Thursday, July 31, 2014

#Disneyland60.....Today in Disneyland History........July 31, 1955

Casey Jr. Circus Train Open

July 31, 1955

“Casey Junior coming down the track, coming down the track…” The date was July 31, 1955. The Casey Jr. Circus Train (based on the train of the same name from the 1941 Dumbo) finally made its debuts at Disneyland.  Located in the back of Fantasyland next to Dumbo, the train was to open with the rest of the park on July 17 but it wasn't operating properly and it would take two weeks of additional testing before it was finally ready to ride. Did you know that this perennial family favorite was originally conceived as the park's first roller coaster before plans were scaled back?  The Casey Jr. Circus Train gives passengers a tour of many miniature versions of classic Disney animated film scenes. This tour is similar to the one given on the slower paced Storybook Land Canal Boats but does not incorporate narration. Did you know that the Casey Jr. Circus Train can also be found in Disneyland Paris? At Disneyland Paris however unlike the slow and leisurely paced California version, this version is designed as a roller coaster for small children through Storybook Land, giving riders good views of the Storybook Land castle and other scenes that are not as visible from the Storybook Land Canal Boats.  When you hop on board this delightful miniature railroad, you are actually riding in the sleigh-style train cars that were transplanted from the merry-go-round that later became King Arthur Carrousel. And the classic theme song for the attraction was written by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington, who also worked on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio.  All Aboard!   And that’s what happened today in Disneyland’s history.

All Heroes Start Somewhere- #GuardiansOfTheGalaxy

"Guardians of the Galaxy"

When Things Get Bad, They'll Do Their Worst

Move over Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk-there’s a new sheriff in town.  After this weekend, into the superhero hall of fame will be added the names of Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot, otherwise known as “The Guardians of the Galaxy” and if there’s any justice in the world, every child in the universe will now quickly include “I am Groot” as part of their everyday vocabulary. 

Marvel Studios has become a box office elite squad over the last few years by focusing on characters that have had a few decades to live in the pop culture consciousness.  Long before we ever saw Thor yield the hammer, or Iron Man strap on his jet boots, even non comic book aficionados could name most of the founding Avengers, or at the very least pick them out of a line up.  Now, with “Guardians of the Galaxy”, Marvel is boldly going where no man has gone before as it puts much lesser known heroes, albeit reluctant ones at best, front and center in this sure to be summer blockbuster launching into theaters August 1.  The results speak for themselves- this scrappy, fast paced, witty (think Robert Downey Jr. times five) space adventure with the heart of gold is probably the most fun you’ll ever have in a movie theater this summer. 

Guardians of the Galaxy” quite simply is about a group of misfits that learn to do something good from doing everything wrong. Without giving away too much of the plot, brash adventurer Peter Quill, played to comedic perfection by Chris Pratt, finds himself the object of an  unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan (Lee Pace), a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits—Rocket (Bradley Cooper) a gun-toting raccoon because quite frankly doesn’t every movie need a gun-toting raccoon, Vin Diesel as my personal favorite, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and the revenge-driven Drax, (Dave Bautista) the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand—with the galaxy's fate in the balance.

If all of this weren’t enough, throw in a visually stunning movie from sets to costumes and make up that give the film a very “real” and space-age feel. Couple it with a script that is one of the tightest and freshest that has come across the screen in a long time where every joke lands, and every action is motivated by character and you have “Guardians of the Galaxy”.  
But the icing on the cake, the cherry on top of the sundae is the use of music. It’s built into the movie that Peter Quill’s mother gave him a mix tape when he was kid in 1988 and that it’s the only thing he has to remember her after he’s abducted. Songs from this tape, all pop, soul, and rock songs from the 1970s, play throughout the movie and are indicative of the tone the movie strikes. Quill is very much a human in the midst of all these weird aliens and the music really drives that point home. He doesn’t lament being taken away from his family, but he needs this music to feel like a person. And it’s all great music, by the way.

