Sunday, August 31, 2014

Minnie Mouse Wreath

The last craft I have to share with you about Carson' Minnie Mouse birthday party is an adorable and completely pink wreath. We made it out of crepe paper and a Styrofoam wrath from Michaels.


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It was a group project. (You would not believe how long it takes to cut out all of those pieces of tissue paper and glue them into little holes.) Make sure you have quite a few sheets of tissue paper because it takes a lot.
 
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First, cut up the paper into 4" squares. Pinch the center down and twirl the bottom a little to create something like what Syd is holding.
 
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Make a bunch of little holes all in your Styrofoam wreath. Space them less than an inch apart so there are no gaps.
 
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 Dab a little hot glue into each hole.
 
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Firmly press the bottom of each tissue paper piece into the hole.
 
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Make sure it is securely attached to the wreath.
 
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Once there are no more empty spaces or holes, your wreath is complete. Attach a decal if you want to, and hang it up for all to see!
 
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Chilean Pastel

Chile is stretched more than 2,670 miles down the coast of South America. You would think that it was massive based off of this, but it's widest part is only 217 miles wide, making it similar in square mileage to Turkey and Zambia. It's length yields to a vast array of terrain ranging from the copper rich desert in the north to southern forests, volcanoes, and waterways. The central part hosts the Andes mountains where the Quechua people who invented tonight's recipe reside.


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Pastel refers to many different types of dishes cooked in Latin countries. This pastel happens to be the national dish of Chile: Pastel de Choclo. Choclo means tender corn in the native Quechua language, and it is the staple ingredient of this yummy meal. Other additions are up to you. The meat is typically chicken or ground beef with boiled eggs, raisins, olives, or a combination of the three used as filling. I went down the chicken, raisin, and egg route with amazing results. A little broiling at the end lends to a crispy crust that is divine.

 

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Pastel de Choclo
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp oil
1 ½ onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth (reserved from cooking chicken)
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup milk
6 cups corn kernels (about 4 large cobs)
4 hardboiled eggs, crumbled up
¼ cup raisins
 
Put the chicken in a small crockpot and cover with water. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Once the chicken is done, shred it and set aside.
 
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Heat a pan over medium heat with the oil in it. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for about 8 minutes until the onion is translucent. Stir in the reserved chicken broth, shredded chicken, paprika, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper. Heat until boiling, and then remove your pan from the stove.
 
Put the corn kernels into a food processor along with the milk. Process until the kernels have been broken down into a chunky puree. Heat the mixture in a large pan over medium high heat until simmering. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 12 minutes, stirring often. Remove the cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
 
Put the chicken mixture into the bottom of a baking pan. Scatter the raisins and eggs evenly over the top. Spread on the corn mixture evenly. Sprinkle the sugar over top. Bake for 40 minutes, broiling for an additional minute or two if you desire a browner top.
 
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I really liked Chile's Pastel de Choclo. You might think it is a bit strange to use sugar, corn, raisins, and chicken all in the same dish, but it came together well. My only complaint was the amount of time I had to wait smelling the delicious aromas coming from the oven before it was done.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Party Food

Even the food we served at Carson's birthday party was Minnie Mouse themed. She didn't care, but everyone else thought it was super cute. We bought a Minnie Mouse cookie cutter, and went crazy with it.

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There were Minnie Mouse watermelon cut outs,
 
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Minnie Mouse sandwich bread,
 
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Minnie Mouse lunch meat,
 
 
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and even Minnie Mouse cheese!
 
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We rounded out our spread with some condiments, a fruit bowl, goldfish, chips, and dip. It was all super cute especially on top of our Minnie Mouse plates.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Minnie Skirts

These are not your typical mini skirts, they are Minnie skirts. Sydney and my mom wanted Carson to have a special outfit for her party.

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They worked their magic with some tulle cut into strips and tied around some elastic. This is the cute skirt that was the result. We got her a matching Minnie shirt to go with it.
 

