From the Disney Parks Blog comes news of a new 2016 Epcot Cookbook that “Celebrates the Best of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival”

Cover of new Epcot Festival Cookbook - photo from the Disney Parks Blog

Cover of new Epcot Festival Cookbook – photo from the Disney Parks Blog


Pam Brandon wrote the following on the Disney Parks Blog:

“Debuting just in time for this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, the newest Epcot cookbook shares the best-of-the-best recipes, but also includes favorites from the 2016 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which started adding its Outdoor Kitchens in 2013, now an integral part of the spring fest.

Sharing food and drink is such a communal experience, and the circle around World Showcase Lagoon is the perfect place. The cookbook lets you take the memories home and recreate favorites with family and friends. Here are two of our favorites, one from each festival. The kale salad is a simple meal in a bowl, and the warm quesitos are super-easy and melt-in-your-mouth delectable.

The cookbook will be for sale at the Festival Center, Festival Emporium, Festival Boutique, Mouse Gear, World Traveler, Gift Stop and other Epcot shops during and after the festival. And look for Epcot Culinary Director Gregg Hannon and myself at the Festival Center for a recipe demo and cookbook signing.”

You can see the original post, which also includes a couple of recipes (one old and one new) by clicking here.


For those of us that have several of the past Food & Wine Festival cookbooks, we’re hoping that there will be lots of new recipes in this volume, as opposed to reprinting mostly older ones with just a few new ones thrown in… and we’re also hoping they do a better job of proofing this volume than they have done in a couple of the most recent cookbooks from Disney (but that’s a subject for another day…).

Back to the kitchen…

Margarita of the Month: June 2014 – Watermelon Margarita (Market-Fresh Mixology Version)

Nothing signals the onset of summer to me much more than watermelon – good watermelon that is…

Watermelon Margarita – Market-Fresh Mixology Version

you can get it pretty much year-round, but it’s late spring/early summer that it really starts getting good (normally when the price goes down and they start going on sale is a good indicator of them being in season)!

Market-Fresh Mixology

Market-Fresh Mixology

So when my-favorite-melons started to look better, I pulled out a copy of a cocktail book I’d been sent a little while back: Market-Fresh Mixology, Cocktails for Every Season by Bridget Albert. This book has drinks based around the seasons of the year, emphasizing what fruits, veggies and herbs are in best at each time of the year, and how to incorporate them into a lovely libation (more on the book later).

So let’s make a margarita…

Watermelon Margarita (Market-Fresh Mixology Version)

4 Cubes  Fresh Watermelon (each 1″ square or so, seeds removed)

1 1/2 Ounces  Fresh Sour Mix (2 parts fresh lemon juice to 1 part simple syrup)

1 1/2 Ounces  Silver Tequila

1/2 Ounce  Triple Sec

For Rim Ingredients (also see note below)

4 Tsp  Super Fine Sugar

1 Tsp Sea Salt

1 Tsp  Crushed Pink Peppercorns

Lime Wedge

To rim the glass, mix the sugar, salt and peppercorns on a small plate. Rub the rim of the glass with the lime wedge and roll the rim of the glass in the sugar mixture and set aside.

In a cocktail shaker muddle the watermelon with the lime juice until it’s pulverized. Add the fresh sour, tequila and triple sec. Throw in a couple of good handfuls of ice and shake well. Strain the drink into the prepared glass and garnish as desired (lime wheel, watermelon piece, etc.). Now drink up! This recipe makes one decent sized drink. And since it’s got watermelon in it, I’m deeming it a healthy cocktail!

Watermelon Margarita - Market-Fresh Mixology Version

Hibiscus Mini Flower Crystals and Watermelon Margarita

Note: Since I didn’t have any pink peppercorns on hand, I decided to try out another goodie I’d been sent to test out: Mini Herb Crystals from Fresh Origins Microgreens. There are seven flavors of these little crystals which are made from the fresh herb, flower or fruit mixed with cane sugar, in this case I used the Hibiscus flavor. You can also mix these with a bit of salt for that sweet-n-salty rim if you like. They also make larger crystals of the same materials that can be used on cookies, cupcakes and the like. These are some interesting products that are worth a look.

