitchen, I made an eye-opening discovery. Now keep in mind that I had not had any caffeine yet, so eye-opening had been a challenge thus far.

Do you know what happens when you forget to put the coffee pot under the drip? If you answered you get a big mess of coffee and grounds all over the counter, then you answered correctly! Trust me, the mess was way more of an eye-opener than any old cup of coffee could ever have been. So after a fifteen minute clean-up I still had no coffee and I was wary of plugging in a coffee maker that had just been soaked through its base by coffee. I set it aside to dry out and mentally hugged the hubs for encouraging me to buy our Keurig one-cup coffee maker. 3 K-cups later, I was back on track.

Now I could have allowed this whole experience to color my day; put a gray cloud of doom and gloom over my head (much like a rain cloud over Eeyore.) But I did not. Instead, I made a batch of Rice Krispie treats. Why? Well, seriously, who can be in a bad mood when there are Rice Krispie treats in the house?!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Auto-tweeting? Nope, not for me.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about auto-tweeting (is that a hyphenated word?) on Twitter. She had assumed that I auto-tweeted (yep, I am hyphenating) my tweets that link to articles I've written for Helium.com.

I don't. I never have and I never will.

It's a very common practice among people who write for content websites to set up an account at Hootsuite or one of the others and schedule two or three tweets linking to their articles to run every hour. It's not my thing. I want to see more than links in my Twitter stream, I want to see random thoughts, song lyrics, funny quips from your kids, wacky pictures and virtual *hugs* and *coffee* being shared. I figure if that's what I want to see in my stream, chances are there are many people following me that want the same.

So, no...I do not auto-tweet. If you are following me on Twitter each tweet of mine you see is the real thing, entered by hand. I guess I'm just old-fashioned that way.

How do you feel about auto-tweeting? Do you unfollow people who do it? I'm curious.