So, let’s review: A brand new band of misfit, unlikely superheroes, hysterical one liners mixed with fast paced, non stop action and a score that will have you singing along for months to come-put “Guardians of the Galaxy” on your must see on opening day movie list this weekend.

One very important thing to note, in spite of what it takes to save the galaxy, no raccoons or trees were harmed in the making of this adventure.

Guardians of the Galaxy” opens everywhere on August 1

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Bite Takes You Home- #TheHundredFootJourney Philly Cheesesteak

What Bite Takes You Home - The Hundred Foot Journey

I was born and raised in Philadelphia but moved to northern California when I was 20 so I’ve lived here much longer than I did in Philadelphia and call California my home. But my tastes were shaped in Philly and whenever I go back there I can’t help but search out my favorites and my most favorite is the Philly cheesesteak. 

In Philadelphia there is a pizzeria or steak shop on every neighborhood corner. Like small family restaurants everywhere they vary in quality. Some years ago on one of my visits to my parents in Philly I decided to indulge in some serious cheesesteak research. I’d eaten my fair share of cheesesteaks when growing up but found that this was one impossible to obtain sandwich in California. Since this was the early days of personal computers the internet was barely up and running so I was confined to print media. Thankfully my mom and dad were voracious readers and there were plenty of years worth of Philadelphia Magazine and their annual Best Of Philly articles stacked up in the basement. I went through years worth of articles and also used the local newspapers to compile a list of restaurants. Armed with my list off to culinary over indulgence I went. I quickly found that the most famous cheesteak places, Pat’s and Geno’s in South Philadelphia where I had eaten as a child were also among the worst today. They may have invented the cheesesteak but these places are now tourist traps serving greasy, tasteless sandwiches. A good cheesteak is never greasy but rather juicy from fine quality, well seasoned meat and cheese.

Slowly over several years I ate my way through my list, adding and subtracting restaurants and coming up with some great results. You can’t go wrong at places such as Cosmi’s Deli, Delassandros, Tony Luke’s, Jim’s Steaks and Steve’s Prince of Steaks but the best of the best for me turned out to be just about the ugliest little shop imaginable in an industrial part of South Philadelphia called John’s Roast Pork. 

Now John’s Roast Pork specializes in, of all things, an incredible roast pork sandwich but their cheesesteak is what I went there for and it’s the best or among the best according to Philadelphia Magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Food Channel and the Travel Channel just to name a few. John’s also won the James Beard Award for Culinary Excellence and is routinely on top ten lists of Philly cheesesteaks everywhere but this national attention all happened years after I discovered the place. When I would visit Philadelphia I would take a red eye flight so I could get to John’s just after they opened at 6:45 in the morning and have a cheesteak for breakfast on my way from the airport to my parents’ home in northeast Philly. On my way home I would also arrange my flight so I could have another cheesesteak on my way to the airport to fly back to California. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I like my cheesesteak simple and traditional, just meat, cheese and onions although most of the chains in California think you need mayo, ketchup, peppers, mushrooms, pizza sauce, etc., on your sandwich. You can certainly get that in Philadelphia but that isn’t really the way a cheesesteak should be.

So just what makes John’s so good? John Bucci Jr. the son of the founder of John’s Roast Pork still man’s the grill. He does a few things differently than the normal cheesesteak shop. First off rather than use the traditional Amoroso bakery roll that most shops use John uses Italian rolls from the Carangi Bakery, a local Philly bakery, that are a little crustier than the normal roll and are seeded. He then removes a bit of the interior bread so as to better hold the 12 ounces of top quality, paper thin, sliced beef loin plus fried onions and cheese that he piles onto the sandwich. Most cheesesteak places will have a pile of lovely, browned chopped onions waiting on the side of the grill to grace the sandwich but John starts off with the raw sweet onions on the grill and then tops them with the beef so that the caramelizing onion flavor permeates the steak. He then seasons the meat and leaves it alone for a couple of minutes to brown up. Then he chops up the steak and onions on the grill and again does something different by toping the steak with chunks of extra sharp provolone cheese, waiting a moment for it to melt a bit and then chopping the cheese into the steak so that with every bite you get cheese, perfectly seasoned beef and onions in a mouth watering combination. A regular shop would put slices of cheese on top of the browning steak, let it melt for a moment, scoop it on to a roll and add onions. These simple differences in ingredients and technique are what I think makes John’s cheesesteaks the best. 