Watermelon Margarita – Market-Fresh Mixology Version

A few more notes on the book… the author (who has appeared on Iron Chef America on the Food Network) opens with a nice section with “Home Bar Essentials” then the main section of the book has recipes for each of the four seasons and wraps up with some recipes for infusions also keyed to the seasons (can you say Savory Onion Infusion for Fall?).

There is a good variety of unique recipes and the photos are nice, but not all recipes are illustrated. There are several recipes I really want to try (Blackberry Cinnamon Mojito anybody?), but be aware that many of the recipes do call for specific syrups (that you’ll have to make from provided recipes, like lemongrass syrup or lavender syrup) and a wide number of specific liquors that you may not have on hand (so unless you have an ultra-well stocked bar, you’ll have to make a trip or two to your local liquor emporium). If you’re the adventurous imbiber and want to expand your collection of adult beverage concoctions I’d recommend taking a look at Market-Fresh Mixology.


Thanks to Agate Publishing and for providing the book and Fresh Origins for the flower crystal samples. And in effort of Full Disclosure, I was given the book and samples free of charge, but all opinions/comments are strictly mine and objective.


We’re back to the kitchen, and of course, the bar! See you soon!


If you enjoyed this recipe, please be sure to “like” and “share”!



Smothered Chicken Thighs - Louisiana Style

Smothered Chicken Thighs – Louisiana Style

With it being slap in the middle of Mardi Gras season (it’s actually Fat Tuesday as I write this), I thought it the proper time to share a Cajun-influenced dish I stirred up a bit ago – chicken pieces cooked in and smothered with a rich sauce filled with the “trinity” of peppers, celery and onions – in other words (and perhaps more familiarly) a chicken étouffée. Since there’s beads to get and Hurricanes to drink, let’s not waste any time – Let’s Cook!

Smothered Chicken Thighs – Louisiana Style (Chicken Etouffée)


4  Chicken Thighs (bone in, skin on – you can remove skin if you must)

Salt & Black Pepper for the chicken

2 Tbl  Canola Oil (or other veggie oil)

4 Tbl (1/4 Cup) Butter

2 Tbl  Flour (all-purpose, or whole wheat AP, etc.)

1/2  Red Onion, finely chopped

1 large Celery Stalk (or 2 smaller ones), finely chopped

1/2  Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped

1 large  Jalapeno Pepper, (you guessed it) finely chopped (seed if you want for less heat, gloves would be nice for you while chopping this fella…)

1 1/2 – 2 Cups  Broth (chicken or vegetable, I’m thinking subbing up to 1/2 cup of dry white wine for part of the broth wouldn’t suck if you want to try)

2 – 3 nice size Plum Tomatoes, diced (seed if you want, I didn’t)

3  Garlic Cloves, crushed

1  Bay Leaf

1 Tsp  Dried Thyme (if you happen to have fresh thyme in the house, cut the dried back to 1/2 tsp and throw in a few sprigs of fresh too)

1/4  Tsp (or more if you like) Cayenne Pepper

1 Tsp  Salt

1/4 Tsp  Ground Black Pepper


Heat the oil in a dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium to med-high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces on both sides and add to the pot.


Brown the chicken well on both sides, maybe 8 – 10 minutes total. Remove the thighs to a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium – med-low and add the butter. When it melts stir in the flour and mix well.

Roux for you... cook until about the color of peanut butter...

Roux for you… cook until about the color of peanut butter…

Stir constantly, adjusting your heat if needed, so the mixture doesn’t scorch. Keep stirring and cooking until it’s a nice medium-brown color – yes kids, we’re making a roux… this should only take a couple of minutes.

Veggies... means it has to be healthy, right?

Veggies… means it has to be healthy, right?

Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and jalapeno to the pot. Cook and stir constantly until the veggies begin to soften – two or three minutes or so.


Add about half the broth and stir well all around the bottom to deglaze the browned goodies from the pot.


Add most of the remaining broth (hold back about 1/2 cup in case you want to thin the sauce down a bit later) along with the tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt and both peppers. Stir it all up well and bring up to a good simmer.

Nestle those voluptuous thighs in...

Nestle those voluptuous thighs in…

Add the thighs back into the pot…

Bubble, bubble...

Bubble, bubble…

and adjust heat as needed to maintain a simmer. Pop on the lid and cook for 45 minutes. Stir every so often and turn the thighs over when you feel like it…

Looking good...

Looking good…

Uncover the pot and continue to cook another 15 minutes or so until thickened to your liking (if too thick, thin with the remaining broth). Check for seasoning and add S & P if needed (if you used any fresh thyme, pluck out the sprigs before serving).

Traditionally you’d serve this with a big pile of rice, but it would be killer with mashed spuds too!

Let's eat!

Let’s eat!

Serve with a simple veggie (like the roasted Brussels sprouts shown here) and if you want more heat, some hot sauce or fresh hot pepper as well (yes, that’s a habanero on my plate…).

This is so good, if I do say so myself! But I can’t really take a lot of credit for it, as I based the recipe on one from the good Dr. BBQ, aka Ray Lampe. Ray’s new “Pork Chop” cookbook has a recipe for Pork Chop Etouffée (which is killer in it’s own right), so I subbed in the thighs for the pork, and made a few other minor adjustments for my tastes, and I think it turned out really well. While on the subject, I’ve made four or five recipes from the “Pork Chop” book (one of which I plan to share with you soon), and all have been right on the money! It’s a book worth picking up for any porcine fan.

Trust me, dear Dedicated Readers, this is damn good! Make it… now! Post your results in the comments! Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Back to the kitchen! See you soon!

Bok Choy and Mushrooms

Bok Choy and Mushrooms

When I get a new cookbook I tend to read my way through it and use little sticky-notes to mark the recipes that look most interesting and ones that I want to come back to…

About a year ago I got a copy of “Vietnamese Home Cooking” by Charles Phan of San Francisco’s Slanted Door restaurant and it turned out to be one of those cookbooks that in addition to having great-sounding recipes, it also is a “good-reading” cookbook with lots of stories and information. And yes, there were a lot of sticky-notes stuck in this book…


As it turned out, one of the simplest recipes from this book has inspired my version you’ll see here, and it’s a recipe both Bonnie and I come back to over and over, and when you try it I think you may do the same!

So dear Dedicated Readers, let’s head into the kitchen and Let’s Cook!

Bok Choy and Mushrooms


The vegetation...

The vegetation…

3 Tbl  Canola Oil

2 Tsp  Minced Garlic

1/2-3/4 Lb  Fresh Mushrooms of your choice (I usually use Oyster Mushrooms when I can, and the original recipe calls for baby Shiitake, but I’ve made with Cremeni/Bella with good results as well, so most any type, or a mix, will work)

3/4-1 Lb  Baby Bok Choy (or regular size if that’s what you can get your hands on)

Saucy stuff...

Saucy stuff…

2 Tbl  Rice Wine (from the Asian market, or Dry Sherry from the grocery/liqueur store works really well too)

2 Tbl  Fish Sauce (from the Asian market, or you can find now at many bigger groceries)

1 Tbl  Chicken Broth (or veggie broth or water)


First prep your veggies: slice the mushroom caps into two or three pieces depending on the size of the cap – you want nice bite-size pieces. If using a button-type ‘shroom, slice into 1/4″ or so thick pieces.


Separate the baby bok choy into leaves (you can leave the smaller core section whole except for trimming the root end as needed). Cut the the larger outer leaves into a couple of pieces or more – again you want a good bite-size piece. If using regular bok choy cut into pieces one to two inches in length.


