Disney's International Flower & Garden Festival - Part I

Thursday, May 26, 2011 - 
On the first day of our vacay, hubs and I made our way to Epcot to see the International Flower & Garden Festival.  I've never been to the event, so was happy to make it for the first time.

For those who haven't been to Epcot, there are essentially two different areas - Future World and the World Showcase.  Future World has the rides that focus on space and technology - the image of the future (or the image of what we thought the future would be like back in the day!)   Here is a recap of some of the floral artwork in Future World!




Onion Tart with Mache & Walnut Dressing

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 
When hubs and I were anticipating our pending Disney trip, I was busy with anticipation cooking.  The Sunday before we left, I woke up wanting a casual and slow in the kitchen.  I love lazy Sunday's, and being casual in the kitchen is part of that.  I had some chives, green onions and mache that I thought would work perfectly with Citricos' Onion Tart that I saw in my Disney cookbook.  Citrocos is a upscale restaurant at the beautiful Grand Floridian Resort - gorgeous.  It is on my bucket list to stay there for a Disney trip.  While thinking of the sunny and beautiful location spot, I put on a pot of coffee and got to work.

Here is the basic recipe and steps for the tart.  I did change it up a little and made notations as applicable:
  •  olive oil
  • large onion (I used four small)
  • bay leaf (I used two)
  • 2 eggs (modified to three since I was making one large tart, not four small)
  • 2 tbls. heavy cream (probably 3 on my end)
  • 2 tbls. milk (I used skim, about 3 tbls.)
  • 1 minced garlic clove (2)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • refrigerated pie dough
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese
While the oven preheated, I sauteed onions with the bay leaves in some olive oil until they were soft and lightly browned, but not caramelized to be overly sweet.  While this was cooking, I prepped the crust by laying the pie dough into a tart pan.  I pricked the dough (so that it wouldn't rise when pre-baking) and baked it in a 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes.  When the tart was done baking, I removed the bay leaves from the onion mixture and spread it in the crust.

For the egg mixture, I whisked together the heavy cream, milk, eggs and garlic.  I also decided to add the chives from our weekly CSA to the mix before adding salt and pepper to taste.  This was poured over the onion mixture in the tart pan.  I then sprinkled bleu cheese crumbles on top and placed it into a 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.

While it was baking, I mixed up the walnut dressing that was going to drizzle over the top.  The recipe calls for:
  • 1/2 c. sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 teas. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbls. chopped walnuts
  • 1 shallot, minced (I used our CSA green onion base)
  • 1 c. olive oil (I used about 3/4 c.)
  • salt and pepper to taste
This was all blended together and then drizzled over the top of the tart.  I also topped the tart with the mache from our CSA to freshen it up a bit more.  Overall, the tart was sweet from the onions but sharp with the bleu cheese.  It was filling but not heavy.  Which is good when you are planning on going on vacation in a warm place!

I'm Having Withdrawals...

Monday, May 23, 2011 - 
You know, the kind of withdrawals that you get when you arrive home from a vacation.

Vacation Withdrawals.

Hubs and I had a great time in Orlando with two of our closest friends.  We took in all that Walt Disney World had to offer (thanks to our wonderful friend, Stacy!), said hello to our friend Harry (as in Harry Potter) and soaked in the sun while not thinking about work and the normal, daily routine.

Will be posting photos for a recap, but until then, here is a great post I saw when I opened up my google reader (eek, despite me not blogging, I see that all of you have!) regarding one of my favorite places in Epcot, Japan.

Read all about it here at A World's View if you would like or just enjoy the photo of hubs and I on our engagement rock.  Hard to imagine that five years ago (this October!) hubs asked me to spend the rest of my life with him under the fireworks.  Love that guy and everything about that day.

More to come!

Me & the Mouse

Saturday, May 14, 2011 - 
It is time!  Tim and I are off to Orlando with two of our besties, Melinda and Sean, for the week!  I've been waiting (and cooking) for weeks in anticipation!