I’ve heard tell you can get a good cheesesteak in Los Angeles but here in northern California it just doesn’t exist. You can forget the chain cheesesteak places. They simply don’t use quality ingredients. There are a couple of places in the south bay area where you can get what I would consider a decent neighborhood cheesesteak but nothing approaches the rarified heights of John’s Roast Pork or any of the other places I mentioned above. This is the one food I miss from my childhood and this is the one that takes me back to the place I was born.

What Bite Takes You Home? #TheHundredFootJourney Chicken Tortilla Soup

  Chicken Tortilla Soup by Dawn Gosdin
Notice my Mickey Flatware
 How to make it:

  • Peel, clean and wash all vegetables. (Give them a bath & a massage)
  • Place bell pepper, onion, celery, carrot and cilantro in a food processor and chop fine.
  • Heat sauce pot over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add butter, olive oil and bacon fat.
  • When the butter has fully melted, add the vegetables, white and black pepper, chili powder and cumin, salt, and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent and slightly brown. While the vegetables cook, chop the tortillas in the food processor until fine. Add tortillas to the sauce pot and cook until soft.
  •  Add the chicken stock to the sauce pot and bring to a boil.
  • While the soup is coming to a boil, prepare the roux (Roux is a mixture of equal parts fat and flour used for thickening sauces and soups.) Heat a 6-10-inch sauté pan over med-low heat. Add butter and melt fully. Add the flour and mix thoroughly using a wire whip. Cook roux for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add roux to the soup using a wire whip. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add diced chicken breast.
  • Finely chop the tomatoes in food processor. Add corn and tomatoes to the soup and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Ladle soup in equal parts into 8 heated soup bowls. Garnish each with fried tortilla strips, shredded cheese and Pico de Gallo and you’re finished~ Voilà

“Chicken Tortilla Soup, “takes me home” even though I only live two blocks from my parent’s, lol! Woot*O*


What Bite Takes You Home- #TheHundredFootJourney Meatloaf & Whoopie Pies

“What Bite Takes You Home”

Cheryl Giardi

Mary’s Meatloaf

A recipe handed down from an unknown source but my Mom “Mary” has mastered this “take me home” meal.  The “sauce” is what distinguishes this dish!
1 ½ lbs. hamburger
½ cup pf breadcrumbs
1 TBSP instant onion
1 egg beaten
1 ½ teaspoons salt and pepper
2 – 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce
½ cup water
3 TBSP vinegar (apple cider)
3 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP Mustard
2 TBSP Worstershire sauce

Mix beef, breadcrumbs, onion, egg, salt and pepper, and ½ can on tomato sauce together in a large bowl. Mix and form into meatloaf shape.  We line pans with foil.
Take the rest of the ingredients and mix together.  Pour half on top of the formed meatloaf. 
Meatloaf goes into the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Throughout cooking take large spoon and continue to spoon on the “sauce” you created to keep the meatloaf moist. 
When done, set aside for 15 minutes.  Serve with the remaining “sauce”.

Nana “Dot’s” Whoopie Pies

Yes, it’s true you can buy them anywhere these days but these are the REAL DEAL!  My Nana “Dot” made these for every family event.  Even following this recipe, to date no family member has been able to duplicate her delicious treats!  It seems a little vague so maybe that is why!  But.. we will continue to try!

½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs yolks
1 cup milk
5 TBSP cocoa
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Drop by teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees until they look set.
The filling:
2 egg whites
2 cups of confectionary sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
Mix until smooth.

Make you whoopee pies!