On our way to Orlando from the Necronomicon convention in St. Petersburg, we stopped at the Parkesdale Farm Market in Plant City. Alerted to this venue at the annual Strawberry Festival, we hoped to obtain some of the goodies for sale at that event. We were pleased to find the same delicious strawberry bread at the farm stand along with fresh fruits and veggies, jams and jellies and honey, and many other treats in their gift shop.
From here, we moved on to Orlando and a revisit to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. We started at the opposite end from last time. The beef filet at Canada was exquisitely tender with sautéed mushrooms to die for. The coq au vin at France was just as good, tender chicken on a bed of mac and cheese in a generously large portion. Nearly full by now, I passed up many other treats or shared in a taste by family members.
Canada, Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter, $6.50
Ireland, Warm Chocolate Lava Cake and Lobster Seafood Fishermen’s Pie
France, Coq Au Vin: $ 5.50; Chardonnay: $5.75
Near the American pavilion, a concert was underway. Here’s a sample of the Maine lobster roll from the Hops & Barley stand.
Moving on, we sampled the Shrimp on the Barbie from Australia.
My final sweet taste was the Rice Pudding with Berries from Scandinavia for $2.75
We ate our way around World Showcase at this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. This event runs from Sept. 28 – Nov. 12 so you have plenty of time to get there. You need a regular ticket to get into the theme park and then you buy the sample foods and drinks as you circle the lake and browse the marketplaces.
We turned left and hit the Terra stand first, sampling the Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice. While I like curry dishes, this one was a bit spicy. I wanted to try the Jerk Chicken Drumstick with Mango Chutney at the Caribbean booth, but the line was too long, so we moved on to Argentina. Here I had the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree (tastes like mashed potatoes with pesto sauce). This item cost $5.00. I believe prices went up this year because I don’t remember many dishes costing that much before.
I might have liked the Shrimp on the Barbie or the Grilled Lamb Chop at Australia but saved them for another visit. One of our kids got the Shrimp Taco at Mexico and I had a taste. Good!
On to Scandinavia, another favorite. Their Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries is the best—even better than Ikea’s meatballs. This cost $3.50 each and was well worth the price. My husband had the Taste of Scandinavia for $4.00. This was a plate with cured salmon and herring and shrimp salad.
China came next. I’ve had their Potstickers and Chicken Satay before so passed on it this time. Also walked past South Korea even though the Mung Bean Pancake with Shrimp looked interesting. South Africa is another favorite with Filet of Beef and Smashed Sweet Potatoes. It’s one of the most tender cuts of beef around and done just right for $5.00.
We moved on past vendors with plates of cheeses, a Brewer’s Collection for beer drinkers, and skipped the Apple Strudel at Germany. One dish sounded really interesting at Poland—Toasted Mushrooms, Carmelized Onions and Cheese Bread—but I’ll have to save it for next time. We breezed past Italy to the American pavilion where I zeroed in on my favorite dessert, the Pumpkin Mousse at the “Hops and Barley” counter. For $1.50, this is a bargain. It comes in a mini-dessert cup like you get in some restaurants these days. It’s so good, I had to buy the Festival cookbook for the recipe ($16.95 plus tax).
I wanted to get the Coq au Vin with Mac and Cheese at the France pavilion because it was so good last year, but I was too full already. I passed up the whole other side of World Showcase, unable even to taste the Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon at Canada or the Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios and Honey or the Chocolate Lava Cake at Ireland. I did go for the Mai Tai at Hawaii for the hefty price of $7.50. Save your money on this one. While I tasted some rum, it was a pleasant fruit drink in a plastic cup.
Now I’ve made myself hungry again. I need to go back to try all things I missed on this trip. Next time, we’ll start from the opposite direction.
My husband and I have attended various cooking classes throughout our time together. We started in Gainesville where he had a fellowship and we had an infant. Taking these courses together gave us something fun to do. We took a series on French cooking and then another on Chinese cuisine. Sporadically thereafter, we’d sign up for adult education classes learning everything from chicken recipes to cake decorating (he didn’t attend that one).
Recently, we’ve been rediscovering this interest since Publix opened a cooking school here.
The classrooms are on the second floor of a newly remodeled store. Last night we attended our third class there. I’d hoped to learn some meat recipes since the only beef I can cook is brisket.
On the menu first was grilled five spiced salmon with coconut crostini. This was a large slab of salmon steak (although it looked like a filet?) grilled lightly to just cook through, served on a toasted crostini with coconut flakes. It was delicious and my favorite dish of the evening. Accompanying white wine blend was Hot to Trot by 14 Hands. I liked this a lot.
Next came a good company dish—mushroom, spinach, and smoked Gouda stuffed flank steak. I liked the stuffing more than the meat that could have been cooked a bit more. A red wine was served with this portion. We’ve had Chateau St. Jean cabernet before and still enjoy it.
