Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hidden Gems of California Adventure

We spend most of our time talking about Disneyland Park. It may or may not be our favorite (except that's a lie - it totally is!). So today we're focusing on California Adventure! Walt may not have built it, but it has plenty of Disney Magic! Keep reading to find out the amazing hidden gems at California Adventure that you won't want to miss.

1. Cars Land at Sunset

Usually we make these lists "countdown style," but I couldn't wait to write about my favorite thing! I always suggest going to Cars Land first thing in the morning to get Radiator Springs Racers fastpasses, but it's so worth coming back in the evening. Right at sunset (check with Cast Members for the exact time on the day you're there!), they turn on all of the neon lights in Radiator Springs and play "Life Could Be A Dream." You will feel exactly like you've stepped into the movie! It's beautiful and super fun to sing along. Check it out and enjoy!

2. Water Art

While waiting for the Pixar Play Parade (see the next section for more on this), we got to see a janitorial Cast Member drawing huge Disney characters on the ground with a wet mop. It was a pretty amazing sight to see! 
I haven't seen this done at Disneyland Park - let us know if you've seen it there!

3. Pixar Play Parade

What a fun parade! All of the great Pixar characters are there on some really fun floats and there aren't crazy crowds three hours ahead like at Paint the Night (although, to be fair, it's NOT Paint the Night). I only waited about 15 minutes and had a great spot!

4. Boardwalk Games at Paradise Pier

These games are classic Boardwalk style with a Disney twist. The prizes are often Disney stuffed animals and you can end up getting them for much cheaper than in the stores! I've rarely seen more than one other person playing each game, so your odds of winning are great. Go have some fun and try them!

5. Grizzly River Run Viewing Area

Want to get wet on a hot day without the 60 minute (and up!) wait time? To the left of the Grizzly River Run entrance is a great viewing area for the ride's big drop! Stand back a bit if you just want to watch the screams. Once you're up close, you'll get soaked! It's the perfect way to quickly cool off in the summer heat!

6. Chase Visa Character Meet & Greet

Are you a Disney Chase Visa cardholder? If so, head on over to the Meet and Greet spot way in the back of Hollywoodland every day from 10:30-1:30. I've seen Minnie, Daisy, and Stitch there and have always had great character interactions! BONUS! They'll give you a coupon for a free 5x7 of your picture! Just be prepared to show your card to be let in for the Meet and Greet - they always check!

7. Cove Bar

Ok, I haven't gone here myself, but I've been hearing about it a lot lately and I can't wait to try! The Cove Bar is on the right side of the entrance to Paradise Pier, just after Ariel's Grotto. It's super easy to miss - I've always just passed right by it, thinking it's additional seating for Ariel's Grotto. But as I look at the menu online (tri tip sliders, anyone?) and see pictures come up on my Instagram feed of some pretty amazing cocktails, I know that this will become a favorite snack/drink spot in the very near future!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pomme Frites Recipe and Review

Pomme Frites with Cajun Remoulade Recipe and Review

"Pomme frites" is just the French term for french fries (4+ years of French paid off!!); which is why I didn't get overly excited when I saw them listed as an appetizer on the menu at the Cafe Orleans restaurant at Disneyland several years ago. But we ordered them anyway and, wow, were they good! Super crispy shoestring fries tossed with spices, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan cheese. So tasty!

Since then, an trip to Cafe Orleans and an order of pomme frites has been a must on almost every Disneyland trip. So, when we found a copycat recipe online, were we going to try it out? Um, yes please!

The recipe we used came from "A Cup of Disney", and can be found here. (NOTE: We did not have Cajun seasoning, so we subbed with Creole seasoning instead.)

So, here is it: Pomme Frites with Cajun Remoulade 

First up: Cajun Remoulade (Do this first, so that it's ready in time to serve the pomme frites while they're still hot!)

  • 1 cup Thousand Island dressing
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • a pinch of paprika
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Mix up all the ingredients together until fully combined.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Up Next: Pomme Frites

  • 1 tbl chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsely
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 8 cups vegetable oil
  • 10 ounces frozen french fries (We HIGHLY recommend shoestring fries!)

  • Mix together the garlic, Cajun seasoning, cheese, parsley, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large pot or frying pan over high heat until 375 degrees. You can check the heat by placing one fry in the oil. If it immediately sizzles, the oil is ready!
  • Fry the frozen fries in batches as necessary, being careful not to overcrowd the pot/frying pan, cooking 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. 
  • Transfer to paper towels to drain and then toss is the seasoned cheese mixture. Serve hot with remoulade.

Results: Amazing! Highly recommended! I know that there are a lot of ingredients here, and (as someone who is not great in the kitchen) I was a little intimidated. But, this actually was not a big undertaking and almost every ingredient on the list was already in the kitchen! 

