Animal Kingdom and Polynesian Luau

Our third day at Walt Disney World took us to the Animal Kingdom park and to the luau at the Polynesian resort. On our last trip to Disney World, we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and spent a lot of time at this park, so we did a shorter day there on this trip.

Dinoland is a great area of the park for young kids.

My daughter especially loves playing in the Boneyard play area.

I was super excited to catch sight of Kevin from Up more than once throughout the day!

The safari is always interesting and fun. Thankfully, we had a Fastpass, so we could fit it in on this busy park day.

I’ve still never been on Flight of Passage in Avatar since I don’t wait in 3 hour lines. Maybe one day we’ll get a fast pass. We did ride Na’vi River Journey again.

My daughter’s favorite ride is Kali River Rapids. We wore our ponchos, which we needed for the next day, anyway.

My daughter also got her face painted and a caricature drawn in the afternoon.

After we left the Animal Kingdom, we drove to the Polynesian Resort to attend the Spirit of Aloha luau. The luau is always a fun time. We didn’t make it to the end, because my daughter was falling asleep. It was a long day.

The food is delicious, although I didn’t take pictures of the tasty meat.

I had to go up with my daughter to learn the hula because she was being uncharacteristically shy.

Overall, another great day in the magical world of Disney.

Toy Story, Star Wars, and Mickey, Oh My!

Our second day on our recent Disney World trip was spent in Hollywood Studios. Due to the extreme popularity of the new Star Wars land – Galaxy’s Edge, we knew this would be our most crowded day. The park opened at 7am, and we had to be there early to be sure that we were in the park already when it opened so that we could get a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. The new ride is so popular that the only way to ride is get a boarding group at park opening. I’m pretty sure all of the rides for the day were sold out in only a couple minutes on the day we were there.

In the dark, waiting for the park to officially open to get that boarding pass!

Rise of the Resistance is more than just a ride. It is an immersive experience that takes about twenty minutes. You are ushered to different areas to follow along with the story. The walk takes you inside and outside. You are on a special mission, and then eventually get captured by Kylo Ren and the Stormtroopers. It was a cool ride, even for those not as familiar with Star Wars.

Part of the experience is even being ordered around by the Imperial officers and the Stormtroopers.

Getting our boarding passes right at 7:00 on the dot, our boarding group was called around lunchtime. This was convenient, and we did not have to stay in the park all day to make sure we didn’t miss our chance to ride.

We decided not to wait in line for the other new ride in Galaxy’s Edge, Millennium Falcon – Smuggler’s Run. Maybe next time! We did do Star Tours, however, and explore the land.

We even got breakfast at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo with all of its themed food. We had Mustafarian cinnamon rolls and Bright Suns breakfast platters. It was all tasty.

While my husband was excited to visit Galaxy’s Edge, I was most excited to see Toy Story Land! We skipped Hollywood Studios on our last Disney World trip, because so much of it was under construction for the two new lands. Toy Story Land opened a couple of months after our last visit to WDW.

The whole area is themed with bright colors and toys! It is very fun. I also loved how they had added some Christmas decorations in for the holidays.

We rode both of the new rides in Toy Story Land. Alien Swirling Saucers was our first ride of the day, so we didn’t have to wait long.

I also rode Slinky Dog Dash (even though I had my eyes closed). I am not a roller coaster person, and in all of my trips to Disney World I have never ridden on any of the mountains (Splash, Space, Big Thunder)! I know, I know, I’m a baby. I was excited about Slinky Dog though, because of the cute theme. It’s also cool because it goes all around the land.

We left the crowded park at mid-day to go back to the hotel and relax and swim. We returned in the evening to do a few attractions and see Fantasmic. I bought us tickets to the Fantasmic dessert VIP package so that we could have great seats without waiting in line. We sat front and center.

When you purchase the dessert package, you get a whole tray of desserts, a light up necklace, and a light up glass (with margarita inside)! Look at all of the tasty treats!

To me, the dessert package was worth it. We got more food than we could even eat, drinks, and great seats. This was the cheapest nighttime dessert package that I saw out of all the parks.

The show was awesome. It is full of fireworks, special effects, water, story, and characters!

And of course the light up cups were quite useful for a hotel disco dance party the next day!

Elsie’s Plate and Pie Review

Elsie’s Plate and Pie is one of the best restaurants in Baton Rouge. If you haven’t been yet, do yourself a favor and go. Especially if you like pie. And who doesn’t like pie?

Last night, I went with my husband and daughter. I ordered a seasonal special which was pork tenderloin with a blueberry pepper jelly sauce and some roasted Brussels sprouts. I swear, they were the tastiest Brussels sprouts I have ever had. The house salad dressing is a pepper jelly vinaigrette. Yum.

