Tag: foodie

A Ratatouille Remy Would Be Proud Of!

A Ratatouille Remy Would Be Proud Of!

Ever since I watched Ratatouille, I’ve been planning to try making my own Ratatouille. The movie version just looks so good, and so fancy, that I had to try it. Since we had eggplant ripening on the vine outside, I decided this week was going to be the time!

The important thing (in my opinion) to remember when you’re making this is that there appears to be no set recipe for this! Most recipes for traditional French dishes are very similar. However, this one seems to be more of a comfort food, and every Mom and Grandma has their own version. Some are very “organized” like this one, made with layers. Some are all cut up and mixed together. Some recipes I’ve seen have you roast the vegetables separately first, and then cook them together.

What does that mean? It means you can pretty much do whatever you want. 🙂 If you don’t like eggplant or squash – leave them out. Substitute them. Some recipes called for potatoes. Some didn’t. You can alter this to fit you and your family’s tastebuds. You can also alter the amounts. My recipe makes a small 8″ round dish. There are only two of us, and squash and zucchini aren’t our favorites. I didn’t want to make a huge amount and then end up not eating it. I chose to slice and arrange everything as well. You can just chop them up and dump them in – they’ll still taste good – maybe even better because it will all be mixed together!

Ingredients for Ratatouille

Overall, it’s a healthy, pretty easy dish, though it does require some time.

You need a lot of veggies for this. Again, feel free to swap or leave out things you want to change. You can also put more of the things you like most. But a couple cloves of garlic, an onion, red pepper, a couple of tomatoes, a couple zucchini, a yellow squash, an eggplant, bay leaves, thyme, basil, oregano, and olive oil are what I used in mine. I used fresh thyme because I had it – feel free to use dried instead.

The first thing I did was to slice my onion thinly. I wanted to caramelize them before putting them in, but it’s an optional step. You can just saute them until tender and it will work just fine. If you want to caramelize them, you’re going to put them in a non stick skillet with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and let them cook over low heat for about an hour. (See? This is why I say you may not want to do that.)

Once they are cooked, you’re going to seed and dice your tomatoes. I seeded them over a strainer so that I could add the juice to the skillet. I also diced my red pepper, and minced two cloves of garlic. All this went into the skillet, and I turned the heat up to medium and let it cook for about 5 minutes, until the peppers were starting to get tender.

You’re going to pour this into the bottom of your baking dish. If you decide to just chop things and bake them together, you’d mix in the other ingredients. But in this case, I wanted to use it as a base to help hold the slices of vegetables in place. Does that make sense?

This is probably the hardest step of the whole process. Seriously. The next hardest thing is slicing the squash, zucchini, and eggplant. Mainly because I used a mandolin. You don’t have to. I did it because I like that I put in minimal effort and they come out thin. But I also know that mandolins are sharp. Do not find this out first hand. Just trust me on this. I was at a bridal shower once helping to set up when one of the other bridesmaids was using a mandolin and chatting it up. She ended up in the bathroom holding her finger over her head while others applied pressure, and a few girls had to step out to get fresh air because there was blood.

Don’t worry – in the end, she was fine. It didn’t even require a trip to the urgent care.

But believe me when I say those things are sharp!

Anyhoo… once everything is sliced, the rest is pretty simple. Before you start, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Make sure there are no cookie sheets stuffed inside to dry. (Yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t do that.) Layering everything takes a little time, but it looks pretty awesome. Having the onion mixture in the bottom helps keep everything in place as you layer them in. I alternated the types of vegetables so it would look pretty – zucchini, squash, and eggplant. In the dish I was using, I ended up only needing one of each vegetable (though I bought more). If you use a bigger dish, it may take longer and take more slices. I even had some left over.

Remy's Ratatouille

Drizzle another tablespoon or so of olive oil over the top of the vegetables, and then tuck your bay leaves in. You could put them in the onion mixture as well if you wanted. Sprinkle the top with thyme, basil, and oregano, and then place your parchment paper over the top. Put an oven safe plate or bowl to weigh it down, and pop it in the oven. I put it in for about 1 hour.

After the hour is up, carefully take the paper and bowl off, and bake another 30-45 minutes. The liquid should have reduced a little, and the top will be roasted and deliciously brown.

Once its done, take it out and enjoy! You could serve it with baked potato, rice, or just some nice French bread. Either way, it will be melt in your mouth delicious! The only thing I will say is that you HAVE to make sure that you get some of that onion mixture on the bottom. Don’t forget that part! That was my favorite part, and I thought it was crucial to have with the squash. If you were to just chop all this in similar size pieces and roast it, I think the flavors would mingle a bit more. Still, this was pretty delicious as is!

Remy's Ratatouille

 

 

table rating
This is a Table recipe – mainly because it requires a few more steps. It’s worth the extra effort!

 

Print
Remy's Ratatouille
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
2 hr
Total Time
2 hr 15 mins
 

Inspired by the scene at the end of Ratatouille the movie!

Servings: 2 people
Ingredients
  • 1 medium zuchinni, sliced thin
  • 1 medium yellow squash, sliced thin
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil you can add more as you need
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Thinly slice a large sweet onion. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a nonstick skillet over low heat. Cook, stirring occaisionally, until onions are golden brown. (About one hour)

  2. As your onions are cooking, seed and dice two tomatoes, mince your garlic, and dice the red bell pepper. When the onions are nearly finished, add the rest of these ingredients and turn the heat up to medium. Saute for five minutes, or until the peppers and tomatoes begin to soften.

  3. Pour the onion mixture into the bottom of your pan, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


  4. Using a knife or mandolin, slice the zucchini, eggplant, and yellow squash into thin rounds. 

  5. Alternating the vegetables, layer them over the onion mixture. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, and sprinkle the herbs over the dish. Tuck the bay leaves between the vegetables, or add before layering squash.

