For five days cruising the Caribbean, we were immersed in a world of fantasy. Beloved Disney pals Goofy, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse came to life prancing on deck. Little girls like Nicole lined up to be photographed with Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty — souvenirs to bring back to show-and-tell at school.
In the evening, 1,000 kids and adults watched spell-bound as dazzling Broadway-style stage shows were produced in the Walt Disney Theater.
Our twins were also enrolled in the Oceaneer Club, where they easily made some friends, and indulged in a science sorcery and apprentice workshop — happily making goop — while supervised all the time by counselors.
Though we expected to be completely focused on the kids, we quickly discovered that the Disney cruise ship caters to all ages. Singles, 20- and 30-something couples and, of course, doting grandparents could slip away to sip a cappuccino at the Cove Cafe, bask in the sunshine by the Quiet Cove Pool or be pampered at the Vista Spa.
Yet catering to 1,200 guests of all ages — from babies to grandparents — could be a monumental challenge. Not so for Scottish-born executive chef Steve Walker, 36, who oversees three main kitchens. He notes: "We heed the current trend to salads and fresher, lighter dishes — fruits and vegetables, and vegetarian dishes, but our menus offer many other options."
Special diets and requests are accommodated wherever possible. One guest was thrilled that her son, who is allergic to wheat, was served special gluten-free bread and cakes "at the same time that baskets of bread were served to the rest of our table." Walker explains that gluten-free items are prepared in a separate area in the kitchen to avoid any contamination.
Kosher meals, which must be pre-ordered, are brought in from the departing port — in our case, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Below is a selection from chefs at the Disney Resort and Cruise Line. Some have been adapted for the kosher home kitchen.
This is strictly for adults. It's the signature drink on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas, a stop on every Disney cruise-ship itinerary. Use a jigger to measure amounts.
1 oz. dark rum
11/2 oz. light rum
2 oz. passion-fruit juice
2 oz. piña colada mix
2 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
2 pineapple wedges (for garnish)
Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker; shake vigorously. Pour over glasses filled with crushed ice.
Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 148; protein, 0 g; carbohydrates, 14 g; fat, 1 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 7 mg.
Chef Mickey's Breakfast Pizza
Hot cheese can burn little mouths, so cool for five or 10 minutes before serving.
1 precooked pizza shell (10 to 12 inches)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 Tbsps. heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place pizza crust on a baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, mix the cheeses.
Add the eggs and cream; mix well.
Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture onto the pizza shell.
Bake for 12 minutes, or until cheese mixture is set and beginning to brown.
Cool before cutting.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 242; protein, 12 g; carbohydrates, 9 g; fat, 18 g; cholesterol, 116 mg; sodium, 419 mg.
3 Tbsps. sugar
11/2 tsps. cinnamon
2 Vienna-type rolls, about 6 inches long
2 bananas, peeled
1/4 cup canola oil for frying
In a shallow dish, mix sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
Cut the rolls in half lengthwise. Set aside.
Cut each banana in half crosswise.
Tear out some of the soft bread from each roll to make a cavity large enough for banana half (save bread for crumbs and freeze). Press a banana half into each cavity.
In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat (oil is hot enough when a piece of bread dropped in sizzles, and is golden in 60 seconds). Place the rolls, banana-side down, into hot oil.
Cook for 2 minutes, or until golden.
Turn and fry on other side, pressing down with a wooden spoon to flatten.
Drain on paper towels.
Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Serve.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 316; protein, 4 g; carbohydrates, 43 g; fat, 16 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 173 g.
A fine risotto takes patience but this creamy, lemon-infused version pays off. Be sure to use Arborio rice; do not substitute. The grains will expand but remain firm. Lemon grass, which adds a sour-lemon flavor and fragrance, has long, thin, gray-green leaves and a scallion-like base.
5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped lemon grass, tender parts only
2 Tbsps. grated ginger root
2 tsps. chopped garlic
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup kosher white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay
2 tsps. finely grated lemon rind
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a 2-quart saucepan, bring stock to simmer. Keep at lowest heat to continue simmering.
Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot, preferably nonstick. Add the onion, lemon grass, ginger root and garlic. Sauté over medium-low heat until onion is softened. Do not let the garlic brown.
Add the rice. Cook over medium heat, stirring for five minutes, or until the ends of the rice are translucent. Add the wine; stir until wine is absorbed. Reduce heat to low.
Pour in about one-half cup of the simmering stock. Cook, stirring constantly until all the stock is absorbed. Continue cooking, adding stock about one-half cup at a time, stirring constantly, until each addition is completely absorbed. This will take about 20 minutes.
Add the lemon rind. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 399; protein, 8 g; carbohydrates, 61 g; fat, 10 g; cholesterol, 3 mg; sodium, 91 mg.
2 Tbsps. brandy
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsps. cornstarch, mixed with 11/2 Tbsps. water
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 salmon fillets (4 oz. to 5 oz. each)
First, prepare the glaze (may be done ahead of time).
Place the brandy in a small saucepan. Ignite and flame for 2 to 3 seconds. Add the maple syrup and heat over medium heat. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Bring to simmer. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Cool.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brush salmon with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Place in a preheated sauté pan. Sear both sides.
Transfer to an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon glaze over top.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until desired doneness.
Drizzle the remaining glaze on top. Serve with the risotto.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 394; protein, 23 g; carbohydrates, 28 g; fat, 17g; cholesterol, 75 mg; sodium, 527 mg.
Although the original recipe calls for cake flour, I used all-purpose flour, with excellent results.
11/2 cups, plus 2 Tbsps., cake flour or all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp. instant coffee powder
3/4 tsp. baking powder
11/4 cups sugar
11/4 cups butter (21/2 sticks), softened and divided
11/4 tsps. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray three 3×5-inch mini-loaf pans (preferably nonstick) with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup — plus 2 tablespoons — of the flour with the cornstarch, instant coffee and baking powder. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat 1 cup sugar, 21/4 sticks butter, vanilla and orange extracts until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, with 2 tablespoons flour mixture, beating well after each addition.
Fold in the remaining flour mixture. Mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.
In a small bowl, using a fork, mix the remaining one-quarter cup sugar, 2 tablespoons butter and one-half cup flour till crumbly. Divide batter equally into the prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Then, run a round-bladed knife around the sides of each loaf.
Turn out onto a wire rack.
Cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife.
Makes 3 mini-loaves.
Approximate nutrients per slice: calories, 222; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 26 g; fat, 13 g; cholesterol, 61 mg; sodium, 29 mg.
San Andreas Date Shake
Serve this in demitasse cups or wine glasses. You can always substitute low-fat frozen yogurt for the ice-cream to make this creamy drink less rich.
4 cups vanilla ice-cream
1/4 cup date paste
2 Tbsps. prepared caramel sauce
whipped cream (garnish)
Place the ice-cream, date paste and caramel sauce in a blender jar. Cover and blend at high speed until smooth.
Pour into glasses and garnish with whipped cream (optional).
Note: Date paste is available in specialty stores, or prepare it from scratch as follows: Coarsely chop 4 to 5 pitted dates. Simmer together with one-quarter cup orange juice, until dates are soft and mixture is thick. Cool and use as above.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 326; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 46 g; fat, 15 g; cholesterol, 58 mg; sodium, 128 mg.