Chocolate Coffee Caramel Bars

I may have said it before, but I’m not sure there are many things that can compare to the combination of Chocolate and Caramel. Unless, that is, you throw Coffee into the mix. I found these tasty treats on PaleOMG, and I must say – WOW. Dense and not too sweet, this dessert just may make it into my home cookbook, for those times when attempting to please everyone!

Chocolate Coffee Caramel Bars

Crust

  • 12 Dates, Pitted
  • 1/2 Cup Almond Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. Raw Honey
  • 3 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Salt

Caramel

  • 14 Dates, Pitted and Soaked in Water for 1 Hour
  • 6 Tbsp. Canned Coconut Milk
  • 3 Tbsp. Water
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • Pinch of Salt

Topping

  • 1 Cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 Cup Canned Coconut Milk
  • 2 tsp. Ground Coffee
  • Course Sea Salt, to top

Add all Crust ingredients to a food processor and mix until well combined. Add this mixture to a bread pan or similar, and push down until the mixture is flat.

Once this is done, add remaining dates to the food processor and mix until they have broken down – about 1 minute. One Tablespoon at a time, add Coconut Milk while the food processor is still running. Add Water, Vanilla, and Salt. Mix until a creamy caramel is formed – this may take 3-5 minutes total. Pour over Crust and spread evenly.

Next, melt Chocolate and Coconut Milk together in the microwave by heating for 30 seconds, mixing well, and reheating as necessary. Once completely melted, add ground coffee and mix well. Pour chocolate mixture over caramel and spread evenly.

Add Sea Salt to top. Put in the freezer to harden – approx. 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Recipe and Photo Courtesy of PaleOMG
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Organic, Gluten Free Cookie Dough Bites

Since I’m unable to eat gluten, soy, and a miriad of other things, I haven’t been able to have too many treats. So when I saw a recipe for Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bites, I knew I had to try it out! It’s gluten free, dairy free, soy free, and as far as desserts go, pretty healthy!!

Gluten Free Cookie Dough Bites

  • 1 Cup Creamy Almond Butter
  • 1/2 Cup, plus 2 tbsp Raw Honey
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 Cup, plus 2 tbsp Coconut Flour
  • 6 tbsp Ground Flax Seed
  • 1/2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (I used Enjoy Life Mini Chips)

In a large bowl, mix together almond butter, honey and vanilla until creamy and well blended. In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut flour, flax seed and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well to combine. Mix in the chocolate chips. Use your hands to knead the dough a few times to combine. If it’s too dry and doesn’t hold together well, knead in one teaspoon of water. Then, scoop out tablespoon-size portions and roll into one-inch balls using your hands. Refrigerate – Makes about 36 cookie bites.

This Blog is Part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays!

Disney World – New and Notable Must-Tries for 2011

Whether going for the first time, or planning a trip as a veteran, 2011 is bringing many new options to Disney, and a few changes (for better or worse) in dining options throughout the World. Epcot has added restaurants in Mexico and Italy, Downtown Disney got a little more eclectic, chef changes have been made at some popular resort restaurants, and Disney’s most sought-after restaurant has now become a Signature dining destination. Whether the changes add spark to your vacation or make you wish for the good ole days, one thing is certain; Disney is aiming to please everyone, one step at a time.

La Hacienda de San Angel

La Hacienda de San Angel - offering prime viewing of Illuminations

Construction for a new table service restaurant at Epcot’s Mexico pavilion had been underway for over a year, with the unveiling finally occurring September of 2010. With overwhelmingly positive feedback, this restaurant promises great food and a fireworks view to match. Previously, other than a quick service option, Mexico had been lacking outdoor dining options for those wishing to see Illuminations. Every type of diner can be appeased now, as Cantina de San Angel, a counter service restaurant, is attached. La Hacienda offers a menu that’s a step above it’s sister restaurant, San Angel Inn. Dishes are a bit more authentic, with a greater selection, better quality ingredients, and a slightly steeper price tag attached. Also of note is the Tequila selection, which only rivals La Cava del Tequila, located just inside next to San Angel Inn.

Via Napoli

Via Napoli offers certifiably authentic Napolitan pizza, as well as other Italian specialties.

If Disney was lacking in any one area, it would have been pizza. Reviews and comments were overwhelmingly synonymous that a good pizza joint would be a gold mine for Disney, and Epcot answered that call very willingly. Via Napoli opened its doors the same month as La Hacienda de San Angel, firing up all 3 of the wood-burning ovens, comically chiseled to appear like faces devouring the in-going pies (in reality they represent Italy’s 3 active Volcanoes). Appetizers, Salads, and traditional Italian Entrees colorfully grace the menu, but it’s the Pizza selection that gets everyone’s mouth watering. The Mozzarella is flown in from Naples, birthplace of the pizza. Water for the dough is found in a spring whose consistency is that of the selection found in Italy, and the Tomatoes are San Marzano – all the makeup of what can be certified “Vera Pizza Napolitana.”