  6. Place a piece of parchment cut to fit your dish over the vegetables, and weigh it down with an oven safe plate or bowl. 

  7. Bake for 1 hour, then remove the parchment and bake another 30-45 minutes, or until some of the liquid has reduced and the dish is brown and roasted.

Margarita Cupcakes inspired by EPCOT

Margarita Cupcakes inspired by EPCOT

I have a confession to make before I begin – I don’t actually like Margaritas. I know, I know. Sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. I was hoping that if I made it into a baked good, I’d like it better. And I’d rather eat these than drink a margarita, so I suppose I achieved the goal! I think these cupcakes are good, but I haven’t had the same reaction that my margarita loving friends have. They say they are FANTASTIC. I even tested it out on my coworkers, and they loved them. So you should definitely try them!

The cupcakes

This recipe is actually pretty simple. You’re going to need basic cake baking items, and then you’ll need tequila, triple sec, and limes. That’s the only “unique” ingredients that this recipe requires. If you like margaritas, you may already have those things on hand.

You do need to complete one step about an hour before you plan to make your cake. You’re going to take two limes, and you’re going to zest them into a bowl, where you’ve measured out the 1 and 1/2 cups of granulated sugar you need. I use vanilla sugar because I like it. You don’t have to. (All vanilla sugar is, is a container of granulated sugar with a vanilla bean dropped in it. You can leave that bean in there for AGES and it will continue to scent any sugar you put in the container with vanilla. Try it. It’s awesome in baked goods!)

I use a microplane to zest my lime, but you could use a vegetable peeler in a pinch. Once you have your limes zested, stir the zest into the sugar and leave it to sit for one hour. This will help the lime flavor infuse into the sugar. It makes a difference. Really.

Lime Sugar

While you’re waiting, go ahead and put cupcake liners in two cupcake pans. Or grease and flour them. But the liners are way easier. You’ll want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit as well.

Once your hour is up, you need to get out your mixer. A stand mixer is a lot easier for this, but it doesn’t matter as long as you have a mixer of some kind. The beauty of this recipe is that you dump everything together, except the egg whites, and beat. There’s no creaming (though I do it when my butter is still a little hard) or anything like that.

So dump in your lime sugar, butter, baking powder, a teeny bit of vanilla, salt, and flour. Then beat it together on high for 2 minutes. If you’re using a stand mixer, I’d suggest draping a dish towel over it, so the splatter stays contained.

Great. Now is the time to dip your finger in and eat the batter. Cause there’s no eggs yet, so that thing your mom always told you about how you’d get the collywobbles if you ate raw batter? This is totally safe.

Tell me my mom isn’t the only one who said that.

Now you need to separate your eggs. You can save the yolks and make something, like lime curd or lemon curd, or you can throw them out. Whatever floats your boat.

After the egg whites are in, beat it again on high for 5 minutes. I’d suggest beating it for about 30 seconds on low first to get things started. Sometimes egg whites fly all over if you don’t.

Have I mentioned I am a messy cook?

It should be a pretty smooth batter at this point. Take it to your prepared cupcake pans and then fill the liners about 2/3 of the way full. We will not discuss how long it took me to fill these while trying to be neat. And by the time I got to the end, I flipped batter on the pan anyway. It was a good try though, right?

Margarita Cupcake Pan

You should be able to get two dozen cupcakes out of this, give or take a few. If you overfill you’ll get less cupcakes, but it isn’t a big deal.

Put these in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. I would recommend putting these on a cooling rack when they come out, because you need to pop them out of the cupcake pans before they cool completely.

The Syrup

The key to making these cupcakes taste like a margarita is in the syrup. While the cupcakes are in the oven, you need to squeeze your two limes into a measuring cup. If you’ve made a margarita before, you’ll know how this works. My recipe for a Margarita is 1 part lime, 1 part triple sec, 2 parts tequila. For me, my two limes made just about 1/4 cup of juice. So I added 1/4 c triple sec, and 1/2 cup tequila. depending on the size and juiciness of your limes, your amounts may be different. But you want to measure how much liquid you have total. Don’t drink any. 🙂

You’ve just basically made yourself a margarita. Great. Now you’re going to add the same amount of sugar as liquid and pour both into a saucepan. Put it over medium high heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then take it off the heat and leave it to cool off just a little.

It will probably be more syrup than you need. You can always save it and use it on something else. I imagine whipped cream for pancakes made with this would be good. Or pouring a little over ice cream or pound cake?

Putting It Together (almost)

By now, hopefully your cupcakes are still warm, but not so hot that you can’t pop them out of the tin and put them on the baking rack. Put a sheet of aluminum foil underneath it to catch any drips. While everything is still warm, you will take your margarita syrup and brush a generous amount of the syrup onto the cupcakes. You can do this while they are in the pan, but they get sticky and it gets hard to get them out sometimes after. I discovered this the first time I made them.

I brushed mine with syrup twice, because I wanted to make sure the flavor really got in the cake. I also made sure I brushed a very generous amount on there. You can brush it with more or less, as you like.

The Icing

Let the cupcakes completely cool, and while they are doing that, you can make your icing. Its really easy. I use a stick of butter and a stick of margarine, at room temperature. Beat them in a mixer until they are fluffy. Add in 1 pound of confectioner’s sugar. Turn your mixer on low and start to beat the sugar in. Add 2 tablespoons of milk, and then slowly pour in about 1-2 tablespoons of the margarita syrup. You could also add about 1/2 tsp of vanilla, but since these are margarita cupcakes, I really wanted the frosting to taste like the drink. You can add more syrup if you want, but be careful you don’t add too much and change the consistency of the icing.