I've also asked on my other blog, City Nom Noms, if there are any food suggestions that you want me to try out (that I haven't!) to let me know.  Anything other 'tips' or suggestions from the readers?
Melinda, myself & Mallory during our trip in July 2010

Like the last visit, I'll post some recaps of Disney and Universal (for Harry Potter of course).  Until then, have a great week and we'll touch base when I return!

It's a Family Affair

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - 
As mentioned, I was in Green Bay this past weekend for not only a wedding, but also to celebrate my father's birthday (Happy Birthday again dad!) and Mother's Day (love you mom!)

The immediate family got together for a cookout on Saturday night just to relax and see each other.  I played chess with both my niece and nephew (and yes, I won), drank wine with my mom & sister-in-law, played with my brother's dog (her name is Malibu) and ate some great steaks from dad.  Oh, and of course, we placed a friendly wager on the Kentucky Derby.  I of course picked the one Disney reference, Animal Kingdom.  Once again, I won....not to brag or anything.

Yup, lots of steak, which also meant leftovers.  We also had fresh fruit, potato salad, corn, cheesy brocolli, foccacia and a berry tiramisu for dessert.  Lots of wine too - did I mention that?

Love them.  Hugs to my family!

Introducing Mr. & Mrs. Vanden Avond

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - 
My dear friend, Mykael, married the love of his life, Stephanie, this past weekend in Green Bay.  You may remember him from another wedding recap.  Before I show you all of the fun, a few things to note about Mr. Mykael.
  • The true spelling of his name is Michael.  A long time ago, he decided Myk was a better fit, and so that is how he is referenced by not only himself, but everyone else.  I have always called him Michael, and I refuse to change that.  Thus, I've amended Michael to Mykael to satisfy his i vs. y thing he has going on.
  • We have known each other since prior to birth.  Our parents are besties (they met because our father's are in the same industry), thus we grew up together and have always been close due to our age (which is exactly 9 months apart, he is July 17, whereas I am April 17).  We have spent countless summers camping with our families growing up - we even used to waterski together.  Matching hoodies were also part of history.
  • He's a fire fighter.  All buff and like, he saves lives.  Awesome guy.
  • I love him to pieces like a brother.  We used to tell people we were half siblings and everyone believed us.  It did take a while for people to understand that we weren't once high school graduation occurred and everything (we went to different high schools). Not to mention the different parent thing.
When he met Stephanie and I finally had the chance to meet her, I knew she was perfect for him.  She's adorable, friendly and love him with all of her heart.  I was honored to read and be part of their special day as they became Mr. & Mrs.  A small photo recap:

Some of the old camping crew!

Love my hubs

My adorable parents

And my adorable brother and sister-in-law

Beautiful bride!

With dear friend Matthew, Mykael's brother

LOVE these kids!

The groom with his wonderful parents!

::sigh::  I just love weddings.

How was your weekend?

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad

Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 
I've had this in my back pocket for quite sometime (okay really, I just forgot to post it and found it sitting there...waiting patiently.)  With all of the mache we've received from our CSA, hubs and I made fish tacos the first time around.  And when hubs said he wanted fish tacos, I happily agreed and quickly thought how great a black bean side would be as an accompaniment.  Had some quinoa in the pantry and decided to mix up with the two ingredients.

I sauteed some finely chopped white onion with about 4 cloves of garlic.  Once the onions were translucent, I added about 3/4 cup of quinoa.  Then, some cumin and cayenne pepper to the mix.  One this was all mixed up, I added about 2 cups of vegetable stock and let it come to a boil.  Then, the simmering began.

I was thinking maybe 15 minutes for this, but the quinoa was just tough for some reason.  I don't cook with quinoa very often, so I may have had the texture wrong, but I knew that I wanted it to be cooked a bit more.  It was soaking up the liquid like a rock star, so I kept adding 1/4 cup here, a 1/4 cup there until it was the texture I was looking for.  This lasted for about 30 minutes total, but it wasn't a big deal because I started it much earlier than everything else.  I guess my mind knew something it wasn't really telling me during the cooking process.