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She is just too cute. :)

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Harper wanted a skirt too, of course. (Carson cannot have anything that she does not have.) Harper's was made the same way, just with longer tulle.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Minnie Mouse Cupcakes

Here are the cute cupcakes we made for Carson's Minnie Mouse birthday party. They are Minnie Mouse of course, and everyone loved them. One of our guests just came for the cupcake and then left. :) Yeah, they were that good. (She actually wanted to come for the party, but had a busy schedule. We were glad that she was able to drop by at all.) Scroll down to find out how we made them!
 

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We used a plain vanilla cupcake that we baked the night before as the base. White icing came next topped by an Oreo for the head and two mini Oreos for the ears. Harper made the little bows using a mold out of fondant.
 
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You can get some use out of those Minnie Mouse plates by making a build-your-own cupcake center. Just place a cupcake, some icing, a bow, and the Oreos on a plate. Give each kid a knife and let them have at it!
 
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Super cute!
 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Olaf for Breakfast

Here's a post in honor of my beautiful, funny, and Frozen obsessed little sister Harper. While I was still home for summer break, Harper and I got creative in the kitchen one morning for breakfast. We did not have enough time to make something complicated like poptarts, we had already had pancakes that week, and cereal just was not calling her name. In a creative spur, we decided to recreate one of her favorite characters in breakfast form.

It's Olaf, and he likes warm butter. :)

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To make Olaf, use two Eggo Waffles for the body, two large marshmallows for the feet/ legs, and a pretzel rod broken in half for the arms. Chocolate chips make great buttons as well as tufts of hair. We used mini chocolate chips stuck on with butter for the mouth and large chocolate chips on top of pats of butter for the eyes. The nose could be an orange m&m, but we  used a veggie chip. (My mom does not keep our house well stocked with candy.)
 
Now don't you want to build an edible snowman.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Minnie Mouse Plates

I made these cute plates for the birthday lunch we served at Carson's party. (Stay tuned to find out how to throw your own Minnie themed feast.) They are just two black cardstock circles glued on to a black paper plate. To make the bow, I just cut out two hears and a circle. Put the bottom of the hearts together and then glue the circle on top. Viola! You have a Minnie Mouse plate

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Staples of Nepal

It's time for another international dinner! I did not want to start making them even though I am back at college. Instead of making a huge feast, I am going to tone it down a bit. I don't want my lack of space, money, and time to ruin my project, though. I'll just save the more elaborate countries for Christmas break.

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Tonight's dinner is from Nepal. The inspiration for this simple meal came from a book called Little Princes by Conor Grennan. The book is an account of his life while volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal. He said that their typical meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week was rice (bhat) and lentils (dhal). This filling and simple dish is great comfort food. I am not sure if I could eat it every meal for the rest of my life, but it was delicious for dinner in between church, homework, and catching up with friends.

Known for being the home of Mount Everest, Nepal is small but not forgotten. They just finished a civil war where the Maoists overthrew the previous Kingdom of Nepal. The weather can be stifling hot in some areas and bitter cold in others. If you like the heat, I don't suggest climbing Mount Everest.

Nepali cuisine gets a lot of influence from neighboring India. Basmati rice, curries, and flavorful spices come to play in many of their dishes. Other things are uniquely Nepali like momo dumplings. I chose to stick with the every day peasant food that most of the population survives on.  I understand why it is a go-to meal. It's cheap, filling, and would be a great combat to the bitter Nepalese winters.


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Dhal (Lentils)
serves 1
1/4 cup brown lentils
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp turmeric
1 tsp oil
1 cup water
 
Heat the oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Pour in the water, lentils, and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Serve atop a bed of bhat (recipe follows).
 
 
 
Bhat (Rice)
serves 1
1/4 cup basmati rice
1/2 -2/3 cup water
pinch of salt
 
Bring the water, rice, and salt to a boil in a small pot with a lid on it. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 40 minutes. (Add a little more water if it all evaporates ahead of time.) Allow the rice to sit for 10 minutes before topping with the lentils.
 