Once the cupcakes are cool, transfer your icing to a piping bag. You can use a tip, or you can just snip off the end and do it that way. How you choose to get the icing on is up to you. Use a knife if you’d rather!

After you frost them, get out a little bit of salt. I happened to have a sample pack of Hawaiian salts a friend sent me, so I used the red Hawaiian salt to finish mine. I think it really helps cut through the sugar, and help amplify the margarita taste. And, you know, it looks pretty.

Margarita Cupcakes Inspired by EPCOT's Mexico Pavilion

If you decide to give these a try, I’d love to know what you think! Tell me in the comments below!

table rating
This is a Table recipe – mainly because it requires advance prepping, and a few more steps and ingredients. It’s worth the extra effort!
Print
Margarita Cupcakes
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

These cupcakes are inspired by EPCOT's Mexico Pavilion!

Course: Dessert
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cup flour
  • 3 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 large egg whites
Syrup
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (from zested limes)
  • 1/4 cup triple sec
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1 cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Zest the limes and mix with the sugar. Let this sit to infuse for one hour. In the meantime, line 2 cupcake pans with 24 liners and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. After the sugar has sat for one hour, combine all ingredients but the egg whites in a stand mixer or large mixing bowl. Beat for 2 minutes on high.

  3. Add the egg whites and beat again for 5 minutes on high.

  4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full, and then bake the cupcakes for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

  5. Move to a rack to cool until you can pop out the cupcakes, then place these on a baking rack with aluminum foil underneath.

  6. Juice the two limes, measuring the amount of liquid produced. Generally, you should get around 1/4 c of lime juice. Add the triple sec, tequila, and sugar to a saucepan and heat over medium high heat. 

  7. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and remove from heat. Brush over the top of warm cupcakes, being generous.

  8. Allow cupcakes to finish cooling, then frost as desired.

 

Print
Margarita Cupcake Frosting
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
 


Ingredients
  • 1 lb confectioner's sugar
  • 1-3 tbsp margarita syrup from the cupcake recipe
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/2 cup margarine room temperature
  • salt for decoration - optional
Instructions
  1. Beat butter and margarine until fluffy. 

  2. Add the confectioner's sugar, and turn your mixer on low. Gradually add in the milk and syrup. 

  3. Once combined, turn mixer to high and beat for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

  4. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes, and garnish with salt, if desired.

Margarita Cupcakes Inspired by EPCOT's Mexico Pavilion

‘Ohana Grilled Chicken

‘Ohana Grilled Chicken

This is the last of the recipes I’m posting from the Moana dinner and movie party – but don’t think its the “least” of them! This is a great recipe, and is one of the ones given to my mom when we asked on our first trip ever.

We’ve made this MANY times over the years since then, and I must admit that there is one drawback to this recipe – it really has to be grilled. I’ve tried to bake it, saute it and everything in between, and it just doesn’t taste as good unless you grill it. Somehow, it needs that extra boost to be all it can be.

With that being said, don’t skip the recipe! Just save it for a nice day and a hot grill. The chicken (or you could do pork) will need to marinate for two to three days, and I do strongly suggest you actually follow that for this one. It needs to soak in and really do its work. The chicken will be tender and moist if you give it time!

Ohana Grilled Chicken

The recipe itself is super simple. First, you need to use a blender or food processor. A whisk won’t cut it here, because you’d be whisking for days. So pull out the food processor and then gather your ingredients. You’re going to dump the garlic, malt vinegar, lemon juice, Tabasco, salt, pepper, and brown sugar all together. Put the lid on, and measure out your olive oil into a container with a pour spout. Then slowly drizzle it in as you run the food processor. You want the mixture to form an emulsification (hence the reason you need the food processor). Don’t panic when this comes out! It is not a thin marinade – it will come out pretty thick. This is good, because it really sticks to the chicken well.

Now, put your chicken in a bowl or a resealable bag (in a bowl), and pour about half the marinade in with it. Seal the bag, getting as much air as you can out without making a mess. Then leave it in the fridge for 2-3 days. The leftover marinade needs to go into a container and then into the fridge. You’re going to use this to baste the chicken as you grill it later.

Once your 2-3 days have passed, fire up the grill and get the chicken cooking. As it cooks, baste it liberally with the reserved marinade. Once it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, pull it off the grill and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

In the restaurant, they serve the chicken with dipping sauce. I don’t have the copy of the peanut sauce – somewhere in the last move it was lost! But I’m going back to ‘Ohana in a few months.  While I’m there, I’ll get that recipe and post it! Until then, I’d suggest using the one found at AllEars.net. I’m pretty sure its the same one.

The pictures for this really don’t do it justice, but when the chicken was taken off the grill, I didn’t get to the camera before the guests got to the chicken…. so the photos were taken quickly with what I could rescue briefly!

Ohana Grilled Chicken

I hope you try this, and if you do, please let me know how it goes! Have you had this before? Been to Ohana? What did you think?

table rating
This is a Table recipe – mainly because it requires advance prepping and the grill. Its worth the wait though!
Print
'Ohana Grilled Chicken
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

Given to me over 10 years ago at Ohana, its as good now as it was then!

Servings: 8 people
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c malt vinegar
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 3 dashes Tabasco
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 c light brown sugar
  • 1 c olive oil
Instructions
  1. Put all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, into a food processor.

  2. Slowly pour the olive oil into the processor as it is running, forming a thick emulsification.

  3. Put the chicken into a resealable plastic bag or container. Pour half of the marinade over the chicken. Save the rest in a container.

  4. Let chicken marinate for 2 to 3 days. 

  5. When ready to cook, heat grill and grill chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use the saved marinade and baste the chicken frequently while grilling.

  6. Remove chicken from heat when done and let rest for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Ohana Grilled Chicken

Cooking with Character was given The Liebster Award!