If you like spicy foods, you’d like the cocoa and three pepper dusted beef tenderloin with grilled fingerling potatoes. This called for three kinds of chili powder along with garlic and onion powders to make a blend and rub on the tenderloin. The potatoes were boiled then halved and placed on the grill for just a few minutes. They were good, but I prefer my own roasted red potatoes with garlic and rosemary.
The menu was crowned with balsamic strawberry shortcake napoleons. This was an easy fix with balsamic vinegar dribbled over fresh sliced strawberries mixed with a bit of confectionary sugar. Whip some heavy cream into a froth and then put this into individual puff pastry cups you can buy in the freezer section. Top the whipped cream with strawberries and you have a fresh fruit dessert. The wine here was a sauvignon blanc from Simi winery in Sonoma.
We had pleasant conversation with the chefs and other attendees while sampling all the foods and sipping wines—a pleasant evening to be had by all.
Warrior Prince: Book One in the Drift Lords Series is nearing its release date of Sept. 21, 2012. That means all sorts of exciting things are happening this month. I talk about my new book in The Big Thrill and have giveaways at Coffee Time Romance and Night Owl Reviews.
Coffee Time Romance: Enter to win a Warrior Prince T-shirt and magnet, a deck of tropical drink playing cards, and a pdf copy of Warrior Prince:http://bit.ly/bGEqXD
Night Owl Reviews Halloween Hunt: My prize is a $15 gift card to The Wild Rose Press. Go to http://bit.ly/PXn9MQ
On Sept. 5th, mystery author Joanna Campbell Slan guest blogs here. She discusses correct word choices. Do you as a reader get annoyed when the same phrase keeps popping up in someone’s book? Or do you as a writer often not realize you’re using a word repetitively? If so, this article is for you. I hope you’ll visit and leave a comment.
Between Sept. 6-19, I will be posting short excerpts from Warrior Prince. Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing for your ebook choice from my romance backlist titles. Two winners!
I hope you’ll bear with me through all this news. I’ll resume my regular blog posts sometime next month. Meanwhile, I am working on edits for Warrior Rogue: Book Two in the Drift Lords Series, which is already in production.
On a personal note, I took a break before all this frenzy and went to Disney World. We visited Magic Kingdom where we glimpsed the new attractions coming to Fantasyland. We bought fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market in Winter Garden and ate dinner at Le Coq Au Vin, a recommended French restaurant in downtown Orlando. I had the onion tart (heavenly!), beef tournedo (tender!) with mashed potatoes and apple tart (just right; not too sweet).
September is Magical Dining Month in the Orlando area and many expensive restaurants participate. You can get a fixed three course meal for $30. Another favorite dining spot was Thai Blossom in the historic Edgewater Hotel in Winter Garden. Tasty choices and reasonable prices year round.
Do you ever wonder if the punishment fits the crime? Come along to the Crime Museum in Washington D.C. where you can tour through a history of crime and punishment. Beginning in medieval times, you get insights into torturous implements with the items on display. Metal was popular for finger screws and iron helmets. And look at this unhappy guy stretched out in the dungeon. The different areas of the museum are made to look like their eras, a cool factor I found appealing. Also scattered throughout the place are interactive kiosks to challenge you.
Definitions of crimes have changed through the years. In Colonial times, you could get your ears nailed to the pillory for kissing on the Sabbath. That was considered lewd and unseemly behavior. This era included a poster on the Salem Witch Trials. Next we moved into Pirates, where famous pirates are described leading up to the current ones operating off the coast of Somalia.
The outlaws of the Wild West come next amid sounds of gunshots and horses neighing in the background. Billy the Kid and the Dalton Gang were famous bad guys from this era, while Wyatt Earp was a well-known law man. You could shoot rifles for a fee at a shooting range looking like the Old West.
Crimes of the Great Depression followed with the Barker Gang, Bonnie and Clyde, and Al Capone, among others. Sirens and jazz music play in the background along with machine gun fire. You can learn how to Crack-A-Safe at the interactive kiosk. Moving along, we come next to scams, hoists, and hoaxes. Then we come to the worst crime of all: murder. Apparently collectors like to obtain Murderabilia, items associated with these criminals. Can you imagine a more gruesome collection? It’s bad enough that killers become media celebrities without having people try to acquire their belongings and giving value to their fame.
Famous serial killers are mentioned in this area before we move onto conspiracy and assassinations. On the wall are posters listing all the presidents who’d been assassinated and famous kidnappings like the Lindbergh baby. There are notes from police files on famous solved crimes, including J.W. Gacy who worked as Pogo the clown. I knew there was a reason why I find clowns creepy. Computer crimes aren’t forgotten either as several of these silent criminals are mentioned. For example, Robert Morris created the first computer worm. An interactive kiosk will challenge you to see how fast you can crack a code.