Wash the bok choy well to get rid of any dirt/grit, especially at the root end. The pieces don’t have to be perfectly dry as a little bit of water on them will help them to steam when cooking.

Heat your wok over med-high to high heat and add the oil. When its shimmers add the garlic and stir for just a few seconds, then add the mushrooms.


Stir-fry for about a minute until the mushrooms start to get soft.


Add the bok choy and the wine and mix together well.


Add the fish sauce and broth and continue to stir-fry for another couple of minutes until the bok choy is just tender. If not as tender as you’d like, put a lid on the wok and let steam for a bit until done to your liking.


Remover from the heat an put into a serving bowl.

Bok Choy and Mushrooms (here with rice and roasted chicken)

Bok Choy and Mushrooms (here with rice and roasted chicken)

This is perfect with sticky rice to soak up the sauce (I like this a bit “saucy”, and this is a fairly thin sauce, if you want it thicker you can add a bit of cornstarch/water slurry to thicken it up). It makes a really nice side to a simple chicken or fish entree, and I’ve even had it by itself just with rice – all the mushrooms give it a meaty texture (the original recipe calls for a much smaller proportion of mushrooms to bok choy).

Just a few simple ingredients combined in just a few minutes to make a really great dish! I think you’ll like this one!

Back to the kitchen!

Roasted Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan

Roasted Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan

Over the past couple of years I’ve really grown to love Brussels Sprouts, especially when roasted… and since they are uber-healthy little things, it all works out nicely!

Many people claim not to care for them, but I think most have only had them boiled or otherwise cooked to death and with that over-done cabbagey smell that can come out when not prepared properly (and a quick roast is the way to go).

I came across this recipe in The Leafy Greens Cookbook by Kathryn Anible (and in Full Disclosure, I was given a review copy of this book gratis) and it looked to be worth trying, so well, I did… and since the first try, I’ve already made it a couple more times, and as always, I’ve monkeyed around with it a bit, so here’s my version… now Let’s Cook!

Roasted Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan


1 Lb  Brussels Sprouts

1/4 Cup, plus 1 Tbl  Olive Oil

1 Tsp  Dijon Mustard (I used a grainy-type, an extra bit of mustard won’t hurt anything if you like)

1/4 Cup  Grated Parmesan Cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste


Clothed Brussels Sprouts

Clothed Brussels Sprouts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees while you prep the sprouts. Trim the root ends of the Brussels sprouts and peel away the darker outer layers, if you come across any bad parts just trim away.

Naked Brussels Sprouts

Naked Brussels Sprouts

Cut the sprouts in half and slice very thinly (or use a mandoline if you have and prefer).

Slice, slice, baby...

Slice, slice, baby…

Toss the slices with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Take a baking sheet big enough to hold all the sprouts in a thin layer and spread the slices out on the sheet.


Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring half-way through, until tender and beginning to brown around the edges.


While the sprouts roast, mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil with the mustard and cheese in a small bowl.

Sprouts looking good...

Sprouts looking good…

When the sprouts are just about done, remove from the oven and spoon the pieces into a bit of a mound in the middle and pour the Parmesan cheese mixture over and stir in well. Spread back out into an even layer on the baking sheet.

Adding extra goodness...

Adding extra goodness…

Stick back in the oven for a couple of minutes to heat all through – take out give it a few grinds of black pepper and salt to taste (you may not need much, the parm can be a bit salty to begin with)…

After the final roasting...

After the final roasting…

give a big stir and put into a pretty serving bowl.

Let's eat!

Let’s eat!

You could even shave a bit extra Parmesan on top if you really want to pretty it up some more, but I think it looks darn good as it is! Should serve four or more depending on what all else is on the table, and if there is any left over it re-heats in the microwave just fine. This is actually pretty simple to make (especially if you can con someone else to slicing up the sprouts) and takes very little time, so it’s a good recipe even for a weeknight meal.

