Posted in Salad, Uncategorized

Brown Derby Cobb Salad

We’ve been Disney Vacation Club members for over twenty-five years. One of the “must-do” activities that is always on our vacation checklist is a trip the Hollywood Brown Derby located in the Hollywood Studios theme park. There is really no need for us to review the menu after being seated in the beautiful wood-paneled dining room. We ALWAYS order the Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad. The salad includes a wonderful, finely chopped mix of greens, eggs, tomato, bacon, avocado, and turkey. Their signature salad dressing brings together this light and flavorful salad. We always visit the restaurant for the lunch hour, as the salad is delivered to the table in a large bowl and served as an individual entree. Delicious!

When entering the main dining area, looking to your left, a small shelf holds menus, coloring pages and crayons for the little ones. Sitting squarely on top of the shelf, you’ll usually find a small stack of derby-shaped recipe cards for those visiting the restaurant. The Cobb Salad and Grapefruit Cake recipes are usually available to take home with you. Both recipes are absolutely amazing. While I have made both recipes many times, nothing compares to the original prepared by the extraordinary staff at the Hollywood Brown Derby.

Here’s an adaptation from the original recipe…

Brown Derby Cobb Salad

1/2 head each of iceberg and Romaine lettuce, chopped

1 small bunch curly endive, torn into small pieces

1 small bunch watercress, large stems removed, chopped

2 Tbsp snipped chives

1 cup fresh tomato, diced

1 cup roasted chicken breast, diced

6 strips uncured bacon, cooked, diced

1 avocado, peeled and diced

3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped fine

1/2 cup Roquefort (or substitute your favorite blue cheese) crumbled

Brown Derby French Dressing

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

3/4 tsp dry mustard

1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup grapeseed oil

In a large cruet or shaker bottle, combine all ingredients. Shake vigorously until dressing begins to emusify. Chill.

Combine chopped lettuces in a large shallow bowl. Top salad greens with rows of the remaining ingredients. At table, toss salad with dressing and serve.

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Posted in Food, Soup

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

This past week we took the opportunity to leave the bitter cold of the Midwest to fly down to our favorite vacation spot. As Disney Vacation Club Members, we frequently visit the land of Mickey and Minnie to enjoy the warm southern breezes and bright Orlando sunshine. Our visit is most relaxing as we love to grab a cold drink and visit the pool, hang out on the deck while reading the latest novel, use the boat system to travel to various hotels and marvel as we view the beautiful flowers and unique shrubbery. We try to avoid the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. “Been there, done that…” is my motto. As our children were growing up, we always made a few trips to the parks. These days, I’d much rather sit back and relax.

The DVC homes are spacious and bright. They have all of the amenities of home. Most nights, I cook in our beautiful villa, other nights we take a short ride to a neighboring hotel to enjoy a meal or dinner show. This year we enjoyed the Ohana dinner show at the Polynesian Hotel. Another evening was spent sharing a meal at Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. One of the appetizers served during the “storybook” dinner at Artist Point was a mini vessel of winter squash bisque. The garnish; a “lollipop” marshmallow stick. What a delightful treat. We had a fun night celebrating with Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, and the Wicked Queen.

Arriving home, the Chicago winds were incredibly cold and the icy rain was pouring from the heavens. Running from the courtesy bus to our car in the economy parking lot, The rain had soaked through my clothing and I was, once again, freezing. I really wanted to turn around and jump back on the flight to return to the warmth of Orlando. I decided then and there that I would make a trip to the grocery store and purchase ingredients to make a big pot of Spicy Butternut Squash Soup to warm our bones and remind us of our last evening in Disney World.

This recipe is certainly not the same as Disney’s version, but it is a favorite. I add lots of ground black pepper to balance the sweetness of the maple syrup and brown sugar. Garnish with pine nuts, walnuts, maple syrup, or pumpkin seeds.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

2 large butternut squash (seeded and roasted)

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup chopped shallot (about 2 medium shallot bulbs)

1 tablespoon salt

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¾ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Lots of ground black pepper, to taste

4- 5 cups chicken broth (or water mixed with chicken base)

½ – ¾ cups half & half

In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until. Add the chopped shallot; stir and cook until the shallot has softened and begins to turn golden in color. Add garlic; stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add butternut squash, maple syrup, brown sugar, nutmeg, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cool slightly before using an immersion blender to cream the soup. Stir in half & half and serve immediately.

Posted in Crafts, Uncategorized

Traveling with Portable Craft Projects


The greatest dilemma I face when traveling is “How can I travel with a few compact and relaxing crafts while I’m away from the amenities of home?”
Once a year, we travel to Disney World and I am often stumped as to what I can bring along that isn’t too complicated or oversized.

I have thought about bringing quilt squares to hand sew poolside but the sewing machine does a much better job of securing the blocks as opposed to my, less than stellar hand sewing skills. I have also thought about bringing along my long term crochet projects but most are large, cumbersome (blankets or scarves) and too hot to be draped across my lap in the summer sun.
This year, I visited a YouTube website and found a video for a super easy crocheted sock pattern and I was thrilled to find a project that I could easily travel with.  

Here’s the website: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gasKXmcyrXgGlamma’s easy crocheted tube socks

Here are a few pictures of the craft items I carried in my tote bag. 

Here are a few other ideas I packed for soaking up the sun in a relaxed environment:


All were perfectly portable and helped me to find plenty to do as I relaxed in the sunshine of the Walt Disney World – Old Key West -Disney Vacation Club – Main Pool.