Then you pass through a darkened corridor lined by brick buildings and sound effects into the history of fingerprinting, Miranda Rights, what a booking officer does, mug shots were you can get your photo taken along with some crooks, and a jail cell where you can sit on the bed. There is a meet the warden video and a display on famous prisons and great escapes. One of the dioramas shows a luxury cell where Al Capone lived in Alcatraz. Here you can play on another kiosk to see how far you can get in your escape. Death Row is mentioned as you walk into a section that looks like a prison block with sound effects and an elevated walkway. Methods of capital punishment are described dating back from medieval torture and executions through the death penalty with displays of an electric chair, a gas chamber and a guillotine.
On a better note, we come to a section on famous lawmen. Notes describe how cops communicated before 1930, their use of firearms, equipment, and the bomb squad. See how fast you can defuse a bomb at the next interactive kiosk. Technologies such as night vision and thermal imaging are described. Here we pause for patrol training. In a simulation, you can drive a cop car on a high-speed chase. Or you can fire a Glock 17 at a simulated scene, watching for the bad guy to pop up and shoot at you. After this escapade, we descend downstairs to the CSI Experience.
You are greeted by a crime scene scenario in the bedroom where a murder took place. You can push buttons to see what each piece of numbered evidence represents.
You learn about witnesses and the role of the crime lab. At a kiosk, you can play the part of a witness. What did you see?
Contents of the crime scene kit are shown. Did you know that evidence is put into brown paper bags and not plastic bags like you see on TV? Fingerprint and footprint recovery, ballistics, toxicology, dental ID, autopsy, and entomology are some of the topics touched upon. The interactive kiosk here is, Can you match the bullet?
Other crimes are discussed such as counterfeiting, art forgery, and forgery of documents. Famous cold cases has a room of its own. There’s a section on crime related TV shows, movies and books. Books by Sue Grafton, James Elroy, and Patricia Cornwall are some of the ones mentioned. Even crimes against marine animals are covered. Then we descend to the lower level that holds the studio for America’s Most Wanted television show.
I would say you need maybe 2 to 3 hours to do this museum justice. There’s a Clyde’s nearby which is great for lunch, and then you can meander over to the International Spy Museum if you’ve never visited that attraction before. The closest Metro stop to the Crime Museum is Gallery Place.
Tomorrow, join me over at the Kill Zone where I’ll be discussing Crime and Punishment.
Leave a comment on this blog and enter to win a pair of handcuffs from the Crime Museum. U.S. Residents only. Winner will be announced here on Friday.
We just returned from another weekend in Orlando, Florida. It was hot but not so bad early in the morning when we went for our daily stroll. It’s a peaceful scene at the lake by our condo.
On Saturday, we visited Baldwin Park to view the lake there and the main street with its restaurants and boutiques. We had lunch in Chi Pan Asian and walked around. Baldwin Park is a quiet enclave with upscale residences in the middle of Orlando.
The next day, we drove to Disney’s Boardwalk Resort to have lunch in one of their numerous restaurant, a brewerie/grill, and then we walked all the way around the lake by the Yacht and Beach Club resorts. We could see the Dolphin and Swan hotels, too. We got back to our car just before a torrential downpour.
We celebrated our son’s birthday at Christini’s. Our eyebrows nearly dropped off when we saw the wine prices. $65 for a bottle of a Napa Cabernet. My husband looked it up later, and it lists $22 online. Clearly, this is where they make their money. They need it, too, as no less than five waiters in tuxedoes hovered around, refilling our water glasses and whisking our plates away if we put down a fork. An accordion player serenaded us, his instrument gleaming with mother-of-pearl keys. Fresh flowers sat in a glass vase on each table, covered with black cloths. It’s a very romantic atmosphere, great for special occasions and romance. But really, is ravioli and veal marsala with a polenta cake worth over $35 each? The Caesar and Caprese salads were excellent, and the main dishes were quite tasty. So was the crusty bread with a creamy eggplant dip. Umm, I’m getting hungry thinking about it. While we enjoyed our evening there, the bill for over $200 is one we probably won’t want to repeat any time soon. Fortunately, the next birthdays in the family are in September, which in Orlando is Magical Dining Month. You can get 3 course meals at fancy restaurants for $30 each. That’s a much better deal.
Also, please check out my blog post today over at The Kill Zone where I offer 6 Tips for File Management.
In case you’ve wondered, I don’t spend all my time writing. I still like to experiment in the kitchen with new dishes. Here are two recipes I’ve made recently that have fairly quick preparation. Enjoy! (And next time, I’ll have to remember to take photos!)
