Dining at Disney: Cinderella’s Royal Table

For those of you who didn’t know, my husband and I are DISNEY JUNKIES.

Seriously, we’re at the parks almost every weekend. Epcot is our favorite – especially during the Food & Wine or Flower & Garden festivals – but we’ve been recently rediscovering the cuisine of Magic Kingdom and I have to admit we’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Last week was our ninth wedding anniversary (cue the “Awwwwws!”), so I surprised him with reservations at Cinderella’s Royal Table, located in the beautiful castle the park is so famous for!

Let it be known, Cinderella’s Royal Table is not something you can do impulsively: you have to book reservations MONTHS in advance, and even then you can’t guarantee you’ll get an ideal time slot. I booked almost three months in advance, and managed to get a 10:15pm reservation for dinner. Not ideal dining time, but beggars can’t be choosers.

There are some caveats to keep in mind with dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table:

  • You pre-pay for dinner. It’s roughly $75 per person, but that covers a soft drink, appetizer, entree, and dessert, plus tax and gratuity.
  • It’s a pre-fix menu, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
  • If you don’t like being visited by Disney princesses in full costume throughout your meal, this is not the place for you.
  • NO ALCOHOL. (boooo)

That being said, I was very impressed by the food quality, presentation, and overall experience!

The Menu at Cinderella's Royal Table

The Menu at Cinderella’s Royal Table

The appetizer selection was a bit small – but the cheese tray was scrumptious and my husband said his sea-scallop compote was very nicely plated and surprisingly flavorful.

The dinner entrees, however, were STELLAR. We both enjoyed the filet and shrimp and, though again small portions, they were perfectly cooked and the tenderness of the steak was downright impressive.

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Seriously, this may be small, but it packed a ton of flavor. And the shrimp is almost as wide as the steak!

I was so tickled to see how many gluten-free and allergy-sensitive options they had! They offered vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and diet conscious choices, which was honestly very impressive.

Of course, since we were celebrating our anniversary, we didn’t really follow our normal diets (we both stick closely to Paleo), but rather we enjoyed the bread basket (so delicious!), and got whatever dessert sounded best.

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Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

I tried the flourless chocolate cake (I can’t resist chocolate) and he tried the seasonal dessert, which turned out to be a delicious strawberry cheesecake I ate too quickly to take a picture of – whoops!

All in all, I would definitely recommend Cinderella’s Royal Table to anyone looking for some fine-dining on Disney property with all the fun of a character meet-and-greet. The food was worth the expense (unlike some of the other dining options, which are egregiously overpriced), and the ambiance was lovely.

Naturally, we took lots and lots of photos with the princesses.

 

P.S. It’s probably not a surprise (based on these photos), but we did enjoy a few drinks at Epcot before heading over. Hey, we were celebrating, so it’s 100% acceptable.

On that note… bon appetit, my friends!

Tori

Current Temptation: Raphsodic Bakery Cupcakes!

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These beautiful cupcakes are my current temptation.

Eighteen vegan, gluten-free, and DELICIOUS cupcakes are sitting in my fridge, begging to be devoured.

If you are vegan and/or following a gluten-free diet and live in the Orlando area, you NEED to check out Raphsodic Bakery on Mills Ave. Located right next to the Colonial/ST RD 50 intersection, this co-op is a haven of delectable treats and kind bakers.

I’ve always been greeted with a smile (and a free sample), and I’ve never made it out of the store without a box of goodies to savor for the week.

I can’t speak highly enough for the quality of their products, their customer service, and the overall warmth of their environment. In fact, when I called in my order last night (I pre-paid for two cupcake boxes after they announced a special on Facebook!), they threw in two free scones (also vegan and gluten-free) as a thank you for my repeat business.

Seriously, how amazing is that?

Regardless of what diet you’re on, Raphsodic Bakery is the place to go in Orlando when you’ve got a sweet tooth. So, what are you waiting for? Go check them out and tell them Victoria Elizabeth sent you! 🙂

Bon appetit, my friends!