Cooking with Character was given The Liebster Award!

I received an email not long ago from Stephanie at Love, Laughter and Luggage, nominating me for the Liebster Award for new bloggers!  I was extremely excited, because this is a virtual award passed from blogger to blogger as a show of support, and a way to promote other blogs we enjoy reading.

 

Be sure to stop by Stephanie’s blog, and show her some love on social media. She has a fabulous website!

HERE ARE THE RULES:

  1. You must acknowledge who has nominated you and also share their links.
  2. Share 11 facts about yourself.
  3. Answer all 11 questions asked.
  4. Nominate 11 more bloggers whose blog you would recommend.
  5. Ask 11 questions that you would like those bloggers to answer.
  6. Include an image of the Liebster Award either in your post or in the sidebar of your blog.
  7. Let the bloggers you have nominated know that they’ve been nominated.

11 FACTS ABOUT ME

  1. I used to be a technology education teacher, and now I’m a high school librarian. I’m also certified to teach high school English.
  2. I’m a published Young adult and middle grade author.
  3. I have a husband and a cat. I’m pretty sure the cat rules the house.
  4. I can wiggle my ears.
  5. My minor in college was Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Reading the original King Arthur stories ruined it for me. To this day, I can’t stand King Arthur, mainly because Guinevere really isn’t much of a catch to be fighting over.
  6. I love to cook – but only in the last several years have I managed to expand some of my tastes. I didn’t eat shrimp until this year! In my defense, I have weird texture issues.
  7. I once accidentally walked into the kitchen in a restaurant in France when I took the wrong door while looking for the bathrooms. Luckily, no one saw me.
  8. My aunt and uncle invite friends and family every year (we try to go every year, but we may have to start doing our own version at home if we don’t make it more often!) and make over 500 pounds of cabbage into homemade sauerkraut. It’s amazing stuff. Your arms ache for days afterward. And no matter what anyone says, those inferno pepper slices are not safe to eat alone. Take it from me.
  9. Even though I’m a librarian, I almost never have time to read at work. It’s sad.
  10. I love writing snail mail letters. I think it’s a lost art, and I want to get high schoolers interested in it again.
  11. I think one of the best sandwiches ever is a bologna and ketchup sandwich. If its garlic bologna, even better!

11 LIEBSTER QUESTIONS

  1. What’s your middle name? My middle name is Ellen.
  2. What is your favorite song right now? Oh, man. Well, I’m going to say that it’s a toss-up between either “Carry Me” by Eurielle, or “Shiny” from Moana.
  3. What gives you inspiration for blog post ideas? Lots of times its watching a movie and thinking about what they might eat in that country, or looking through a Disney cookbook, or a book or blog post about Disney. Sometimes it happens when I’m walking through the grocery store and I’m hungry and thinking about what I want to eat.
  4. Best and worst parts of blogging? I enjoy this, but I have to say that doing it seriously, and trying to do it well, is a lot of work. More than you’d think it is. I’m trying to learn as I go, but keeping up with social media and a day job and my writing and everything else in life is HARD. But it’s worth it.
  5. Your favorite spring trend of this year? I’m about the least likely person to even know what the trends are, but it seems that there’s a lot of tropical prints and pineapples around, and I love a good pineapple/tropical print during the summer.
  6. Sun or snow? Can I qualify this and say sun, but not scorching?
  7. Future goals for blogging? I would love, LOVE, to be able to do this blog and have it open up opportunities that would allow me to make it a full time job. Most of all, I’d love to have a community of readers who want to see what I post next.
  8. Do you have any pets, if so what are they? We have a cat, named Molly, who is a rather lazy fuzzball. I had her before I met my husband, but she’s totally ditched me in favor of him.
  9. What is your favorite social media platform and why? I like different platforms for different reasons, but my top two are Twitter and Instagram. I like twitter because I can interact in real time with people, but I like Instagram because it’s just fun to have the visual there.
  10. Coffee or tea? Tea all the way!
  11. If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why? This is tough. I should say something like Walt Disney or Julia Child. But I think I’d like to have dinner with my Grandma Caynor. She died six months after I was born, and I would have loved to have met her.

 

My Liebster Nominations are:

  

My Questions To You.

  1. What is the one place in the world you want to visit, if money was no option?
  2. Who is your favorite Disney character?
  3. Do you prefer phone calls or texting?
  4. What is your favorite part of being a blogger?
  5. What is your ultimate goal for your blog?
  6. What is your favorite book (or author)?
  7. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
  8. Almond or vanilla?
  9. If you could interview one person, dead or alive, for your blog, who would it be and why?
  10. What is your favorite thing to do on a warm summer evening?
  11. If you were stranded on a desert island and you could have one meal delivered from anywhere in the world, what would it be and why?

 

Maui’s Wayfinder Sunrise

Maui’s Wayfinder Sunrise

Maui’s Wayfinder Sunrise is a tasty tropical treat that is perfect for those warm summer evenings coming our way (and remembering them during the cold winter nights!). Inspired by Disney’s Moana, this is a really simple recipe. You can leave it virgin, add a shot of rum, serve on its own, or make it into a blended drink by adding ice – there are lots of options! No matter which way you have it (and I’ve done them all to make sure. Quality control and everything.) it will be delicious.

The prep is easy. You’ll need pineapple juice, guava nectar, mango nectar, and cream of coconut. Simple, right? All of these can be found at most grocery stores. I recommend looking in the international and/or latin food section for the guava and mango nectars. Jumex makes the mango nectar in single cans, and if you’re planning to make this recipe and you aren’t sure you’ll like it, that’s just the right size.