 
 
 
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I really liked my dhal bhat. It came out to be the perfect portion for one, but feel free to multiply the recipe to serve more. (It would not be too difficult.) I enjoyed my Nepali food. Next time I will pay more attention and start the rice a little early. It takes quite some time to cook.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

With a Cherry on Top

Cherries are one of those summer fruits that I just cannot get enough of. As a child, I would eat them until I got sick, and the only reason I don't now is because I would never want to waste them. These pancakes definitely do not waste the delicious (and surprisingly expensive) produce.

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Coconut compliments cherries perfectly, and chocolate makes anything better. It's not hard to see why these pancakes are so good.
 
 
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 All this cherry talk takes me back to Europe where we perused through a market eating fresh cherries that were picked off of the trees surrounding us. Oh Europe, how I miss you.... On a different note, aren't these pancakes beautiful?
 
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Cherry Banana Pancakes with Chocolate Coconut Syrup
makes 18
For the pancakes:
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ tbsp. baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp melted coconut oil (optional)
1 cup chopped cherries

For the syrup:
¼ cup maple syrup
¾ cup coconut milk
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
cherries, chocolate chips, and coconut flakes to top

To make the pancakes, blend the oats into a flour. Combine the oat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Mix well. Blend the bananas, eggs, coconut oil, and milk together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Whisk until there are no more lumps. Let the batter sit for 15 minutes to thicken. Preheat a large nonstick pancake pan over medium heat until water droplets sizzle when dropped on it. At the last minute, stir the chopped cherries into the batter. Drop a few tablespoons of the batter at a time onto the pan. Cook each side of the pancakes for a couple of minutes until golden.

To make the syrup, whisk together all the ingredients. Heat for 45 seconds in the microwave, careful not to let the mixture boil over. Cool slightly and serve drizzled over your pancakes. For a thicker syrup, reduce the amount of coconut milk.

Top your pancakes with the syrup, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and cherries. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Little Something to Help You Cool Off

When it is 100 degrees outside and the AC in your classroom is out, there is only one thing that will get you through class without having a heat stroke.


Yes my friends, that one thing is the promise of some nice, cool homemade frozen yogurt. Just make sure you get to it before it starts to melt.

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Maple Pecan Frozen Yogurt
3 cups milk
4 cups Greek yogurt
1 cup maple syrup
dash of salt
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, salt, and maple syrup until there are no more lumps. Using an ice cream maker (mine is from Cuisinart), pour half the cooled yogurt mixture into the frozen ice cream maker’s attachment bowl. Let the machine run for 15 minutes. Scatter ½ cup of toasted pecans over the top while the machine is still running. Let it keep churning for 5 minutes until the pecans are well incorporated. Repeat another time with the remaining yogurt mixture and pecans. Serve immediately for soft serve, or pour into a sealed container and freeze for 3 hours for normal ice cream. You may need to let it thaw on the counter for 10 minutes before scooping out and serving.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DIY Minnie Mouse Ears

The craft project we did at Carson's Minnie Mouse themed birthday party was DIY Minnie (or Mickey) ears. It was a super simple craft, and the kids loved being able to dress up like their favorite mouse.


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To make the ears, we wrapped a plastic headband with black ribbon  and then used this template to cut out the felt ears. The bow was just made out of polk a dot ribbon. The ears were secured with glue dots.

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The finished project. 
 
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Here's our crafting table.
 
 
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Some of the party guests modeling out their new ears.
 
 
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A whole house full of Minnie and Mickeys!
 
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Spicy Quinoa Bowl

Cold, hot, room temperature.... However you serve this bowl full of protein rich turkey, fiber filled quinoa, and vitamin packed broccoli covered in a slightly spicy roasted red pepper pepita sauce is simply delicious. I am not usually one to make a lot of "bowls" (rice, quinoa, ect.), but I thought of this recipe today and decided to make an exception. The pepitas and seasonings give it a slight south of the border flare. Serve it whatever temperature you like, and it is sure to be absolutely delicious.