Tori

Product Review: Enjoy Life No-Oats “Oatmeal” Cookies

While I normally try to adopt a Paleo diet (grain free, soy free, dairy free, legume free), it’s hard to maintain when you’re on the run and craving something sweet. Sure, there are incredible recipes out there but most require a food processor, time, grocery shopping, and a non-lazy person to prepare them. And, I hate to say it, between my 50+ hour week job and being a full-time (on campus) grad student, there isn’t a lot of motivation left over to mince, dice, kneed, and whip something sweet just so I can inhale it in 45 seconds.

As a compromise to myself, I normally avoid wheat, soy, and legumes (easiest to spot and avoid, from what I’ve experienced), but allow myself the occasional grain (aka, sorghum, brown rice flour, etc) and dairy in moderation for my sweets cravings. Still, this normally limits my options to Udi’s and Rudi’s brand muffins – which, don’t get me wrong, are TOTALLY delicious – and leaves much to be desired for moist, chewy cookies.

UNTIL NOW.

Browsing Whole Foods with a growling stomach, I stalked through the cookie aisle looking for a package I could rip open and indulge in while I shopped. I planned to just grab the first gluten-free option I saw, acquiesced to the fact that it would likely be dry/crunchy and not really satisfy the craving I had for a warm cookie out of the oven.

That’s when I spotted Enjoy Life’s Soft Baked No-Oats “Oatmeal” Cookies on the shelf.

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I was skeptical (really… “soft baked,” eh?), but I have been an avid connoisseur of the Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips (soy, dairy, and nut free!), so I decided to give them a shot. Plus, they were on clearance for just $2 a box, as the company had just come out with new packaging/logos (seems to happen a lot lately), so I really couldn’t say no.

And boy, am I glad I didn’t.

These things are DELICIOUS. Moist, chewy, and the exact flavor of an oatmeal raising cookie, just like your grandmother used to make. They’re a little small (each cookie is about the size of a half dollar coin), but they pack a ton of flavor.

One serving (2 heaven-nuggets, as I like to call them) consists of 120 calories, 3.5g fat (0 saturated or trans fats), 21g carbs (only 10g is sugar, so not horrible), and 1g protein.

All of the ingredients can be pronounced and the list is short: sorghum flour; brown pure cane sugar; grape, apple, and pear juice concentrates; brown rice flakes; safflower and/or suflower oil; currants; natural rice dextrin; cinnamon; vanilla; xanthum gum; baking soda; rosemary extract.

I’m glad I took a risk on these cookies. Once I tried them in the store, I shoved five more boxes in my cart. I’ve contemplated crumbling them up over coconut ice cream, but as for lately, I just pop 1 or 2 after a meal to satisfy that nagging sweet tooth.

If you’re Celiac, gluten-sensitive, or have a major allergy (soy, dairy, nuts, egg, etc), I strongly suggest checking out the Enjoy Life brand and these cookies in particular. They’re awesome!

So, what are you waiting for? Go get a box (or twelve)!

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

Paleo Recipe: Spicy, Nutty Kale Chips!

Regardless of what diet or health plan you’re currently on, chances are you’ve been hearing a lot about kale recently. Kale seems to be the new “superfood” of the month, the absolute miracle cure to all things that ail you. I would try to convince you that I’ve always liked kale – long before the hype – but I realize that makes me sound like a food hipster.

The bad thing about the rising popularity of kale is the rising cost of kale-based snacks. I was at Whole Foods last night and a bag of seasoned baked kale was $5.99! Seriously, $5.99 for 1 oz of food? Really? I can get a pound of organic chicken for $5.99 or a pound of seasoned kale for $96. Does that even make sense? Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

I decided to pay a visit to my favorite Sunday morning stop: the Lake Eola Farmer’s Market. A little pricier than other local markets, but the scenery and selection make it worth the extra cost. For $5, I got two HUUUUGE bundles of fresh, organic kale – over two pounds, easily. I decided to test my hand at making my own homemade kale chips and concocted the following recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bundle fresh kale, washed, chopped, and dried. (approx one pound)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil.
  • 2 tbsp chili powder.
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder.
  • 2 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds, crushed.
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper – seeded – diced very small.

Put the oven on BROIL (500 degrees F) to preheat.