Just measure everything directly into a blender. If you aren’t putting ice in it, you don’t have to use the blender, but I’ve found that the cream of coconut sometimes needs to be blended in or it just stays clumpy. It seems to depend on the brand I buy and whether or not its in a bottle or a can, but its just easier to blend it. And its pretty awesome with ice, made into a slushy type drink.

Pulse it a few times until it is mixed and/or reaches the level of slushiness you want, and then pour into a glass. Its thick and sweet and tropical and sometimes it works for me as a dessert on its own!

We’ll be using this at the Moana dinner and movie party in May – its a perfect way to start the evening!

Did you try it? What did you think?

 

Maui Wayfinder Sunrise

snack rating

Print
Maui's Wayfinder Sunrise
Prep Time
10 mins
 

This is inspired by Disney's Moana, and is a delicious drink whether left as is, or with a little alcohol added for adults.

Course: Drinks
Servings: 4 people
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp lime juice, fresh
  • 6 tbsp cream of coconut
  • 2 2/3 cup guava nectar
  • 1 1/3 cup mango nectar
  • 4 cup pineapple juice
Instructions
  1. Measure all ingredients into a blender. If you want a slushy style drink, add about halfway full of ice.

  2. Pulse until you combine the ingredients and/or get the consistency you like.

  3. Pour and enjoy!

Louis’ Favorite Chicken Gumbo – Princess and the Frog Inspired Dinner!

Louis’ Favorite Chicken Gumbo – Princess and the Frog Inspired Dinner!

After watching The Princess and the Frog the other night, I had the urge to try to make something more like what Tiana would cook in her restaurant. I ruled out beignets (at least this time) because I didn’t have the time, and while I love a good pastry, I don’t need to eat a million of them. So instead, we decided on chicken and sausage gumbo.

This version I created from several recipes I’ve found online and in cookbooks. If I had to tell you one specific recipe it was adapted from, I’d say probably Emeril’s – but it was more than just one! I bought file powder months ago with the intention of making gumbo, so the research had already been in the works. This evening just seemed to be the ideal time to try it!

I went out with my list of ingredients and picked up the few things I needed. Mostly it was the andouille sausage and peppers. I like red bell peppers better than green, so I almost never have those on hand. But I was warned in the past by friends that red wouldn’t taste the same in the “trinity” of onions, celery, and peppers, so I wanted to make sure I bought the right thing!

Now, before we get into making this, I must give you one disclaimer – I have no connections to Louisiana (outside of a few friends) and I’ve never been there. So I fully admit that this may not be “true” Louisiana gumbo – its just my take on the dish. I’ve tried to do it justice.

Onto the process – the first thing you want to do is chop up all the vegetables and pull out all the spices. I had plans to take lovely pictures of all the ingredients all lined up, but I made this and had to empty the spice cabinet to find a couple things and it kind of looked like my kitchen exploded. So I didn’t. I’m sorry.

Once you have all of that together, you are going to pull out a big stock pot and put it over medium-high heat. I also like to put the chicken stock into another pot on the stove to heat – putting hot liquid in the pot really helps, rather than cold. It isn’t mandatory, but I would encourage you to try it!

The first part of this recipe is getting the roux made and to the proper color. A roux is simply a mixture of flour and fat that you whisk together and cook to get the flour taste out, and toasty flavor in. Depending on how long you cook it, and the color it turns, the flavor can be mild or seriously nutty. Its other purpose, and probably the biggest purpose, is to thicken whatever you’re putting it in.

For this recipe, I used bacon drippings that I had in the fridge. Not exactly low-cal, but its BACON. How can this possibly be wrong? Anyway, you’re going to put a whole cup of it (I didn’t have quite enough, so I added a little butter – bacon and butter. Yum.) in your pan and let it melt. When it is completely melted, you’re going to whisk in a cup of flour. You want it smooth, and you’re going to continue to whisk it until your roux turns a nice chocolate brown. At first you’ll think that it will NEVER change color. But once it starts, it goes fast! When you are doing this part, don’t answer the phone or wander away from the pot. The second you do it will turn black, and that’s not a good thing. If it gets black flakes in it, its burnt, and you’ll have to throw it all out and start over. No one wants that!

Once that’s done, you can ditch the whisk and use a wooden spoon. Grab your diced veggies, because now you need to add your “trinity” – the green pepper, onion, and celery. Let it cook for a few minutes (about 5) stirring it often. Then dump in the sliced andouille. At this point, it should smell pretty good. Next, add your spices.

I will caution you about one thing – I marked the cayenne pepper as optional. I am a total wuss when it comes to hot things. I’ve gotten better since I got married because my husband likes spicier dishes. But I haven’t got a lot of heat tolerance. I would recommend holding the cayenne until the end, when it has had a chance to cook and you can taste it. I forgot that creole seasoning has cayenne in it already. So when I added everything in mine, I realized it was a teeny bit more spicy than I intended. It was still good, and I could eat it, but I figured I’d warn you.

Either way, stir in the spices before you add the liquid, because it lets them get a little bit of heat on them and can toast a bit. Just stir them in for about a minute, and pour in 3 quarts of chicken broth, the sugar, and the Worcestershire sauce. Stir this until the mixture is smooth and there aren’t any lumps.

Add the chicken, which you’ve cut into 1-2 inch pieces, and stir. You can use breast or thighs. Many people recommend thighs, but to me it is a personal preference. I don’t really like dark meat, so I chose to use breasts. It worked just fine. Once you stir those in, put it on a low simmer and let it cook for about 45 minutes.

At the end, taste it, add your vinegar and a couple extra teaspoons of file powder, and the cayenne (if you want it), and let it cook a few minutes more.

Then just serve this over white rice, and enjoy! If you try the recipe, I’d love to hear what you think!

*Please be aware that this post contains affiliate links. By clicking on any of these links and purchasing the product, I receive a small commission from the company.

