FREE Dining at Disney this Fall!

There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply eating your way through Walt Disney World. Unless, of course, it’s getting the chance to do it Free.

Disney has just opened up their Free Dining Offer for this Fall and I’m planning on taking advantage of it – Who’s with me?!

Beginning September 30th and continuing until December 13th, guests staying at the resort will receive the Disney Dining Plan absolutely free of charge. Book a Value resort and get the Quick Service meal plan; book a Moderate, Deluxe or Villa and get the Regular plan, which includes a table service meal, a quick service meal, and a snack for each person, every day. This is a big deal, people.

The plans even include snacks for everyone in your party each day. On top of all that, you can upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan (my personal favorite) for only the cost of what would normally be the difference between the two plans (about $34 per adult, per day). The Deluxe includes 3 table service meals and 2 snacks per person, per day – that’s a lot of time eating a lot of amazing food!

I happen to be a Disney Travel Specialist, so if you want to join in on the Free Dining Extravaganza, just shoot me an email! I happen to love planning other’s vacations. amanda@noveltraveler.com.

Advertisements

Lemon Meringue Bars

I just made these bars this afternoon, and am impatiently waiting until my brother and his wife arrive for dinner before digging in. Shockingly, I found a recipe for lemon bars on a GAPS friendly blog, and modified it to include some yummy meringue – I had a mishap with eggs earlier and the result was an overabundance of egg whites!

And you know what they say – when life gives you egg whites, make lemon meringue!

Lemon Meringue Bars

Crust

  • 1 1/2 Cup Almond Meal
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Honey
  • 2 Tbsp. Room Temp. Butter
  • 1 Tbsp. Vanilla

Lemon Filling

  • 1/2 Cup Organic Lemon Juice
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Honey
  • 1/4 Cup Melted Butter

Meringue

  • 5 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup (or Honey)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8×8 pan with butter, making sure to coat the sides, as well. Dust the dish with almond meal. In a large bowl, mix Almond Meal and Sea Salt, then add in Butter, Vanilla, and Honey. Mix by hand until a ball has formed. Take this and press into the bottom of the coated pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown on top.

While the crust is baking, mix all of the lemon filling ingredients into a bowl, using a whisk or blender to make sure everything is incorporated. Take out the almond crust and pour the lemon filling over it. Return the baking dish to the oven, baking for 15 minutes (watch the crust, you don’t want to burn it!)

In the meantime, take your Egg Whites and Maple Syrup and mix until soft peaks form. I used my KitchenAid Mixer and it worked flawlessly in less than a minute!

Take the dish out of the oven, coat the top with Meringue (making any pretty design you desire), and pop back in for 5-8 minutes, watching carefully so as not to burn the top.

Allow to cool for approx. 30 minutes, and then put in the fridge to set!

Be sure to check out my recipe, as well as many other tasty creations, at “Keep It Real” Thursdays with Beyond the Peel!

Back from the Mediterranean

As the camera gets unloaded of the over 1200 pictures it held during the last few weeks, more will follow this quick update!

The Positano Coastline

We had an indescribably amazing time on our cruise, leaving from Barcelona and traveling throughout Italy, Greece, and Turkey. The schedule was certainly jam-packed, but we merrily ate and drank our way through each city, slathered in sunblock while attempting to find shade where we could.

We quickly realized that one simply cannot see Rome in a day (or other cities, for that matter), and took note of where we will be returning to in the near future.

What came out at the top of our list? For me, it would have to be Venice, for it’s ethereal decay and romanticism, and the Italian coastal towns of Positano and Sorrento. Picturesque, delicious gelato, and not as touristy as some of the other locales!

For Jeremy, his hands down favorite was Ephesus. Seeing the spots where Paul preached and was imprisoned was quite a spiritual experience, especially after getting the back-story from our tour guide. Also, visiting the house of the Virgin Mary was truly humbling – one could almost sense the presence of a higher being even among the throngs of tourists!

Happy Father’s Day!