In a large plastic bag, combine all ingredients and shake well to coat. You can add a tiny bit more oil if it doesn’t seem well covered, but 2 tbsp worked well for me.

On an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet (for ease of cleaning – I’m lazy), spread out the kale evenly. Place the cookie sheet on the SECOND shelf – not directly against the broiler – and allow to cook for approximately ten minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, flip the kale over (spatula is easiest), and cook another five to seven minutes.

PLEASE NOTE: If you put the cookie sheet on the TOP shelf, the kale will get super crunchy on one side, half raw and green on the other – no bueno. So make sure to use the second shelf to ensure an evenly-cooked finished product. I learned this the hard way!

Once cool, store in an air tight container at room temperature. It can probably last a few days, but if yours tastes half as good as mine came out, you’ll be lucky if it lasts an hour or two.

This is only half of the batch! Seriously, making your own kale chips is far more cost effective.

This is only half of the batch! Seriously, making your own kale chips is far more cost effective.

I want to experiment with different flavors this week (I have a lot of kale to cook). I have an idea for dessert chips (think: coconut oil, shredded coconut, agave syrup, cinnamon, and pecans!) and I’d like to attempt a ranch/cheese flavor to really knock out my potato chip cravings. So many options, so few calories!

More recipes to come!

In the meantime, bon appetit my friends!

~ Tori

Easiest Eggplant Recipe EVER!

One of my favorite dishes in the WORLD is Eggplant Parmesan. Of course, that’s basically one of the least healthy preparation methods for vegetables you can think of.

My alternative to that is the following recipe, which tastes DELICIOUS, is super cheap (under $5), and super quick.

Ingredients:

  • Giant, fresh eggplant, sliced about 1 inch thick.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dried Basil
  • Dried Oregano
  • Kraft Romano Parmesan Shaker
  • Sliced cherry, Roma, or beefsteak tomatoes (your preference.)
  • Breadcrumbs (optional)

As a VEGAN option, replace regular Parmesan with a soy or almond-milk alternative. There are several to choose from!

The night before, slice your eggplant and throw it into one of those giant (gallon) plastic bags. Add the olive oil (I use roughly 2 tbsp) and the balsamic vinegar (roughly 1 tbsp) to the bag. Target also makes an awesome mixture of the two which is only 90 calories per serving, great for those of us who find using two bottles of sauce too complicated.

Shake well to evenly coat the sliced eggplant, then add the garlic powder, basil, and oregano. Allow to marinate overnight.

Ignore the broccoli. I was prepping another meal simultaneously. I'm nothing if not a multi-tasker!

Ignore the broccoli. I was prepping another meal simultaneously. I’m nothing if not a multi-tasker!

The next day, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

While it’s preheating, lay out the marinated eggplant on an un-greased cookie sheet. Cover each slice of eggplant with tomato (I prefer beefsteak, as they create a nice silhouette on the eggplant) and then shake some Parmesan over the top. If you like breadcrumbs, now is the time to add them, as well. In addition to this, I normally sprinkle on a little extra basil, salt, and pepper – totally optional.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until desired softness. If you’re feeling crazy, feel free to add some 2% mozzarella cheese (or Daiya, if you’re Paleo like me!) and broil at 500 degrees for an additional 3-5 minutes to melt the cheese.

I eat these as is but I serve them alongside marina sauce for my husband, who likes to dunk everything (including babies, I’m sure) into some sort of sauce.

Each slice of eggplant is roughly 65-75 calories if you DON’T add the extra cheese and breadcrumbs. With the additional items, each is probably increased to 90-100 calories. Which is totally worth it, considering two big slices fills me up and a third slice makes me STUFFED.

A great dinner or side dish and perfect for those on Paleo, vegetarian, or calorie-cutting diets! 🙂

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

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Paleo Apple Cobbler… sort of.

Seeking out comfort foods, I came up with the following recipe out of desperation and a desire to use those last few granny smith apples sitting in the fruit basket.