Portions are generous. I saved half of my entree for leftovers (and so I could eat some pie)! They accidentally brought an adult size catfish entree to my daughter instead of the kid version. There were five whole fillets of catfish on a plate of fries. My daughter still put a pretty big dent in that plate of food.

And then, of course, there is the pie! They serve an assortment of savory and sweet pies. My husband’s entree was a Louisiana seasoned chicken pot pie that he loved. The tomato pie is a favorite of mine. They also have meat and seafood pies.

Last night, we had two sweet pies – a s’mores pies and a cherry hand pie. Both were delicious. In fact, everything that I have ever ordered at Elsie’s has been delicious. You can get lemon meringue, coconut cream, and even pie nachos!

Elsie’s Plate and Pie is a great casual mid-city dining destination. It is worth the drive, even if you are not normally in that neighborhood. The menu is diverse with far more than pie available. If you haven’t already, check it out!

Mediterranean Cooking

It’s been awhile since my last blog post. Life gets busy, and I don’t always feel like I have anything interesting to say. But I also have to remember that I said I was doing this blog for me and not for the approval for others. I especially need to remind myself of that when I check how many people have clicked on my blog to read it.

I used to collect cookbooks. I loved buying new cookbooks and trying out recipes. But again, life gets busy, and I stopped doing that also. Recently, I bought the Complete Mediterranean Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. I’m not big on dieting, but when I do pay attention to what I eat, I try to follow a Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to have many health benefits.

So a couple weeks ago, I decided that I would start cooking lots of recipes from this book and take pictures and then write a blog post about it. I’m already feeling a little burnt out by it though. I remember why I stopped cooking so often. Time is valuable on the weekdays after work, and sometimes I just want to sit around and be lazy. Cooking from a recipe involves not only chopping, prepping, and time in the kitchen, but then it involves a pile of dishes. I also have the tendency to buy ingredients for recipes and then not use the leftovers before they go bad, which makes me feel bad about food waste. So for the past week, I’ve had several dinners of grilled cheese or bagels.

I am no food photographer, but here are some pictures of the recipes I’ve made over the past couple of weeks. First, I made some garlic and rosemary white bean dip which was tasty and easy.  I also made two batches of pita chips. The first olive oil-sea salt pita chips were flavorful, but toasted too much.  I cooked the second batch for less time and they came out better. Those were rosemary parmesan pita chips.

Next, I made some baba ghanoush. These took more effort than the other dip due to roasting the eggplants.  It had good flavor though. I dipped pita in it.

My next picture is a whole meal. It includes more of the baba ghanoush.  along with some roasted winter squash with tahini and feta.  It was very flavorful and included pistachios and mint.  I also made a lemon tahini salad dressing for a side salad. The dressing recipe made enough to have several salads.

For my next couple recipes, I bought some pistachios for cooking. I love pistachios, but it is work to open them all up to use for cooking.  I made some roasted chicken thighs with Moroccan pistachio sauce. It was delicious, but I did have the whole house smoking with my cooking.  Oops. I also made couscous with dates and pistachios. I make boxed couscous but added a bunch of stuff to it. I roasted some tomatoes for another side.  I also made a dessert of roasted pears with dried apricots and pistachios. I cooked these far less than the stated time because they were burning.

The last recipe I made were some prosciutto wrapped stuffed dates. It’s not a great picture, because I did not take the care to assemble them perfectly. The flavors tasted good together – walnuts, parsley, orange zest, olive oil, dates, and prosciutto, but they weren’t really presentation worthy.

We’ll see how long it takes for me to get back in the kitchen, but it is fun to test out some new things now and again.

Dining in Montreal

My final post about Montreal concerns my favorite topic, food! I love to eat. When I travel, I love to try different restaurants and different types of food. Montreal is an international city with lots of different types of food. We didn’t get to try it all, but here are the restaurants that we did get to visit.

Our first meal of the trip was at Brit and Chips. We ordered some fish and chips, specifically the maple battered haddock. I figured since we’re in Montreal, I should order anything with maple syrup! We also ordered our first poutine of the trip. Poutine is the most famous Quebecois dish, consisting of french fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy. The restaurant was casual, quick, affordable, and tasty!

At Maison Christian Faure Patisserie, we stopped in and got three different fancy desserts. They were delicious!

Occasionally, when traveling with a 5 year old, one is required to stop at McDonald’s for some poulet mccroquettes.

One of our dinners was at La Maison du Magret, a restaurant completely devoted to duck! As a complimentary appetizer, we were given some duck rillettes and bread. We ordered duck confit and duck poutine. It was all tasty.

It’s always important to get ice cream while on vacation.

One of the mornings, we got breakfast at Allo! Mon Coco, a chain in Quebec. The food was good although service was slow. I had a strawberry flambee on crepes bretonne!