Certainly if I had lived in Scotland 400 years ago, along the same time as my ancestors, this would have been my father and me!

In honor of Disney/Pixar’s Brave coming to theater’s this Friday, I thought I would share this touching video. Happy Father’s Day to everyone!

European Vacation Reads

I’m hoping someone might be able to point me in the right direction here!

7 Days from today – actually, less when considering that we’ll already be flying by this time next Thursday – Jeremy and I will be on our way to Europe for our Grand Mediterranean tour!

I can’t wait to explore the sights, taste the culture, and snap many photos to bring back and share (I bought a new camera for just that purpose). But I also can’t wait to relax and do a bit of FUN reading. Fun – meaning nothing that relates to my graduate school classes.

Having recently finished Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, I would like something along the same vein, but haven’t had much luck located what this might be. Any thoughts? Suggestions? Jeremy will be reading The Night Circus during the trip, but I’ll need something fresh and new!

Banana Split Cheesecake Bites

Banana Splits may be one of my favorite summertime memories from childhood. In terms of desserts, this was perhaps one of the healthier things I adored – and it was so delicious! They could keep their cherries, though. I wanted to be loaded up with more strawberries and chocolate sauce.

Now that my days of sugar are over, that absolutely doesn’t mean I can’t find ways to indulge in warm weather treats! The internet is truly a beautiful thing in this regard. There are so many amazing bloggers out there; I only wish I were as creative as many of them! Chocolate Covered Katie is one such blogging guru. She has taken what many times are nostalgic, childhood treats, and turned them into something edible for those of us that stray from the American dietary norm. Thanks Katie!

Banana Split Cheesecake Bites

  • 1/4 Cup Canned Coconut Milk
  • 2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/3 Cup Mashed Banana (Measured after Mashing)
  • 1 Packet Stevia
  • Dash of Salt
  • 1/3 Cup Raw Cashew Butter or Coconut Butter. (If you can’t find either, you can make raw cashew butter by soaking raw cashews for a few hours until soft, then draining and blending. Be sure to measure the 1/3 cup after blending.)

Using a food processor, blend everything together well. If desired, add some shredded coconut. Pour into cupcake liners, or you can increase the recipe to make a traditional size pie. Freeze until hardened (a couple hours). Store in the freezer. Top with Heavy Whipping Cream and Raspberries if you’d like!

Going Primal – What to Eat

As of this week, I have been 100% Primal. What does this mean, you may be asking? In a previous post, I outlined the differences between The Maker’s Diet, Paleo, and Primal. In essence, it’s eating the way our ancestors ate. I’m not talking about grandparents here – I am referring to our paleolithic past. This means eating a diet of what some may call “caveman foods.”

Through the help of many books and a lot of research, I’ve realized that eating a low-fat diet filled with whole grains like bread, rice and pasta can make you unhealthy – overweight, unhappy, and sick. This might be a shock, since our USDA food pyramid suggests that whole grains be the base of our daily intake. And while I haven’t been eating low-fat foods for awhile now due to the Maker’s Diet, I decided to take the next step in feeling better inside and out. With the grains have also gone the stomach pain and bloating that followed me around like a bad habit (which in a sense, grain has been!).

I chose Primal over Paleo primarily for dairy. Primal allows for raw, unpasteurized milk and cheese, which I can obtain through a local farmer on a weekly basis. I don’t eat dairy every day, but it’s nice to be able to incorporate it into recipes, or drink a glass of cream-quality raw milk a few days a week!

As for Diet, here is the low-down at a glance, straight from Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint:

Beverages – Water, Unsweetened Teas (can use a small amount of Stevia).

Coconut Products – Butter, Flakes, Flour, Milk, and Oil offer healthful medium-chain fats; great sub for dairy, trans fats, and wheat flour.

Coffee – Enjoy in moderation (cream and minimal sweetener ok)

Dairy – Raw, fermented, high-fat and organic products are preferred (Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Cream Cheese, Kefir, Whole Milk, Yogurt) in moderation.