Not-Your-Granny’s Apple Cobbler:

  • 4 green apples, sliced and cored. [I left the skins on, but most people would probably remove them. I’m lazy.]
  • 1/2 chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup craisins
  • 1 cup Blue Diamond unsweetened vanilla almond milk. [only 30 cals per cup!]
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup raw honey

I literally just mixed this all together, threw it into my crockpot on low, and let it slow simmer for about four hours. When I got home, I topped it with So Delicious Vanilla Bean Coconut ice cream (no sugar added) and dug in.

It was sinfully good and the walnuts gave it a slight crunch and buttery texture, so I didn’t miss the crust at all. And this was ridiculously easy to prepare, with leftovers to enjoy for breakfast tomorrow! Not bad for a “what’s left in the pantry” concoction, if I do say so myself!

Vegan? Yeah, I’ve tried that, too.

Like many people, I’m an animal lover. I have two pet Chihuahuas that are my life and soul. Unlike many other people, I have a very hard time disassociating them with other animals. It’s difficult for me to look at a pig, or a cow, or a chicken and not see the same innocence and cuteness that I see in my pets. For that reason, I’ve sampled the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles many times over the last three decades of my life.

For those that do not know, there are MULTIPLE levels to this sort of thing. Multiple.

Here’s a quick summary of all the different types of vegetarians/vegans out there. Prepare to have your mind blown by the varieties out there, folks:

  • Flexitarian: Tries to avoid meat, but occasionally allows themselves to indulge. These people tend to do this as a “humane” effort and not necessarily as a health issue.
  • Pescatarian: Avoids chicken, pork, and red meat, but considers fish & seafood to be acceptable for consumption. They are also OK with eating animal products, such as dairy and eggs.
  • The Basic Vegetarian: Avoids meat things cooked in meat-bases, such as chicken-stock, beef-stock, etc. They tend to focus on plant and soy based foods and are OK with the consumption of dairy, eggs, honey, and many other animal by-products.
  • Ovo-Vegetarian: All of the above, but avoids dairy and dairy by-products. No milk for these peeps!
  • Lacto-Vegetarian: Same as the basic vegetarian, except they permit the consumption of dairy but avoid eggs and egg-containing products, as they consider it to be an unfertilized embryo. Ewwww.
  • Ovo-Lacto: Avoids meat, dairy, and eggs as well as their by-products.
  • Vegan: The extreme version of vegetarian. No meat, no dairy, no eggs, no honey, or any other product that results from the use of animals. True vegans will not use make-up tested on animals, wear leather, or even use vitamins that contain stearic acid or another other potential animal derivatives. This can even include something as simple as yellow dye #5, which is a pork derivative. As someone allergic to pork [sucks, I know], I’ve already learned how to avoid these foods.
  • Fruitarian: EXTREME. These people only eat the “fruit” of plants – think apples, tomatoes, bananas, etc. They will not eat root vegetables, as that kills the plant. Not sure how you can live like this, but so be it.

I’ve heard a rumor that there is ANOTHER level of extremist vegan, which somehow involves living on the microbes in the air and the healing effects of the sun. Um. Yeah. That’s not happening.

Currently, I’m in a stage between vegetarian and vegan. I’m trying to avoid eggs and dairy products, but find myself cheating often. I’ve successfully avoided meat for almost two weeks, primarily because I freaking LOVE Boca Burgers and Morningstar Farms products. And don’t get me started on Gardein – nom nom nom!

However… I also really, really love cheese. Almond milk cheese – as good as it is – really doesn’t compare. I’ve never been a milk drinker, so I don’t really miss out in that area. I eat soy yogurts, use coconut based creamer for my coffee, and eat pints of coconut and rice-milk ice cream like it’s going out of style. Just CHEESE kills me.

I’ll be honest with you, though. I haven’t lost a pound. Nor have I gained, though, but that’s through conscious effort on my part. I can see how easily I could gain weight this way, as it’s very easy to get lazy and just sit down with a giant bowl of rice or pasta. That seems to be the “vegetarian-option” at most restaurants, too, so I’m learning to just order big salads and ask for the meat to be replaced with extra veggies. It’s an extra step on the part of the server, but it’s worth it for the damage that would otherwise happen to my waistline.

For those considering a vegan diet, I’d strongly suggest checking out the following blog:

http://howilost150pounds.wordpress.com/

This guy is my HERO.

Bon appetit!

~ Tori