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Feta, Broccoli, Turkey, and Quinoa Bowl with Spicy Roasted Red Pepper- Pepita Sauce
serves 2
For the sauce:
3/4 cup roasted red peppers
3 tbsp. water
1/4 cup toasted pepitas
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

For the bowl:
1/2 cup dry quinoa
3/4 cup water
4 ounces ground turkey
1 tsp oil
16 ounces frozen broccoli
1/4 a large onion, diced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

For the sauce, blend all the ingredients together in a high speed blender until creamy. Make sure there are no more lumps. Set aside.

Rinse the quinoa under cold water. Combine the quinoa and water together in a pot. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Let the pot sit with the lid on it for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the broccoli and 1/4 cup water in a microwave safe bowl with a lid. Microwave for 5 minutes, drain, and toss with the cooked quinoa. Heat a pan over medium heat with the oil. Add the onions and sauté for 6-8 minutes until golden. Mix the turkey and seasonings together. Add the turkey to the pan. Cook, breaking the turkey into little chunks.

Add the turkey to the quinoa and broccoli mixture. Toss with the sauce and top with crumbled feta cheese.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pin the Bow on Minnie

One of the fun activities we had at Carson's birthday party was Pin the Bow on Minnie. We hung a huge Minnie mouse head made out of poster board on the wall, blindfolded the kids, and got them to try to hang Minnie's bow on her head.




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The game did not take long, but all of the kids enjoyed it. It was the best for the 3-5 year olds. It was a little too difficult for the babies, and easy for the big kids.
 
 
 
 
Harp easily found the perfect place to put the bow.
 
 
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Broccoli Feta Muffins

 
 It's time to ditch those sweet muffins and grab something savory! These muffins are light, cheesy, and full of nutritious broccoli. Who said that only fruit can be incorporated into muffins? They make the perfect breakfast on the go and give you another chance to use some good feta cheese.
 
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Broccoli Feta Muffins
makes 18
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
dash of cayenne pepper powder
dash of garlic powder
1 red onion, chopped
2 cups broccoli boiled for 3 minutes, chopped (measure after chopping)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 eggs
1 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and oil 18 muffin holes. Heat a pan over medium heat with a little oil. Cook the onion until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder together. Add in the cheeses, broccoli, and onion. Mix together well. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin holes in your muffin pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins sit for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Minnie Mouse Topiary

This is my first post as a junior back at college! I'm so pumped for classes to start, to see all my friends, and to get back into the swing of college life. I moved in this morning, and have spent the day unpacking and organizing. It was hard to say goodbye to Harper and my mom who brought me down, but I was ready to come back and start the new semester. My roommate Hannah and I have been able to catch up from the summer, and I am so excited to get to know my two new roommates, Anna and Rachel, better. The four of us are going to have so much fun this year!!


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Anyway, let's talk topiaries. Minnie Mouse topiaries to be exact. Not your usual green vegetation, this topiary is centered around everyone's favorite girly mouse. Let's just call it a pink explosion to go along with Carson's Minnie Mouse birthday party theme.

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To make our beautiful centerpiece, we just cut out 4" of a variety of ribbon. (We used 6 different types.) Make the ribbons into loops secured with a dab of hot glue. If your ribbon is super skinny, make your cuts an inch or so shorter just so the loops are about the same size as those made with the thicker ribbon. Attach two smaller Styrofoam balls to a larger one with toothpicks and glue. Randomly hot glue the ribbon loops all over your Styrofoam head.  

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To finish off, wrap black ribbon around a wooden dowel. Stick it into your Minnie Mouse head. Secure another piece of Styrofoam into a small pot or other base of your choosing. Stick the other end of the dowel into it. Cover with little round balls or colorful sugar coated chocolates.
 
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Ta-da!! You have an amazing topiary. It only takes a few hours, several runs to Michael's, and some burnt fingers. Trust me, it's worth it.
 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Disney Review: The Kona Cafe

I'm going back to school tomorrow, so I though it was about time that I finished up the Disney reviews. It feels like we were just at Disney, but that was over two months ago. This summer has sped by. I thought I was all ready to go back, but I am beginning to have my doubts....


I wish that I could just permanently move to Disney World and live there with my family. It would be cool to work with their college program, but it would be even better if I could just be a free loader. I could live like a princess (literally!). Who cares about school and work? There are rides waiting!