Try them out for yourself! You won't regret it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ...At Home!

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ...At Home!

Let’s begin by stating the obvious. I LOVE DISNEYLAND! I venture to say that all of you do as well or you wouldn’t be reading this. For me, the love affair started when I went to Disneyland with my then fiancĂ©, now husband of 36 years, and only gathered steam as our family grew and trips to the parks became a yearly – sometimes a two or three times yearly – event! The atmosphere, the rides, having cotton candy at 9:30 am, (because you can!) chatting while waiting in lines, the just plain silliness of calling to parade characters (SNAILLLLLLLL!!!), and most of all just being together makes it my ultimate happy place. I love the Disney history, admire the vision it took to build a place that is now an iconic destination spot, and love hearing about all of the new plans.
One plan that I DID NOT love hearing about was the possible – I say possible because being the eternal optimist, I am not giving up hope of a last minute reprieve – demise of the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. This delicious and ridiculously plentiful dinner has become a must for our family at least once during each visit. There is just something about gathering at the long picnic table covered with its vinyl tablecloth after a long day and tired feet that just feels so welcoming and good!! I look forward to it every trip and, knowing that it may not be there soon, decided to recreate this experience at home. So “hang on to your hats and glasses” cause this here is going to be the tastiest dinner you have had in a while! Yee haw!!!
To begin with, let’s re-create the menu:

Ribs – I used “Lloyd’s Baby Back”. Yes, you can make your own, but these are delicious and, trust me, you will have enough to do!
Chicken – I used a combination of breasts and drumsticks, which I seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder, covered with foil and put in the fridge overnight.
Sausage – This is my son’s favorite part of the dinner. The waitresses at Big Thunder soon learn to keep this coming and place the bucket right in front of him! We once asked the brand of sausage and were told that it was only sold to restaurants. I used Dibrova – a locally made sausage and everyone seemed to like that, but any good quality fresh sausage will work.

Baked beans – Bush’s vegetarian beans are our favorite.
Corn wheels – Trickier than it sounds! We soon learned that it is virtually impossible to snap the cobs into the two inch wheels that everyone loves. My husband and I put our heads together and found the best method was to place the cob on a cutting board, put a large knife on the spot where you want to cut, and tap the knife with a hammer until it cuts through the cob. Once we got this technique down, the job was done in no time. I cooked the corn wheels in a large pot of boiling water to which I added a stick of butter. Delicious!!!

Corn bread – Marie Callendar's corn bread mix, I love you!!
And last, but certainly not least, cole slaw made from the Big Thunder BBQ’s own recipe. To keep things easy, I used two bags of cole slaw mix containing green and red cabbage and carrots. The recipe can be found here.
Now on to setting up our ranch inspired table! Anyone who knows me or has been to my home for a meal knows that in addition to cooking, I LOVE decorating the table for whichever occasion it may be. I admit to owning MANY sets of dishes (the exact number is a well-kept secret, mostly because it is still growing) and tons of accessories which I use to creating just the right atmosphere. For this occasion, I dug up a checkered tablecloth, (sorry even for the love of Disney, I don’t do vinyl!), my wooden Mickey napkin holder, cast iron pots and stainless steel bowls to serve in, and of course Mason jars to hold ice cold tea, lemonade or soda! Now let’s get cooking.

For any big meal, timing is always the biggest challenge, you want to try and have everything hot and ready at the same time. Here was my gameplan:
  1. Make the coleslaw in the morning so it has a chance to marinate
  2. Bake the cornbread so that it has time to cool, but will still be warm when serving
  3. Cook the corn and let it simmer in the butter/water until ready to serve
  4. Grill the thicker/bone-in pieces of chicken first as they will take longer.
  5. Put the ribs in a large foil pan with about an inch of water on the bottom so that they will not burn, cover with foil, put on the grill and heat through until piping hot and delicious! (I have a HUGE grill and was able to fit the chicken, sausages and ribs. If that’s a problem, just heat the ribs in the oven, just as tasty!)
  6. Make sure the sausages are cooked all the way through and have a nice char on the outside so that they “snap” when you bite into them!
  7. Heat the beans – duh!

Chow time! Not exactly the same as being at the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, but pretty darn close, and let’s be honest, with everyone you love sitting around the table, eating, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Grey Stuff (It's Delicious!)

The Grey Stuff (It's Delicious!)

Fair warning: I have never been to Disney World...I'm a Disneyland girl. So, I have never eaten at Be Our Guest...I have never tried Disney's version of "the grey stuff." But, that doesn't mean I don't get what a brilliant concept it is! Ever since "Beauty and the Beast" was released, I have wondered what this delicious, mysterious grey stuff is. I think it's genius that it made it's way onto a Disney menu. I wish it would make it's way to Disneyland!