This makes a great side, heck I think I could just eat this alone and be happy…  if you, or someone you love (or even just like a little bit), thinks they don’t like Brussels Sprouts, please give this a try and let everyone know what you think! Get to like them ’cause I’ve got more sprout recipes to share…

Oh, and just to note, the original recipe doesn’t mix the cheese with the sprouts and puts back into the oven as I have, but dollops each serving with the mixture… try it that way too if you like, it’s good either way.

Back to the kitchen – see you soon!

Maybe I will change your life...

Maybe I will change your life…

Many Thursday nights I attend a party – one with cocktails, drinking games involving accents, special culinary guests and lots of fun food talk… of course I’m referring to the internet get-together known as #KitchenParty. On one show a few weeks ago, Gaby Dalkin of the What’s Gaby Cooking blog was the guest discussing (among other things) her avocado obsession, and her newly released book, Absolutely Avocados.


After watching the show, and perusing her blog and recipes, I decided I just had to have this book in my hands! Not even wanting to wait the few days for Amazon to deliver said tome, the following day I made my way to local retailers to gladly pay full price (and sales tax) for the book. On my second stop at Books-a-Million I found the book (tucked away in the Vegetarian Cooking section, even though it’s not a meatless cookbook…), handed over my semi-hard-earned cash and scurried home to drool over the recipes…

Medium story short, I’ve tried several recipes from Absolutely Avocados, and all have been winners so far, but a real star is the Goat Cheese Guacamole… In the intro to the recipe, Gaby says “…it will probably change your life”… I don’t know if it’s truly life-altering, but it’s a recipe that has certainly and quickly made it’s way into my list of go-to/sure to please dishes!

So dear Dedicated Readers, without further ado, Let’s Cook!

Goat Cheese Guacamole


3 Hass Avacados

1/3 Cup Crumbled Goat Cheese

1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Chives


Chive talkin’

1/4 Cup Chopped Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil

1 Tbl Fresh Lemon Juice

Coarse Salt and Fresh-ground Pepper to taste

Chips, etc. for serving


Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits. Take the flesh from the skin and put into a bowl.


Add the cheese, chives, tomatoes, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mash with a fork until desired consistency (half smooth/half creamy is what the recipe specifies).


Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.


Serve up with tortilla chips or your choice of flavor delivery device.


If your chives happen to be blooming (as mine have been recently), tear some apart and sprinkle them atop the guac for a nice garnish (and if you haven’t tasted chive flowers, you don’t know what you’re missing – seriously!).

Miss Bonnie & I recently made it to take to a friends 50th birthday bash, and I was met with rave reviews! Okay, I can’t promise this will actually change your life, but unless you’re totally avocado-averse, you’ll like this one! If you’re looking for something to take along to an up-coming 4th of July party, consider this…

I recommend you check out Gaby’s book – the recipes all look great (okay, I’m still not sure about the Avocado Chocolate Chip Cookies…), the photos are gorgeous, and her writing and sense of humor is a bit goofy and totally fun. Click on the link to check out her visit to #KitchenParty.

 Back to the kitchen (after a brief visit to the World) – see you soon!

Dal – one of the staple foods of millions worldwide… like other peas, beans, legumes and their ilk, these little split goodies provide a cheap and fulling source of protein and nutrition to untold numbers of people on a daily basis.

I approached cooking dal with a bit of trepidation – I knew they would be good for me, and certainly at least palatable, and I’d probably be proud of myself for eating it and having something else in my “healthy diet” arsenal… but I didn’t expect them to be down-right better-than-just-edible… and that’s what these are: Delicious Dals.
Dals are best know as a part of Indian cuisine, so of course I looked to Suvir Saran for recipes and pulled out my trusty copy of “American Masala”. I tried his “not-so-dull dal” and was, well, blown away. I was amazed that such simple ingredients produced such wonderful results! I doubted it was actually as good as I thought it was, so I shared the results with several people, and all agreed that it was an exceptional-tasting dish!