Louis' Favorite Chicken Gumbo

table rating
This is a Table recipe – mainly because it requires advance prepping and the grill. Its worth the wait though!
Louis' Favorite Chicken Gumbo
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Louis' Favorite Chicken Gumbo
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hrs
Total Time
2 hr 15 mins
 
This recipe is adapted from several I've seen, including Emeril's. It was inspired after watching Princess and the Frog!
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Movie Dishes
Servings: 6 people
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
  • 1 c bacon fat/oil/butter
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 pound chicken breast, cut into 1" chunks (you can use thighs if you like.)
  • 3 qt chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 heaping tsp creole seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp gumbo file powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Instructions
  1. Put your butter or bacon fat into a heavy stockpot. When it has melted, whisk in your flour until it is smooth. Over medium to medium high heat, continue to whisk this roux until it is a chocolate brown color.
  2. Add your onion, celery, and pepper to the mix and turn down the heat to medium low. Cook the mixture for around 5 minutes.
  3. Add your sliced sausage to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Next add all the spices (except the 1/2 tsp cayenne) and stir them for a minute or two to heat up and toast a bit.
  4. Add the chicken stock, stirring constantly until most of the lumps are gone.
  5. Let the mixture simmer on the stove for around 45 minutes. Near the end, add the vinegar, and the extra 1/2 tsp cayenne (if desired). At this point you will also add another 2 tsp of file powder, if you taste the gumbo and decide it needs a little more flavor.
  6. Pour over rice and enjoy!
“Fried” Dill Pickles – only without the frying

“Fried” Dill Pickles – only without the frying

I’m going to let you all in on a secret – I’ve got a serious pickle problem. That’s not really a big secret if you’ve actually met me, but it will explain the plethora of pickle jars that exist in my house. And my annual search for the best homemade pickle recipe for canning. I’ve got refrigerator pickles down, but canned ones… But I digress.

Last night, I saw a pic on Instagram of someone eating fried pickles (I can’t find it in my feed anymore, or I’d post it!) and I got a serious hankering for some of the crispy, warm goodness. So I got out a recipe I’d made a while ago and decided to use up the pickles in the fridge.

Its a pretty easy recipe. I recommend two large resealable bags for the flour and breading, because its a lot easier than using your fingers and a bowl.

You can use up pickles for this, or buy a special jar. That’s entirely up to you. I used half a jar of kosher hamburger dill slices and then sliced up the four remaining kosher baby dills from the jar. Only about two actually made it to the batter. Someone ate them. No idea who that could be.

First, drain your pickles in a colander, and then let them sit there while you prep everything else. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and line a baking tray with foil. Put a baking rack on top of it. The foil is really just there for easy clean up.

In one of the baggies, you’ll need about one cup of rice flour. You can use regular all purpose, but I happen to think that rice flour just makes it a little crispier, and it sticks better. BUT, if you’re making this on the fly, or you’ll never use rice flour again, don’t make a special trip, okay? (Though I also dredge chicken fingers in it when making Cap’n Crunch Chicken for the same reason, among other things.)

Add pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to the flour. You can add salt, but I don’t. You’re going to put season salt in the breadcrumbs, and you’re breading pickles, and they’re salty already. If you do decide to add some, just add a big pinch. Reseal the bag, toss it around a little, and then its good to go.

In the other bag, pour your bread crumbs, season salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper in, and mix that up.  it may sound redundant to add the same seasonings, but it makes a difference, I promise!

In your bowl, you want to beat one egg with a couple tablespoons of water.

Now that everything is prepped, you’re ready to get to it!

Pour your pickle slices on a large dish towel and pat them dry. They don’t need to be perfect – just not soaking wet anymore.

Now, dump them into your bag of flour it. Seal it (don’t forget this step. Trust me.) and toss them around a bit. I scoop them out with a hand and shake off the excess, or you can use a slotted spoon or a spider. Put them in the egg mixture, and then into the breading. Toss again to coat, and use the slotted spoon (or your hand) to put them in a single layer on the baking rack you’ve prepped.

Fried Dill Pickles

Now, we are baking these, not frying. If you want more “golden brown” on the breading, then lightly spritz the pickles with oil or baking spray.

Fried Dill Pickles

Put in the oven, and bake at 450 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. You may need a little longer, depending on how dark you want it.

Serve them with a little bit of ranch and enjoy! Trust me, make a little more than you think you should. These disappear faster than you think they will.

Fried Dill Pickles

quick rating

Fried Dill Pickles
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"Fried" Dill Pickles - only without the frying
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 
Course: Appetizer
Servings: 2 people
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 2 1/2 cups bread crumbs, unseasoned
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, divided
  • 2 tsp onion powder, divided
  • 2 tsp season salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 jar sliced dill pickles
  • 2 tbsp water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a baking rack in the pan.
  2. Drain your dill pickles and spread on a paper towel or dish cloth. Pat dry.
  3. In a gallon size resealable bag, combine 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp pepper, and the rice flour, mixing well.
  4. Do the same with the remaining spices in another gallon bag with the bread crumbs.
  5. In a shallow dish, beat the egg with 2 tbsp of water.
  6. Pour the pickles into the flour and toss to coat. Using your hand or a slotted spoon, transfer the pickle slices to the egg mixture and then into the bread crumbs. Toss again.
  7. Remove with hands or slotted spoon and spread onto a baking rack on a baking sheet. Cook for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. If you want to get a more even golden brown color, spritz the slices with cooking spray or oil.
  8. Serve with ranch dressing and enjoy.
Pepper Pot Pork Chops

Pepper Pot Pork Chops

This afternoon I decided it was time to try another grill recipe. Since I found two lovely butterfly pork chops at the store the other day, I went on the hunt for a recipe on my list of recipes to attempt – and came across Pepper Pot Pork from Boma! So far, all the things I’ve made from Animal Kingdom restaurant recipes have been awesome. Pepper Pot Pork was not a disappointment!