Eggs – Local, pasture-raised or certified organic for high omega-3 content.

Fats and Oils – Coconut, Dark-Roasted Sesame, First press or Extra-Virgin Olive, Palm, and High Omega-3 oils. Animal fats (Chicken fat, Lard, Tallow), Butter and Coconut Oil are best for cooking.

Fish – Wild-caught. Small, oily, cold water fish best (Anchovies, Herring, Mackerel, Salmon, Sardines).

Fruit – Locally-grown or wild, organic, in-season preferred. Berries are premier choice. For soft-skinned fruits, go strictly organic. Moderate intake with higher glycemic/lower antioxidant values, and dried fruit.

Herbs and Spices – Organic preferred. No preservatives.

Indulgences – Dark Chocolate (75%+ cocoa content), and Red Wine are best choices. Be sensible and moderate.

Macadamia Nuts – Great Omega6/Omega3 ratio

Meat and Fowl – Local, pasture-raised, or USDA-certified Organic critical. If you must eat conventional meat, choose the leanest cuts and trim excess fat to minimize toxin exposure.

Other nuts, Seeds and their derivative Butters – Cold-processed, organic if available.

Snacks – Berries, Canned Tuna or Sardines, Celery with Cream Cheese or Nut Butter, Cottage Cheese with Nut or Fruit topping, Hard-Boiled Eggs, Jerky, Nuts, Olives, Seeds, Trail Mix and other high-fat and/or high-protein, low-carb primal foods.

Supplemental Carbs – Those without excess body fat, not wishing to lose additional weight, can enjoy Sweet Potatoes and Yams in moderation. Occasionally Quinoa and Wild Rice.

Vegetables – Locally grown, organic, in-season preferred. Go strictly organic for large surface area (leafy greens) and soft, edible skins. Wash all thoroughly.

Shopping trips to the grocery store have certainly been different, but contrary to popular argument, eating this way (Organic meats, veggies, and fruit) has not been more expensive! Simply by steering clear of the middle aisles that contain boxed and bagged foods, I have significantly cut down on other expenses, allowing me to purchase better quality ingredients for the food I am now eating. I haven’t felt the pangs of any food deprivation, have been full for long stretches, and have loved having butter on my vegetables, yolks with my eggs, and many new recipes to look forward to!

Disney Signature Dining without the Price – an Experience at Narcoossee’s

Wanting to do something a bit different on one evening of our last stay in Disney World, we decided to cancel our reservation at Contemporary’s The Wave, and instead attempt to snag a few stools at the bar in Narcoossee’s.

This is one of the best bars in Disney – not only do you get a signature experience, but also a lagoon view, a fireworks display from the Magic Kingdom, and the low noise volume that generally accompanies the more expensive of Disney’s dining options.

It’s also a wonderful way to dine signature without having to pay the generally doubled price tag, or use two dining credits if on the Disney Dining Plan. Any signature that has a bar is fair game, which includes Flying Fish, Jiko, and  California Grill, to name a few.

The servers were extremely nice, chatting with us before bringing out a bread service that included gluten free Tapioca rolls for me to enjoy. This was the moment I found out that Disney would very soon be changing to a different allergy-friendly bread, however. While I was reasonably upset by the news, it seemed the chef who brought them out was perhaps even more so. He informed me that it was not their (the Disney chefs’) decision, but a corporate arrangement dealing primarily with cost. Here’s hoping the new bread is just as good. Anyone who has tried it, please let me know!

After the initial shock of the bread bomb cleared away, we made some appetizer selections.

First up, Cheese – a classic, don’t you think? I feel it’s one of the things people order when they don’t know what to order, but it’s always so good, nonetheless! This particular platter had five different varieties, and was accompanied by the usual accoutrements.

Being the soup connoisseur that he is, my husband opted for the Shrimp and Crap Chowder. It turned out to be piping hot, creamy, and meal-worthy once another round of bread came and he could sop up every last ounce.