Once it was a good texture, I added two cans of rinsed black beans and cooked until everything was hot.  Added some cilantro (what was left - so only about a tablespoon, though it could have had more) and wild chives.

It made a lot of salad, let me tell you.  Plus, it was extremely filling.  All good things in my book.  There was enough for me to make a meal out of it the next day.  And to jazz it up, I added the leftover grilled nectarine salsa we had from our fish tacos the next day - it was delicious (and just as filling!)

A Delicious Spring Progressive

Monday, May 2, 2011 - 
Steven has done it again!  Another wonderful meal at Tastings that included not only great dishes, but some great wines as well.  For all those who didn't show up, I have to say thank you because our portions were a bit larger, which left my stomach very happy!

Aperitif - Cherry Blossom Cocktail
Pink in color, I sipped and was immediately reminded of cherry 7-up.  The fizz, the flavors, it all was light and refreshing with that slight imitation flavor you sometimes get when using flavored products.  It was made of vodka, sake and Nuvo - a good sipping beverage.

First Course - 2009 Folonari Soave served with Asparagus Crostini
The wine was clean and crisp, perfect for the crostini that we were served.  A lightly toasted baguette had the perfect crunch, and was topped with a homemade ricotta of TPC whole milk and goat cheese.  The creamy cheese was the perfect accompaniment to the thinly shaved asparagus.  The perfect spring vegetable was dressed in lemon-mint vinaigrette.  I loved the sweetness of added honey with the asparagus.  Simple, refreshing, perfect.

Second Course - 2009 Dom. Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier served with Salmon Nicoise
I loved the bottle - it had braille on it which we learned was for a family member of the winery.   Sharp, berry smelling and tasting, it was paired with cured Atlantic salmon.  A dijon mustard-cured salmon was slightly salty, but creamy on the palate.  Served with deeply roasted green beans and gold potatoes.  The earthy potatoes were paired perfectly with a subtly salty olive vinaigrette and shaved manchego cheese.

Third Course - 2009 Renato Ratti 'Ochetti' Nebbiolo d'Alba served with Basil Crusted Duck
What my friend Rachel dubbed as a 'friendly' bottle, this was a sweeter red that both red-wine lovers and non-lovers alike could share.  The duck fat was rendered before being finished in the oven to a perfect medium rare.  Crunchy panko was mixed with basil and covered the duck for a perfect crunch and smooth texture.  This was served on a creamy sunchoke puree.  Sunchokes are similar to the sweet taste of a parsnip, which was great with the chanterelle jus, rich in rosemary flavors.  Even my friend Melinda, who had never eaten duck before, finished her dish wanting more.

Final Course - 2009 Dom. de margui 'Vin De Pays Du Var' Rose served with Rainbow Sorbet
The wine wasn't memorable, but the kumquat sorbet was.  We were served three different sorbets: lime, kumquat and raspberry.  The raspberry was sweet, the lime tart, and the kumquat just right.  Perfectly cleansing, I really enjoyed the flavors.  These were served with shards of an almond-sugar cookie, both crunchy but soft, thick with the almond extract flavor.

A great evening with many flavors.  I loved the variety: some cheese, seafood, protein and a dessert.  Everything was light - exactly how Spring should be in dishes.  Thank you again for a wonderful evening Steven and all the staff at Tastings!

More Greens

Sunday, May 1, 2011 - 
Week four of our CSA has given us more greens.  The cooler was full, lots of things to use for this week - which is short due to a trip to Green Bay (one of my best friends is getting married!) so we'll need to be creative this week. We have...
  • baby romaine
  • spinach
  • mache
  • red and green lettuce
  • chives
  • green onions
  • our own sage plant
So, a few repeats.  Well, a lot of repeats.  I wish we were getting a few different things, like asparagus and other spring vegetables.  But leafy greens it is!  I already have plans for most of it, but if anyone has any suggestions, don't hesitate!