After the first big crepe of the trip, we went to two more creperies! My daughter had spaghetti and meat sauce and garlic bread at both. First, we went to Chez Suzette in Old Montreal. All of the crepes were delicious! We had dinner crepes and a dessert crepe.

We ended up at our second creperie the next day after our intended destination ended up being too crowded. It was a family restaurant in the Mont Royal area of town, called Creperie Bretonne Ty-Breiz. I ordered a smoked salmon crepe.

I also ordered escargot and took a picture of my daughter’s face when I told her that I was eating snails. Yum!

Our hotel was connected to the World Trade Center, so a few mornings I grabbed a quick breakfast at La Fabrique de Bagel. Montreal is famous for their bagels, which are thinner and crunchier than the New York bagels you may be used to. There is nothing better than smoked salmon on a bagel!

One night, we went to C’Chocolat for dinner. A chocolate restaurant for a well-rounded dinner. They actually have sandwiches and salads and such, but we just ordered dessert. We had hot chocolate with marshmallows, a liege waffle, and their signature dessert – the c’wow. It was a chocolate dome which was melted tableside by hot caramel revealing the yummy stuff inside, which included waffle, brownie, gelato, crumble, berries, and pecans.

One of our lunches was at Reuben’s Deli and Steakhouse, downtown. They are famous for their smoked meat sandwiches. The coleslaw was particularly tasty.

For our last meal of the trip, we decided to walk to Chinatown. We ate at Chez Chili, and it was very tasty. We had some pork ribs, dumplings, fried rice, and fried bananas!

I hope you have enjoyed my series of posts about our trip to Montreal. We had a great time there, and like always, I enjoyed trying all the food!

District Donuts

District Donuts/Sliders/Brews is a New Orleans restaurant, but we have a location here in Baton Rouge. It is a fun little place to visit. They make all of their delicious food from scratch.

They offer different donut options each week, along with a couple staples. The donuts are large and cake-style donuts. The cinnamon sugar donut pictured below is always available. It reminds me of a churro. On my most recent visit, I got this smores donut. It was topped with a giant homemade marshmallow and was also stuffed with marshmallow filling. Yum!

On my most recent trip, I sampled a few of the tasty sliders. I had one each of the cheeseburger slider, pork belly slider, and roast beef slider. Each one is topped with some unique and tasty toppings. I could barely finish them, though, after finishing off that donut as an appetizer! As for the brews, I am not a coffee drinker, so I cannot comment on them. I’m sure they are delicious for coffee lovers. I did notice that they make their own sodas though, which is pretty interesting. I’ll have to try root beer or creme soda next time I visit. If you’re in New Orleans, I recommend stopping by one of their locations. The flagship is on Magazine Street. These pictures are from the Baton Rouge location. There is now a location in Las Vegas also!

Soufflé

I have a collection of cookbooks, and I used to love trying out new recipes. Every time I make a recipe, I give it a rating, so that I remember what I thought about it. Recently though, I have stopped cooking as much. The time spent in the kitchen, piles of dishes, and cost of ingredients just doesn’t seem worth it most of the time, especially on busy work days. I love good food, but often fall back on easy and quick dinner options or eating out. I haven’t bought a new cookbook in a long time, because I’ve made a conscious decision to stop cooking to save time and money.

I have been home for the past couple weeks, however, recovering from surgery. I am finally starting to feel a little better, but I am still on a soft food diet. So I decided to pull out one of my cookbooks and try to make something. Today I made a Gruyère and Parmesan soufflé from a Bon Appetit cookbook. It was tasty, although the Gruyère tasted even better just shaved right off the block.

It’s not terribly interesting or creative, but here is my cheesy soufflé. The consistency and rise came out perfectly, which are unusual for me.

Adventures with Snowballs

Snowballs. The quintessential New Orleans summertime treat. If you are from somewhere else in the country and think that a snow cone or shave ice is the same thing as a snowball, you are sadly mistaken. Snowball ice is fine, fluffy, delicious and uniquely New Orleans. My absolute favorite snowball flavor is nectar or nectar cream. I don’t know what is in it, but it is delicious. My second go-to is an ice cream or ice cream cream flavored snowball. The cream flavors are the best because they are extra creamy!

I’ve always wanted to work my way through every snowball flavor on the list at my local snowball stand, but I don’t go often enough and can’t resist falling back on my favorite flavors. Maybe one day I will get around to it. Last month, I did decide, however, to try a few different specialty snowballs to see what the fuss was about. You can get snowballs with toppings or stuffed with ice cream or cheesecake. The closest stand to my house in Baton Rouge is Snoman Snowballs. It is the blue building pictured above with my favorite flavors. I recently tried one of their unique flavors, Snoman’s cream, and added sprinkles on top! The flavor was sweet, similar to wedding cake. The sprinkles were a fun touch. Next time, I may try gummy bears.