I played with the recipe a bit, using some of Suvir’s recommended alterations/additions to the basic recipe, made a little tweak or three of my own, and what you have is the recipe below. So let’s tarry no longer: Let’s Cook!

Delicious Dal


Most of the suspects...

3 Tbl Canola Oil

2 Tsp Cumin Seeds

1 Tsp Mustard Seeds

4 or 5 Dried Red Chilies (if you’re a bit of a wussy about heat, you can cut don’t to 1 or 2, but don’t omit them totally – remove after initial frying if you want)

A pinch (1/16th of a Tsp?) Asafetida Powder (from the Indian market, don’t sweat it if you don’t have, just omit it)

12 Fresh (or Frozen) Curry Leaves, torn into small pieces (optional, also from the Indian market)

The seeds and such...

1 Red Onion, quartered and cut into thin slices

1 Jalapeno, finely chopped (remove seeds and ribs if you want to reduce heat – again don’t omit totally if you like a mild dish, just use half a pepper sans the insides)

Sliced Red Onion and Chopped Jalapeno

1 Tbl Kosher or Sea Salt

3 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 1/2 Cups Dal, rinsed and drained well (I used Masoor Dal, but you can use Channa Dal/yellow split peas, or even the regular lentils that you’ll find in the grocery should work well)

1 Can (14.5 ounce, or thereabouts) Diced Tomatoes (if you like even extra heat, you won’t hurt my feelings of you use that can of Rotel you have in the cupboard)

1 Container (32 oz) Vegetable Stock (or Chicken Stock/Broth if you don’t care about the dish being 100% vegetarian, you can even use all or part water if you must – it will still turn out nice)

Juice of 1/2 a Lemon (plus more for serving if desired)

Chopped Cilantro, if desired for serving


Heat the oil is your large cooking vessel of choice over medium-high heat (I used my mother’s cast iron Dutch oven as usual).

Add the cumin and mustard seeds, the dried peppers and the curry leaves (if you have). Stir for 1 – 2 minutes until the spices darken slightly and become aromatic –  be careful as the mustard seeds will want to fly out of the pan – use a splatter screen if you have one.

If you’re using asafetida, add and stir for a few (20 or so) seconds.

Put in the onion and jalapeno and stir until staring to get soft, a couple of minutes.

Add the salt and garlic, and stir and cook until all is getting happy, soft and aromatic…

It's smelling good in here...

Stir in the drained lentils and cook for a minute or so…

add a half-cup of the broth and deglaze the pan until the liquid is pretty much all cooked off.

Add a couple of cups of the broth and the tomatoes (no need to drain) and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, partially cover, and cook about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Covered partially...

Add more broth as needed to just keep the ingredients covered…

yep – we’re basically gonna cook these puppies like a risotto…

Uncover and add the lemon juice…

Continue to simmer uncovered, adding more broth if needed, until the lentils are tender but not turned to mush.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed…

but I’m betting you’re going to be amazed… at most you may want a bit more salt…

You can fish out the dried chilies if you like (they will provide quite a jolt to someone who bites down on one unexpectedly).

I like to make this dal very thick (maybe the consistency of cooked oatmeal?) – many dal recipes are much more soupy, and meant to be eaten as such. If you want you can add more liquid during the cooking process and serve the stuff in a bowl (add some rice, dunk some bread into it… can’t be bad). You could also make this as described above, and later add extra broth or water to all or part of it if you decide you want it thinner.

You can serve this along with some rice and a veggie dish (or two, add some bread if you’d like) and eat very well and healthy for very little money…. this can also be a hearty side to some protein item like a grilled chicken or fish.

Delicious Dal, along with some brown rice and a stir-fried cabbage dish

Sprinkle on some cilantro if you’d like… squeeze a bit of lemon… some plain yoghurt wouldn’t be out of line either…

Please, make this. Maybe I’ve over-hyped it, but damn… it’s good…

Once again, I’m heading back to the kitchen… see you soon!

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