There’s a counter-service option attached to the restaurant as well, once more offering something for everyone, no matter the budget or dining plan.

Pollo Campero

A fresh look at the former McDonalds space, Pollo Campero offers healthier alternatives and allergen-free treats.

 

To say that Disney’s decision to remove McDonalds from Downtown Disney was an improvement would be an understatement. Anything would have been more unique, but adding Pollo Campero to the Marketplace now adds a healthier option, as well. Pollo Campero announced its spicy arrival in November with rave reviews. Legendary chicken, all-natural burgers, salads, wraps and desserts (all of which are Gluten Free!) mark a menu that Disney has termed “Fresh-A-Peel,” offering healthier options.

BabyCakes, NYC

BabyCakes offers a sweet indulgence to those with special diets and allergy restrictions.

Speaking of healthier options, Disney has finally heard the growing voice of the special diet community, and cupcake company BabyCakes, NYC has opened in the DownTown Disney Marketplace! These treats are also featured at Pollo Campero, by the way.

All of the cupcakes, cookies, cakes, muffins, brownies, and other treats offered are not only delicious, they are light-years healthier than most other desserts you’ll find. Why is this? Everything is completely free of refined sugar, gluten, wheat, soy, casein, and eggs, making them Vegan, and Kosher, to boot! This is the perfect solution for anyone with food allergies and a sweet tooth.

Chef Changes Throughout the World

Chef TJ is bringing his magic to the Grand Floridian, serving up concoctions at both 1900 Park Fare and Grand Floridian Cafe.

Vegans and those with Dietary Restrictions mourned as they heard news that noted Chef TJ hopped a monorail and made the move from the Polynesian’s Ohana to the Grand Floridian. Luckily, 1900 Park Fare has seen a major improvement in the selection offered to those with special diets since then, as has neighboring restaurant Grand Floridian Cafe.

As the premier resort at Disney World, the Grand Floridian must have noticed a decline in food quality and increase in complaints at their classic Character Buffet, and measures were taken to ensure an upswing. One thing is certain, if there’s anyone that can bring something back to life, it’s Chef TJ. Expect great things to come, and a revival of the once-“Gold Standard” for breakfast destinations at 1900 Park Fare.

Le Cellier Signature Dinner

There's usually no wait at Le Cellier, but only because the steakhouse is booked solid 180 days in advance!

Perhaps the most debated topic in Disney changes has been the convergence of Le Cellier’s two credit, Signature dining experience. Beginning March 1st, lunch at the popular Steakhouse will still be 1 credit on the Disney Dining Plan, but dinners will be a Signature experience, taking 2 credits per person and offering an expanded menu.

For many years, Le Cellier has been perhaps the hardest reservation to obtain when dining at Disney World – both lunch and dinner were booked a full 180 days in advance in many cases. There are both ups and downs to this change. A new signature dinner menu will mean expanded options, an even better quality of ingredients, and hopefully a more attentive staff and quieter atmosphere (i.e. not as many tired children). It will also mean greater ease at getting a reservation. However, snagging a lunch time reservation will most likely become a cunning game of skill, attainable to only the most die-hard Disney dining enthusiasts. To only have one seating at regular dining credit, lunch at the most popular restaurant in Disney will only be reserved by booking the morning of that 180 day mark.

Disney is changing for the better, offering more options, sympathizing with an ever-growing number of food allergies, and upping their level of service. In the coming years, they will even unveil a new Fantasyland, complete with even more ways to keep everyone happy. No matter what, Disney World will always strive to be the Happiest Place on Earth, even if that means changing to match that evolving definition.

This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.

Chef TJ – a Renowed Disney Chef with a Cult-Like Following

I have a hard time remembering the names of chefs in my hometown of Nashville, much less one located in a completely different state. I’m not proud of this; in fact I hope to be on a first name basis with the people behind the food at my favorite haunts at some point soon. But when it comes to Disney World dining, I’ve noticed that I am not alone in sometimes choosing a spot to eat based upon the chef alone.

Look at any Disney dining blog, forum or website and you’ll notice a trend. Where special diets are concerned, there is an overwhelming majority of people who will heed one man’s name above all other qualified candidates. Chef TJ cannot be beat when custom-creating a menu that not only exceeds expectations, but goes well beyond the quality that a Disney table service restaurant is known for.

Chef TJ from his Boma days at Disney

A native to Indonesia, Tjetjep Sudiswa, otherwise known as Chef TJ, has been impressing resort guests at Disney World for more than 15 years. Starting at Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, TJ then moved to Ohana, where he has been stationed ever since. The teaming of chef and restaurant here was magical, to make even more use of that well-loved word.