Another snowball stand that I frequent is Cool Tiger Ice Snowballs in Baton Rouge. They are open year-round as long as the weather is above 70 degrees. They have a drive thru line, although it can get long at popular times. If you follow them on Facebook, you will see some of the specials and unique things they offer. I’ve had a snowball in a pineapple, which is a decadent treat. I also recently had a pineapple upside down cake snowball, which was drizzled with a homemade sauce and fresh pineapple. I also tried my first cheesecake stuffed snowball from Cool Tiger Ice. They use a special homemade cheesecake, and it was very good. When looking for a cheap and tasty treat to cool off during the hot Louisiana days, however, nothing beats a plain old nectar snowball. If you are visiting south Louisiana, you have got to try one!

Dining in Biloxi

This past weekend, my friends and I went to Biloxi, Mississippi for a girl’s weekend. We called it our “halfway to 70” trip, as most of us turn 35 this year. The trip was about two things: 1) friendship (hanging out and appreciating each other) and 2) food! We had three different meals out (if you don’t count our trip to Waffle House with the bad service).

Biloxi is full of casinos. We stayed at Treasure Bay (which I don’t really recommend). Our first meal of the trip was the Infinity Buffet at Treasure Bay Casino. We went there for one reason and one reason only: all you can eat crab legs! The rest of the food was typical buffet fare. Nothing special, but serves it’s purpose. Each table had big pails for crab claws and bibs to wear. Crab claws and drawn butter. Yum!

Our next meal was at the Sugar Factory! Sugar Factory is a chain restaurant. The menu and walls are full of pictures of all the celebrities who have dined here. The Biloxi location is in the Hard Rock Casino. The menu here is all about over the top drinks, meals, and desserts. There are a lot of different cocktails, including chocolate martinis and a large selection of huge, over the top goblets. We decided against ordering a goblet, but I took a picture of one received by the table behind us. Each one is topped with different candies. My friends who ordered cocktails all enjoyed them, especially the caramel macchiato martini.

For an appetizer, I had a fried macaroni and cheese pop, which was pretty tasty. My main course was the Sugar Factory Club Sandwich, and it was delicious! A club sandwich is not my typical order, but this one was exceptionally tasty. The turkey, two types of cheese, avocado, tomatoes, and pickles with herb mayo on toasted bread made for a perfect combination! I did not order a cocktail in order to save room for an over the top milkshake. All of the milkshake options come in a tall decorated glass with insane toppings, including cotton candy, waffles, cheesecake, donuts, cupcakes, or even a burger! I ordered a nutella banana milkshake. It came in a mug covered with chocolate and sprinkles. On top were a lollipop, a candy necklace, and a chocolate covered banana! The milkshake itself was tasty, although nothing different than I have had in less expensive milkshakes. You are paying for the over the top look and the crazy extras. There are also some other crazy options, such as a $1000 chocolate gold fondue. The Sugar Factory also has a small shop where you can buy candy and other candy themed items to bring home.

Our last meal of the trip was a tasty and fancy brunch at the White Pillars. It is a beautiful house right on the Beach Boulevard. Our waiter, Jordan, had an awesome personality and took great care of us. Most of the food served at White Pillars is local and/or house made. Even the soap in the bathrooms was from Pass Christian in Mississippi. There were many different cocktail options, including bottomless mimosas and poinsettas. We started with a charcuterie board, full of house-cured meats, cheeses, and pickled vegetables. Yum!

There were many different tasty options for brunch, such as biscuits and gravy and eggplant Josephine. The duck fat fries with house made garlic aioli may have been the best fries I have ever had. I highly recommend them! I ordered the brioche French toast which was topped with local peaches and hand whipped cream. It was a good size, good taste, and good price. For dessert, our table had a few different options, including bread pudding, a chocolate torte, and a blackberry cobbler. They were all extremely tasty. If you are ever in Biloxi, I highly recommend a visit to the White Pillars. I would love to try out dinner, next time, or of course, more brunch!

Camellia Grill

The Camellia Grill is an iconic diner located in uptown New Orleans.  It has been opened since 1946. It was closed for a few years after Katrina, but is now back in action.  Classic and tasty diner food is served, while patrons are seated around the counter. The food is prepared right there behind the counter.  Seating is limited, so sometimes a line can form, although we walked right up on our recent visit.

It is a great place for an affordable meal.  I attended college just down the street. It is unpretentious and full of friendly employees.  From morning until night, one can order pancakes, omelettes, burgers, sandwiches, dessert, and more.  My daughter gave the delicious pancakes and the red beans and rice a big thumbs up! If you find yourself in uptown New Orleans looking for a tasty and affordable meal, I recommend a visit to the Camellia Grill!