The original recipe calls for a pork roast and its cooked differently. There are also some differences in the seasonings. But this recipe was really delicious and perfect for the grill on a warm spring evening. (Though it was pretty hot today – we’re quickly working at skipping spring and heading straight for summer!)

The first thing you need to do is pull out a bowl or (my preference) a resealable gallon baggie, and mix up the marinade. This part is easy. Just dump all the ingredients into the bag and then add the pork chops. You can mix it separately in a bowl and pour it in, but this works just fine. I made sure I massaged the pork chops a bit to distribute all the spices and make sure they were covered, but that’s as much fussing as you need to to.

Once its in the marinade, put it in the fridge and leave it for anywhere from 2-4 hours. I recommend putting that baggie down in a bowl, just in case, but its up to you. I only needed the bag to leak once to make me err on the side of caution. No one wants to clean marinade and meat juice from the fridge. Seriously.

So you’ve got a couple hours to kill. Read a book, watch a movie, do something productive. Take a nap. Whatever. When the time’s up, you’ll need to prep your grill, as well as your sauce.

The sauce is also pretty easy – don’t let me list of ingredients throw you off. Just dice your onions and peppers, put your olive oil in the pan and saute them until they begin to get a little tender – anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Once that’s done, you just add all the rest of the ingredients. Make sure all the spices are well mixed in, and let it come to the boil. Once it does, turn the temperature down to medium low and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes. Don’t let this reduce too much – you’ll run out of sauce!

Once its has simmered, you’re going to make a cornstarch slurry – a tablespoon of cornstarch in a couple tablespoons of water or cold stock. Mix it until its smooth, and then pour in about half. Make sure you mix it as you pour it into the pan. At this point, you can add more cornstarch for a thicker sauce, or leave it as is. The thickness is all personal preference! Once you have your cornstarch mixed in, cook about two more minutes and then remove from the heat.

While your sauce is cooking, you’re going to grill the pork chops. I made this with butterflied pork chops and they worked beautifully. There are only two in this recipe, but if you need more, just adjust the amounts as you need to. Its pretty easy to double or even triple it, and it should work out just fine.

I serve this with rice made with vegetable stock, because if I can use flavor instead of water, why not? There is a lot of flavor going on here, so you don’t need seasoned rice. (Though if you want to, do what makes you happy!)

I’m enjoying the grilling part of these recipes because my husband is the grill master (so he’s in charge of cooking that part) and because there is one less dish for me to wash when its all over. Priorities, right? 😉 But whether it is grilled or cooked on the stove top, the flavors are fantastic!

This recipe does differ from the original, which you can see at AllEars.Net if you like. All the same, its a really tasty recipe. I hope you try it, and if you do, I’d love to hear what you think!

Disney Pepper Pot Pork Chops

quick rating

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Pepper Pot Pork Chop
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
4 hr 50 mins
 
Adapted from the Pepper Pot Pork recipe from Disney's Boma.
Course: Main Dish
Servings: 2 people
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
Marinade
  • 1.5 pound butterfly pork chops
  • 1/2 c soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
Sauce
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 1 c vegetable stock (you can just substitute 2 c chicken stock)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 diced bell pepper (I prefer yellow or red, but any color is fine)
  • 1/2 diced sweet onion
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch (Hold until the end, then mix with 1 1/2 - 2 tbsp water)
Instructions
Pork Chops
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a gallon resealable baggie. Add pork chops and massage marinade in, making sure that spices and sugar are well mixed.
  2. Place in refrigerator for 2-4 hours. When the time is up, you'll cook the pork chops on a grill, or saute in a pan. Either way, you'll want to cook to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
  3. Take off heat and allow the pork chops to rest for 5-10 minutes.
Sauce
  1. Dice onions and peppers together, and saute in a non stick skillet in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook these for around 5-10 minutes, until they begin to soften.
  2. Add in the remaining ingredients for the sauce, except the cornstarch slurry. Allow to come to a boil, turn the heat down to medium low, and simmer 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add the cornstarch slurry, stirring in until you reach the consistency you like. Start with half the mixture, and add more as you need.
  4. Cook 1-2 minutes longer, then remove from heat. Serve with pork and enjoy.

 

The Best Dill Pickle Flavored Popcorn Recipe for a Movie Night!

The Best Dill Pickle Flavored Popcorn Recipe for a Movie Night!

There’s a flavored popcorn stand in EPCOT that I’ve heard many people rave about. And apparently flavored popcorn is a big thing in Disneyland and some of the other parks across the world. What a perfect snack! I mean, who doesn’t love the smell of popcorn? (Unless its burnt. No one, except a friend from college, likes that. She used to hunt down the burned popcorn smell and take it off our hands, so I suppose it wasn’t a bad thing in the end, right?)

I’ve got a fun, tasty flavor for you to try this weekend. If you do a family movie night, this is a fun way to up your popcorn game. Keep an eye out, because I’ve been working on a handful of these. This is just the one I finished first. This spice blend is easily kept in a jar and used a little at a time. While I’m writing a recipe designed to flavor a lot of popcorn, you can easily just sprinkle it with a spoon over your personal bowl, and then everyone can have what they like! That way too, if you follow the blog and get the other recipes (they’re coming soon!) you can pass around the bowls and see which ones you like best.

What flavor are we making? Dill Pickle, of course!

If you like pickles, you’ll like this. Now me, I don’t like pickles. I LOVE pickles. Its a problem. I have no problem sitting and eating an entire jar by myself. Whenever someone tells me it isn’t good for me, I wave and hand and remind them I’m eating vegetables. They seem to think this doesn’t count. Whatever.