I came across many different Pinterest copycat recipes that were all the same (note: this is not the official Disney recipe) and, imagine my surprise when I saw that it's nothing more than instant pudding, Cool Whip, milk, and Oreos! I had to try it! 

1 small box instant vanilla pudding mix
3 tablespoons instant chocolate pudding mix
1.5 cups whole or 2% milk
1 8-oz. tub whipped topping, thawed
15 original Oreo cookies (not double-stuffed)
edible pearl sprinkles

That's it! Easy ingredients, right? Here's how you put it all together:

1. Whisk together vanilla pudding mix and milk. Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes.

2. Place Oreos in a food processor and blend until they are a fine crumb consistency. (The smaller the crumbs the better!)

3. Mix Oreo crumbs into the pudding mixture. 

4. Gently fold in the whipped topping until well combined.

5. Add 3 tbs. of chocolate pudding mix and stir.

6. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

7. When you are ready to serve, pipe the grey-ish mixture using a piping bag and a star tip and top with edible pearl sprinkles. (PRO TIP: make sure your star tip has a large enough opening. Mine was a little to narrow and larger Oreo crumbs get trapped!)

There you have it! Simple? Yes! Rich and creamy? Yes! Delicious, as Lumiere once sang to us? You bet!

Try it and let us know what you think...especially if you've had the Disney World version! How does it compare??? 

Top Ten Tips!

Want to get the most out of your Disney day? Follow these 10 tips for making your trip the best it can be from start to finish!

1. Buy Tickets in Advance
Don't waste valuable Disney time in line at the ticket booths. You can get tickets online or even in the gift card section of some grocery stores. 

2. Leave Time to Get Through Security

Some days it's a breeze, but once it took me nearly 45 minutes just to walk up and have my bag checked. 

3. Fastpass Fastpass Fastpass!

Use them early and use them often to pack in the most rides. 
Pro tip: You can only hold one fastpass at a time, with the following exceptions:
World of Color
Anna and Elsa Meet and Greet
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
If you have one of these, go ahead and get your next fastpass right away!

4. Chat Up the Cast Members 
CMs are full of great tips and tricks and sometimes you can even get some cool insider info (like when I found out that a Disney garbage can costs $800 to replace!). Be nice to them and see what fun things can happen! 

5. Make Reservations
If you're interested in a character meal or a fancy dinner, call ahead! You can call for a reservation at (714) 781-DINE or go online. It's very easy and will save you the hassle of a 2 hour wait (or even being unable to eat at your choice restaurant at all!). 

6. Go Left!
Whenever you have a choice, take the left path when a line splits in two. I'm not sure why, but it always works in your favor! (It either has to do with getting the inside track on more turns, or I've heard it's because most people are right handed so they tend to choose the right.)

7. There's More Than Just Rides

Mickey and the Magical Map is a great show in Fantasyland! Hang out on Main Street and try to find the Dapper Dans. Check out the Red Car Trolley Newsboys on Buena Vista Street. Sit up front on the Monorail. There are so many fun things to do to enhance your day that don't include another long line for another ride. 

8. Dole Whip Insider Tip

Buy your Dole Whips from the line INSIDE the Tiki Room waiting area. You'll save at least half the time as the line out in Adventureland. 

9. Late-Night Fantasyland
If you are up for a late night, head on over to Fantasyland! The lights are bright, the weather is cool, and the little kids are all in bed so the lines are short. (We make no promises about the line for Peter Pan, though. We provide tips, not miracles!) Also, it keeps you away from crowds from Fantasmic and the late showing of the parade. 

10. Relax! 

You're in Disneyland!!! Yes, there's a lot to see and do, and it's often crowded and hot. But come on...relax and don't forget to have fun!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Mmmm...Sweet Mint Julep

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson:

That's how I feel every time I stop by the Mint Julep Bar in Disneyland's New Orleans Square. It's the best!!!

We recently posted on Instagram about how much we love this sweet drink, and the wonderful @airmiles2disneyland shared the recipe (from a Disney cookbook) with us! So we HAD to make it, right? Right??

Here's the official Disney recipe:

I'm going to tell you, we had a bit of a hard time finding some of these ingredients, so we had to improvise a little! To start with, lime juice concentrate is impossible to find! So we subbed in regular lime juice and doubled the amount. We also had a little trouble getting creme de menthe syrup, so we used "mojito mint." Lastly, we added green food coloring - looking back, we probably should have used a little more!

Following the instructions above, we dissolved the sugar into the soda water, then added in the lime juice and (thawed) can of frozen lemonade. After it came to a boil, we added the mint syrup and then put it in the fridge to cool. 

Once that was nice and cool, we added in the water, ice and food coloring. (Plus a garnish of mint and a cherry!)


This is so refreshing!!! Just like Disneyland. The only thing that would have made it better is if we were up to the task of making Mickey beignets to go with it!!