Just kidding. I really do love my school and cannot wait to see all my friends again. Plus, living at Disney with my high maintenance family would get a little old. Before you think that I'm losing my mind here (which may be very possible), let me move on with the review of the Polynesian Resort's Kona Café.


Located right outside of Magic Kingdom and part of the monorail loop, the Polynesian Resort is one of my favorites. Our family is too large to stay there now, but we were able to stay there several times when I was a kid. It is currently under renovations, so the huge waterfall in the center was being deconstructed when we visited. Before, it was central to the hotel. Disney even sprayed a certain perfume to make the whole place smell like a tropical island. In the lobby you can make leis with cast members, the pool is amazing, and they even have a luau dinner show you can attend. (My parents surprised me one year by taking me there on my birthday, and it was amazing!) Ohana is another dining option where you are served all you can eat Polynesian food brought to your table by waiters sort of like a Brazilian steakhouse. There are games for the kids too. I remember doing coconut races when we went in 2005. Yet another restaurant at the hotel is the Kona Café where we ate this trip. My mom loves this place. She dreams of the Tonga Toast they serve for breakfast, and she also loves the lunch and dinner menu that brings a certain Asian flare.


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A sweet Hawaiian loaf with macadamia nut butter is served to start. Harper was a big fan of this.
 
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We got the pork and vegetable pot stickers off of the appetizer menu. They were good but not the best thing ever.
 
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This is Sydney's caterpillar roll (Inside out Tuna Roll, Shrimp Salad Tempura Crunch topped with a layer of Avocado). Isn't it cool? Kona has a bunch of maki rolls to choose from off their menu. They make a great appetizer or a cheaper meal option.
 
 I cannot find the picture of my California Luau Roll (Jumbo Lump Crab, Pineapple, and Avocado). I am okay with this because I would not want to be reminded of the awful thing. My avocado was as hard as a rock, the rice was mushy and overcooked, and the pineapple had no taste at all. This was the worst sushi and the worst meal I had at Disney. (And I had my fair share of maki rolls this trip.)
 
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This is the tuna poke salad my dad ordered. It is also on the sushi roll menu.
 
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My mom ordered the Sesame Seared Sea Scallops with Rice, Wakame Salad, and Tarragon-Champagne Beurre Blanc. She loved it and had to keep Carson away from eating all of her scallops again. (We would not want to repeat the Cooke's incident.)
 
 
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Harper's ravioli was shaped like Mickey Mouse! It must have been too adorable to eat, though, because she did not touch most of it. (She should have gotten the chicken nuggets.)
 
 
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The desserts at Kona are always amazing. Years ago Syd and I watched as a chef carved Lilo and Stitch out of chocolate. We were about 6 and 9 when they did it, and they still had it sitting out when we went in 2010. Sadly it is no longer there, but no worries. You can order your own mini sweet masterpiece.
 
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The awesome sundae with Mickey's face in chocolate, a mound of fluffy cotton candy, and two scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone all topped with fudge and sprinkles (Wow, that's a mouthful. No pun intended.) Was over the top. I think it made Harper's day. We now know why she held off on her meal. She was awaiting dessert.
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The beautiful Kilauea Torte (An explosion of warm liquid Chocolate inside Chocolate Volcano) was not lacking in taste or presentation.
 

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Here is the banana chocolate crème brulee which also frequents my mom's dreams. She was smart in ordering it because Syd and Harp won't touch anything with bananas in it. Two less forks in her dessert. ;)
 
 
Overall, the Kona is an okay place to eat. It is a little sad knowing you are so close to Ohanas and the luau, but are stuck eating at the little café. I was not a fan of my meal at all. (It was my least favorite in the parks.) My mom enjoyed hers, but the rest of us could not say the same. I suggest skipping the meal and just going for the awesome desserts. It was a little of a disappointment as our last meal in Disney. We might have just been sick of eating out or depressed that it was time to go. Disney is such a magical place. I hope my reviews have been helpful, and I look forward to share more after future trips!