After glancing around the room at what other diners had ordered, I happily selected the Prince Edward Island Mussels. They came out in a rather large bowl that was filled half with Mussels, and half with a rich, buttery broth. Having also received more bread, I did my own fair share of sopping, as well.

Soon the fireworks began, and the lights were dimmed so everyone could take in the splendor. It turned out to be a fantastic evening – low maintenance, yet elegant. I believe we’re going to do this again on our next trip!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Bars

I am a huge fan of Rice Crispy Treats. Especially covered in chocolate. When peanut butter is thrown into the mix, there probably won’t be any left for others. I adapted this recipe from Eat Good 4 Life’s version, which contained coconut. Because my husband isn’t the biggest fan of this, I felt that putting it in the dessert would have truly forced me to consume the pan in its entirety. Perhaps I’ve a bit safer this way.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Bars

Bottom Layer

  • 1/4 Cup Honey Granules
  • 1/2 Cup Honey
  • 1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
  • 2 1/4 Cups Brown Rice Cereal
  • 1/2 Cup Oats
  • 1 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder

Middle Layer

  • 1 1/2 Cups Peanut Butter

Top Layer

  • 1 1/2 Cups Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

In a saucepan, combine Honey Granules, Honey, and Peanut Butter on low heat. Heat for approx. 1-2 minutes stirring until granules dissolve. Remove from heat and add Cereal, Oats, and Cocoa Powder. Press the resulting mixture into a foil lined baking pan.

Next, spread Peanut Butter on top of the Crispies (warming in the microwave for a few seconds may make it easier to spread). Place the pan in the refrigerator and allow to set for about an hour.

Melt Chocolate in a bowl (I simply use the microwave). Stir until smooth and spread this over the peanut butter layer. Again, transfer to the refrigerator to set – about 30 additional minutes.

Finally, lift the Crispies out of the pan by pulling out the foil. Cut into squares and store in the refrigerator!

Photo courtesy of Eat Good 4 Life

On Vikings and the Crazy Profession of Writing

I have a weakness for Vikings. From the time I was a very little girl, my family would frequently play a game – we would take each person’s name and say it backwards, knowing that it was our secret, ancestral Viking name. For instance, my father – the fiercest of us all – was known as Nor Nameloc by his children. Not all the time, mind you, but enough to make it a household title to this day.

Perhaps it is for this reason – and the fact that I likely stemmed from that far-off line of warriors – that I love the words of Chuck Wendig. He’s certainly humorous – not to mention profane, rude, and a bit of a nut. In regards to his blog, he himself says, “If [my writing is] for anybody, it’s for berserker Vikings, the dangerously insane, and… I dunno, grizzly bears or something.”

Well, since my father also styles himself after Grizzly Adams, I had to share this article I unearthed. Chuck contributed a guest post over at Writer Unboxed, and I now relay it to anyone with an interest in writing (or who may be hurtling the mountain I call Graduate school).

Here’s some highlights:

Own the Crazy – If you’re a writer, you’re probably a little crazy. At the bare minimum, you’re probably a little moony. Quirky. Eccentric. Odd. Slightly skewed worldview. This is a good thing.

Listen, this thing that we do? It’s already pretty nuts. We sit. By ourselves. Inside on a nice day. We stick our nose in a notebook or glue our half-ruined eyes to the computer monitor. And there we conjure worlds out of nothing, worlds were everything is going wrong starring characters who we love but who are also damaged goods. And then we try to get it published, which is a league of unparalleled insanity no matter which path you choose.

What I’m telling you is: let the crazy be your guide. Let it be the jaguar-headed shaman that drags you into the heart of the penmonkey jungle. Fight crazy with crazy.

To read exactly how to fight this crazy battle with your own blend of insanity, head over to Writer Unboxed and check out the rest of the article.  I promise that you will not only be thoroughly entertained, you’ll be enlightened, as well!

Chuck Wendig is an author of numerous books, and also blogs at TerribleMinds.com.