If you’re like me, then you should make sure there’s a separate bowl for everyone else. Cause there’s no sharing going on here.

Dill Pickle Popcorn

This is really easy. If you have a spice grinder, you can get fancy and grind your own spices. I like to do this because I think they taste fresher longer, but its not necessary. Mixing preground spices works just as well. The hardest thing to find for any of these recipes will probably be the citric acid. Its usually in the canning section of the store, or you can order it online. You don’t need very much – only a 1/4 tsp for the whole recipe! One container will  last you a long time.

Dill Pickle Popcorn Seasoning
This recipe makes quite a bit. Only use what you need – you should get a couple batches of popcorn out of this!

To do this recipe, you measure out your spices (if you’re using any whole spices) into a spice grinder, and pulse them all together. Be careful when you remove the top, because some of the spices, especially those that were already ground, will be a really fine powder. If you get too close to the puff of spice that comes out when you take off the lid, it will go straight up your nose. Ask me how I know. If you don’t have any whole spices, just measure everything into a small bowl and mix well with a spoon. I would recommend using fine grain sea salt or popcorn salt if you go this method, but that’s a personal preference.

Dill Pickle Popcorn

I cheated for this, and popped a bag of microwave buttered popcorn because I didn’t want to get out the popcorn popper (I have the kind you put on the stove and crank.). If you’re going this route, you won’t get 5 quarts of popcorn. I used about two heaping teaspoons of powder, sprinkled it into the bag, and then poured the popcorn into a bowl. You can add as much or as little as you like. If you aren’t sure you’ll like it, I’d start with one teaspoon, toss the popcorn, and then taste. You can add more from there if you like.

 

Its got a lovely dill pickle flavor and a nice pungent sour note that isn’t too strong. Before you know it, you’ll be staring at the bottom of an empty bowl and hunting down the next bag of popcorn!

What other popcorn flavors would you love to see?

 Dill Pickle Popcorn

snack rating

Dill Pickle Popcorn
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Dill Pickle Popcorn
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
10 mins
 
This recipe is adapted from one found at Food and Wine's website.
Course: Snack
Servings: 4 people
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp light mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dill seed
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
Instructions
  1. Mix all spices together in a bowl, or put all spices into a spice grinder and pulse to a powder.
  2. Sprinkle over popcorn sprayed lightly with cooking spray or tossed with butter. If using microwave popcorn, just open bag, close, and shake.
  3. Enjoy!

 

Dill Honey Mustard

Dill Honey Mustard

You may be wondering why I’m putting a recipe for homemade mustard up here. You’re probably thinking, “Its not related to Disney, and I can pick up a bottle for so much cheaper at the store.” Let me put your mind at ease.

The mustard isn’t tied to Disney by itself. That’s true. It is, however, going to get used in several recipes I have planned. And seriously, if you like mustard like I do, making your own is the next step. All those fancy little pots of mustard with different additives – champagne, honey, cider, etc – will have nothing on what you can make yourself.

And its SO EASY.

No, really. It takes next to no effort. Just a little patience.

You have to get whole grain mustard seeds – which are available in the spice aisle, or at specialty stores like the Spice and Tea Exchange here in Williamsburg. I’ve also ordered from World Spice Merchants. They’re both good. You only need a couple tablespoons to start out, so don’t buy a ton. (Or do – if you’re like me, you’ll need them eventually.) You also need some apple cider vinegar, dried dill, dried mustard powder, and some local honey. (I’m all about buying local – and it usually tastes better than the cheap stuff at the store which may not be all real honey in the first place)

That’s it.

Measure out two tablespoons of each kind of mustard seed. I put mine in a mason jar, but anything with a lid will work. You’re going to pour about 1/4 cup of vinegar over the seeds. Close the jar. Leave it out on the counter to soak 24 hours. You can let it go up to 48, but it doesn’t make too much difference. I only did  it because I got sidetracked.

So a day later, you’re going to put that mustard seed and vinegar mixture into a food processor, blender, or smoothie machine. Add about 2 teaspoons of dill, a 2 teaspoons of the dried mustard, and a tablespoon or two of honey. How much honey will depend on how sweet you like your mustard. You want more bite? Add a little less.

dill honey mustard
I left mine with a lot of mostly whole grains. You can leave them even more intact, or go really smooth.

Now, this part really depends on your taste preferences. If you want lots of whole mustard seeds, you can blend only a few pulses. If you want smoother, blend longer. When it has a consistency you like, pour it into a jar and close it. You can taste if you want, but you’ll be disappointed. The mustard really needs to sit in the jar for about a week before you eat it. It needs that long to let the flavors hang out and make beautiful music together. I didn’t believe it either the first time I made this stuff, but it really, really makes the difference.

After a week, feel free to use it on whatever you like. I love this stuff – the only mustard I love more is Hot Pepper Mustard, which I’ll post a recipe for later on. Just make sure to keep some of this mustard around. You’re going to need it for some of the recipes I’m planning!

The recipe will make one small jar, but if you need more, you can easily scale this up to make any amount you like. Just remember that it isn’t canned or sealed, so it has to stay refrigerated.

Dill Honey Mustard

snack rating

dill honey mustard
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Dill Honey Mustard - Cooking with Character
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
1 d 10 mins
 
Course: Condiment
Author: cookwcharacter
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp dark mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp light mustard seeds
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tsp dried ground mustard
Instructions
  1. Measure out mustard seeds into a mason jar or other container with lid. Cover with vinegar and let soak for at least 24 hours.
  2. Pour mustard seeds and vinegar into a blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to desired texture.
  3. Pour into a jar, close, and let sit in refrigerator for at least one week.