QUICK TURKEY CURRY
1 cup diced green pepper
½ cup diced celery
½ large sweet onion, diced
4 green onions, sliced
2 Tbsp canola oil
1-2 package(s) Perdue short cuts cooked turkey breast or 1-2 cup(s) cubed leftover turkey
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 oz package slivered almonds
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp dried basil
16 oz low sodium chicken broth
1 small jar pimentos, drained
Cooked rice, 4 servings.
In a large skillet, sauté the green pepper, celery, and onions in oil until wilted. Stir in the turkey, water chestnuts, and almonds. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the flour, curry powder, paprika and basil into the broth until blended. Stir into the skillet mixture and add pimentos. Cover and simmer until heated through. Serve over rice. Yields 4-6 servings. Tip: You can buy two 8 oz packages of pre-chopped green peppers, celery, and onions at the grocery store as a substitute for the green pepper and celery if you want a faster prep time.
EASY CHOCOLATE CAKE
1 package (18-1/4 oz) Devil’s Food cake mix
½ cup baking cocoa
2 egg whites
1-1/3 cup water
8 oz low fat plain yogurt
2 tsp powdered 10X sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine egg whites, egg, water, and yogurt. In a large mixing bowl, blend cake mix and cocoa. Beating at low speed, add liquid mixture to dry ingredients. Blend well. Pour into a 10 cup fluted tube baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 35 minutes and test for doneness with toothpick. Cool on wire rack before turning cake out onto a plate. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
For more great recipes, check out the Recipes Page on my website!
Recipes for the starred items can be found on my Website.
· Choose your menu
· Make a grocery list
· Shop for non-perishables
A few days before the event, · Take out your serving platters and utensils
· Label each serving dish with the intended item
· Set the table(s), including centerpieces, the day before
· Put out candles and do last minute cleaning
· Decide upon background music, if any
Labeling the serving dishes saves time so I can spoon out the food quickly into predetermined platters and bowls. You also won’t have to go hunting at the last minute for those extra serving plates.
· Prepare foods the day before the event when possible. Otherwise, get an early start the event day so you’ll have plenty of time to rest up, shower, and get dressed.
· When guests arrive, offer them a drink and point out where they can get food. Introduce guests to each other. Then relax and enjoy yourself!
These tips apply equally to any holiday and to your next cruise as well. Thanks to mystery author Michael Haskins for passing them along.
1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.
2. Drink as much eggnog as you can and quickly. You can’t find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going to turn into an "eggnog-aholic" or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it!!!! Have one for me. Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!
3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand-alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.
4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.
5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people’s food for free. Lots of it. Hello???
6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.
7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.
8. Same for pies. Apple, pumpkin and mincemeat – have a slice of each. Or, if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert?
9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.
10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention. Reread tips: Start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.
Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body. But rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO-HOO what a ride!
As per our annual family tradition, we attended the Epcot Food & Wine Festival last weekend. The weather was perfect, delightfully cool in the morning and warming into the 70’s in the afternoon. World Showcase opens at 11am so we arrived by lunchtime, turning left toward Mexico. For those of you not familiar with this event, each country has a little pavilion where they offer samples of food and drink for a fee.
Here are some photos from previous years. I didn’t bring a camera this time; too busy eating.
We passed on the entries at Chile, Brazil, and Puerto Rico but stopped at Argentina for the grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce and boniato puree ($4.75 per portion) and a glass of Kaiken cabernet ($5.50). Delicious. Next came Mexico. They have a whole new area across from the pyramid with a dine-in restaurant and counter service café with outdoor seating under cover. Our kids got the taco at their festival pavilion. We went past Poland, then came to China and just had to get their barbecue chicken stick. This was a generous portion and very tasty. We skipped South Korea, although the honey ginger tea sounded good.
At South Africa, the seared beef tenderloin with mango barbecue sauce and sweet potato puree is a good choice. I had to taste the shrimp cake with noodle salad at Singapore next ($3.50 each). Another tasty dish. Am I making your mouth water yet?
By now I was full, so I strode by Germany, Italy, the U.S., Japan, Australia and Morocco. I’d had some of these foods at previous forays anyway. Belgium was new and there was a long line. The baked Belgium waffle with berry compote and whipped cream was to die for. Very luscious and reasonably priced at $2.75. The Godiva chocolate liqueur iced coffee was expensive at $7.25, but I had to try it. Lip-smacking good.
Too full to eat more, we passed by Spain, resisted the chocolate crème brulee at France and the warm chocolate lava cake at Ireland, even the maple glazed salmon at Canada. Would have loved to try the items at Greece or the lamb slider at New Zealand, but we’ll save those for next year. My stomach always gets satiated halfway around World Showcase.