Entrance to Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Resort

At Ohana, this chef had a following of Vegans, Vegetarians, and Special Diet diners (Gluten, Lactose, and Tree Nut intolerance being high on that list) that seemed almost cult-like in their devotion. Mothers raved about the attention given to their children, and twenty-something couples celebrated anniversaries at Ohana just to be fed by the man they deemed worthy of the special occasion.

The uproar of fans occurred just over a month ago, with message boards packed with topics such as “Where oh Where has Chef TJ gone?” and blog headlines screaming “Chef TJ – No Longer at Ohana!”. As rumors gave way to truth it became clear that Chef TJ was in fact no longer employed at Ohana; but where had he gone? Read more

Weekend Markets: London’s Best Kept Culinary Secret

Travel to London with even the roughest draft of a plan, and it just may include a trip to one of the city’s many bustling markets. Generally open on the weekends, the markets feature wares ranging from antiques to junk, and offer hungry shoppers both street food and gourmet delicacies.

On a recent trip, I set out to discover the city’s lesser known, more affordable dining options. No chain restaurants allowed, the aim was to hunt down local eateries that used fresh, natural ingredients. In a world bogged down with McDonald’s and Starbucks on every corner, I knew I was in for a challenge. My legs didn’t realize they would be getting the workout of a lifetime, either.

We arrived later than expected our first day, and after checking into our hotel and glancing at a city map, I realized that we would be eating around 3pm by the time we made it to the restaurant I had in mind. Not to be sidetracked by the waft of fried chickpeas from the Falafel cart around the corner, we hopped on a bus and headed towards the Old Truman Brewery. No, we would not be eating in a Brew-Pub this afternoon. The Brewery is now home to one of the city’s largest weekend markets, and the location of many locally run places to grab a bite.

The Ten Bells, of Jack the Ripper Fame

After hopping off the bus, walking through back alleys, past the bar where Jack the Ripper and his victims hung out (you know you’re in a great part of town when you pass locations such as this), and down narrow corridors painted with graffiti, we finally found the marketplace. Even though my eyes wanted to do some window shopping, my stomach strongly protested as it practically led me towards the smell of food. Unfortunately, most of the scents were coming from street carts selling everything from Barbecue to Vietnamese. Against my natural instincts, I asked for directions from a local in a deserted alley (not smart, by the way), and found the destination we had spent an afternoon trying to find. Read more

Renting Out the World

What began as a mad dash to feast on the vegetarian offerings of a breakfast buffet, turned into a lesson on the politics of Disney’s restaurant ownership. A little more educated and much more prepared for making advance dining reservations in the future, I left our meal with a newfound respect for Disney Resort dining.

 

The starting line of my race to the food at Boma's breakfast buffet.

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Disney Special Diets

After returning from my vacation to Disney World only a few days ago, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been spoiled and ruined for regular restaurants from this point forward. Gone are the days when I will accept what the menu says I can have – instead I found myself the very first morning we were back, at a restaurant in Nashville, asking my server to “veganize” the breakfast menu for me. I certainly don’t want to be high maintenance, but Disney makes it so LOW maintenance to make special requests!

I’ll be reviewing the places we went, the food we had, and the service we received during our stay. I hope it helps out someone who like me, only has partial knowledge of just what the chefs at Disney World can dream up when not adding animal products. For those a little less concerned with dairy and meat, the other person in our dining party consumed practically the opposite of me at every meal…should make for a well rounded review!

Have It Your Way – The Disney Way

For our upcoming May vacation to Walt Disney World, I did what any normal mildly OCD person would do and booked every dining reservation 180 days in advance. Assuming all was well with that portion of the planning process, I laid it to rest and went about my business until only a week ago. That point came when I began perusing the menus and reviews of certain venues I had hoped to dine at, and realized a change of plans was needed. Either that, or they would need to change their menu to accommodate me. Now I realize that was exactly what the Disney company intended to do.

I try to eat healthy wherever I go, and many times that means altering the menu to not include beloved items such as cheese, dairy, or even meat in many circumstances. Not only is this a personal decision, but a health related need as well. I’ve termed myself “Vegan Friendly,” as most of the foods I eat have become animal free in every way. I noticed that many people with food related allergies had found Disney restaurants to be very accommodating to them, so I took it upon myself to research every aspect of this. Not only did I find that all of the restaurants I had daydreamed about would now become a reality, but even the burgers and fry joints such as Beaches and Cream at the Caribbean Beach resort and Sci-Fi Dine In Theater at Hollywood Studios had veggie burgers and shakes made with Tofutti ice cream.

Just like the Grinch that stole Christmas, my heart grew three sizes the day I found this out, and now I cannot wait to sample the pizza at Mama Melrose and pancakes at 1900 Park Fare. Expect a review of each place we dine in the coming months, both of my healthy food and delicious desserts, and fellow vacationer’s menu picks, as well!

This post is part of the  The Disney Blog Carnival.  Go there to read more great Disney posts.