Who says Spring Break in Walt Disney World can’t be relaxing?!  Once again, we had a “magical” vacation.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Cake, Cooking In Disney World, Desserts, Food

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

After vacationing this past week, I wanted to share a great recipe that I often make when I’m traveling. As I’ve mentioned before, my family frequently travels to our Disney Vacation Club time share to rest and relax.  I often pack a bag full of munchies, packaged mixes, peanut butter and jelly and a tin of homemade cookies for the road.  This year I put a box of angel food cake mix and a can of crushed pineapple in the food bag, along with all of the other essentials needed for a week’s worth of meals.   I was anxious to whip up this tasty treat for a late night dessert with the family. You’ll find this cake to be light and airy and full of flavor.  The tiny bits of pineapple are barely seen in the finished product but they pack a flavorful punch.  Unbelievably, the recipe includes only two ingredients (with the exception of an optional sprinkle of powdered sugar for a bit of pizzaz). Pair the cake with a handful of sweet berries and you’ve got a winner!

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

1 (16 ounce) package angel food cake mix

1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray with cooking spray a 13X9″ baking pan. Simply combine cake mix and entire can of pineapple in a large bowl.  Mix until well blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let cool before topping with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or whipped cream.

Posted in Cooking In Disney World, Uncategorized

Cooking in Disney World

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The often unpredictable price of eating out while on vacation can be quite costly. My advice to friends is always the same when choosing a hotel for a family vacation; choose one that offers, at the very least, an efficiency kitchen to cook basic meals for the family while enjoying time away. Sure, it sounds great to spend a week away from the daily grind of preparing meals and cleaning up the kitchen, but a week’s worth of family meals eaten out can be mighty costly. And its always disappointing to find that when my family is ready to eat, the chosen restaurant has a line out the door that seems to be a mile long. Once inside and finally seated, the food never seems to measure up for the cost put out. Don’t get me wrong, we have our favorite restaurants in Disney World and we always make reservations at ‘Ohana, in the Polynesian Resort and the Hollywood Brown Derby. We absolutely wouldn’t miss the Polynesian inspired foods served throughout ‘Ohana’s Dinner Show and the incredible combination of flavors carefully mixed together in the Cobb Salad served at the Brown Derby. But, my oh my, things certainly add up quickly. I remember a time when it was common practice to have a soup or salad accompany a main dish or a basket of bread was given before the meal. Nowadays, everything seems to come with an added cost.
This week, our family spent our spring break vacation in Disney World. We are Disney Vacation Club Members and have ownership in Disney’s Old Key West Resort. Purchasing this property over twenty years ago certainly has been a great vacation savings for us. I thought I would take this opportunity to explain how I manage the food budget while on vacation. While we have a few favorite restaurants that we always visit while in Disney, for the most part, we really try to commit to eating “in” for the majority of our meals throughout the week. The vacation home that we stay in comes equipped with a sizable kitchen so I can prepare anything from the basic peanut-butter and jelly sandwich to a delicious pork roast dinner for the family. As mentioned earlier, finding a hotel room or suite with a small efficiency kitchen can really save money in the long run. You may have to pay a little more for the room up front but the food savings can be incredible for a family.
Here are some of the basic meals that I usually prepare when traveling with the family. They’re often prepared with convenience mixes or prepackaged ingredients but they fit the bill for a week away from home on a budget.

On day one, I usually buy groceries for the week. (I also bring from home lots of commonly used dry spices.)

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Some of our favorite vacation meals include…

Spaghetti with meat sauce, crescent rolls and Caesar salad,

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Cheeseburgers with crispy pickles and chips,

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Tacos with homemade salsa and guacamole,

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And finally, pork roast with corn and mashed potatoes,

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It’s a great idea to look at the online weekly sale flyer for the local grocery store where you intend to shop. This way, you can plan ahead to shop for deals. This week, as I grabbed my shopping cart and sale flyer at the front of the store, I noticed pork roast and ground beef were on sale for a great price. I picked up both for separate meals. The ground beef was used for the tacos, spaghetti, and hamburgers. The pork roast was used for the pork roast dinner and pulled pork sandwiches. (I shredded the left over pork and slathered it with barbecue sauce, then topped the extra hamburger buns with the tender shredded meat.)

Now, a vacation wouldn’t be a vacation without some sweet treats…

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J and I will be celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary tomorrow so I made a Mickey cake for our after dinner dessert.

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Some of the other food items purchased for the week include:
Old Fashioned Oatmeal
Greek Yogurt
Breakfast Cereal
Milk
Orange juice
Fruit
Peanut Butter
Bread
Jelly

For Dinners, I purchased:
Ground Beef
Pasta
Ragu- Chunky Garden Style Sauce
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
Taco Shells
Taco Seasoning Packets
Tomatoes
Onions
Shredded Cheese
Cilantro
Lime juice
Avocados
Pork Roast
Barbecue Sauce
Instant Potatoes
Frozen Corn
Romaine Lettuce
Caesar Salad Dressing
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Hamburger Buns
Pickles
Doritos
Chocolate Cake Mix
Ice Cream
Chocolate Frosting Mix

I paid a little over $150.00 for a week’s worth of food and was really able to stretch my food dollars.
Each of these basic meals can be prepared quickly with very little effort. Convenience mixes and prepackaged food items help to cut down on time spent in the kitchen. Paper plates and disposable tableware can certainly save time on clean up. Thankfully, our vacation kitchen is well equipped with a set of dishes, a full fridge and a dish washer.

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I’ve been cooking in Disney World for years and these meal ideas have been long standing family favorites. My crew seems to enjoy staying away from crowded restaurants and having a few home cooked meals while enjoying our time with Mickey Mouse in the bright Florida sunshine.