Friday, 31 July 2015

Adventures in the USA part 2 - Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World Florida

The second stop on our adventure was Orlando, Florida, where we stayed at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.  Our room had catering facilities, including a fridge/freezer, microwave, oven, dishwasher and washing machine, so we were able to cater for ourselves.  Following eating both breakfast and lunch at the hotel while in Washington DC (it was expensive, and we were practically spending almost $30 per person per day there, we really needed to save money on food while we were in Florida.  Therefore, on the first morning, we got a taxi to Winn Dixie, the nearest supermarket to the Disney World complex.  We needed enough food and drinks to cover 10 days of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (although we did go out for dinner once for a special occasion), so we ended up filling two shopping trolleys with fruit, vegetables, water, pasta, bread, cereal, milk and meat.  We discovered that we could save money by having a Winn Dixie card, so although we wouldn't use it again while we're here, we got one and managed to save $32.  For most of the rest of our stay, we were probably spending $15 or less per person per day for food.

Downtown Disney is Disney World’s very own shopping and entertainment complex, with a variety of shops for Disney merchandise, as well as jewellery, food, bowling and even a circus. In the early days of being in Florida, we had a few hours to spare in the afternoon, so we caught a bus to Downtown Disney for some browsing of some very inviting Disney goodies. Here are my top 5 shops/cafés/restaurants to see while there:

  • Rainforest Café – We did not been to this restaurant this year but in a previous year, but if you want to eat your dinner amongst the sounds of the rainforest and see and hear monkeys and elephants, swing over to Rainforest Café (there is also one at the Animal Kingdom). From memory, I ate an upside-down crushed Oreo cookie “mountain” topped (technically it was at the bottom) by vanilla ice cream “snow”. We also have a Rainforest Café glass that used to light up (this was nearly 10 years ago).
  • Pin Traders – If you’ve ever heard of Disney Pin Trading Around The World, Pin Traders is possibly the largest collection of Disney pins I’ve seen around Disney World (including in the parks and hotels). There are character pins from a variety of Disney animated films as well as pins to commemorate particular rides at the parks, and pins to commemorate the year of your visit. You don’t need to trade pins (in which case, you simply choose and purchase a pin), but if you do, simply ask a cast member at the shop, or in any park if you can see their Disney pins, and if you see one that you like, you can ask them if you can trade/swap pins with each other.
  • Basin – If you want bath products such as body scrubs, lip balm, solid perfumes, soaps or shampoo bars, head to Basin. I tried their “Love” shea body scrub, which I rubbed on my hands for about 30 seconds, and when I washed it off, my hands were super-soft. I asked the woman at the counter, and she said that the products sold are not tested on animals, and apart from a couple of products (including almond products – ask which ones specifically and they should tell you), they are free from milk and honey (I didn’t specifically ask if they were vegan though).
  • Disney’s Days of Christmas – This store is full of Christmas baubles, decorations and toys of the Disney variety. There’s a Christmas-themed train set, Frozen merchandise and so much more, so if you want to deck your halls with Disney-themed Christmas decorations, Disney’s Days of Christmas will have everything you need. Christmas tree not included.
  • Vivoli Il Gelato – When it’s summertime and quite hot, it’s important to stay cool, so slide into Vivoli Il Gelato for a 1-3 scoop cup or cone of ice cream. There’s rice to coffee to mango to orange to chocolate. I had a 3 scoop cup of Italian chocolate, lemon and salted caramel. The lemon was a bit tangy though …

I think my favourite of the three flavours was salted caramel. If you looked so far back to almost the beginning of my blogging journey, you’d find a recipe I found for salted caramel cheesecake following my experience of it at Colours Ball 2014. As with most of the posts I do now, I tried to find a vegan-friendly version of salted caramel ice cream (note that I am currently not a vegan, but hope to go vegan someday, and I want my blog to be a kind of cookbook compilation for myself). A quick Google search for “vegan salted caramel ice cream” came up with the following recipe from 40 Aprons, the author of which tells of her husband’s adoration of this salted caramel ice cream recipe.

Ingredients (serves 6)

Salted caramel sauce:
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water, divided
1 cup cashews
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons vegan margarine, such as Earth Balance or Pure
2 teaspoons flake sea salt

Ice cream:
1 x 14oz can full-fat coconut milk (NOT light)
1 cup cashews, soaked at least 6 hours
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 cups salted caramel sauce, divided


  1. Make your "heavy cream" by blending 1/2 cup almond milk, 2 tablespoons water, and 1 cup cashews in a high-speed blender until very, very smooth.  Sieve or press through a nut milk bag for the smoothest texture.
  2. Make your salted caramel sauce: Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns golden (don't wait until it turns amber, as that usually means it's burnt), occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped into water and swirl in the pan for about 12 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Whisk in Earth Balance or other vegan margarine, then very gradually add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously).  Stir over low heat until smooth, then add 2 teaspoons of sea salt.  This will make about 2 cups of salted caramel sauce.
  3. Combine coconut milk, 1 cup soaked cashews, coconut oil, and 1 1/2 cups caramel sauce in a high-speed blender and blend until very smooth.  Transfer to an air-tight container and refrigerate until very cold.  Once the mixture is cold, churn according to ice cream maker instructions.
  4. Once churned, the ice cream will have the texture of frozen yoghurt.  Gently swirl in the remaining 1/2 cup of salted caramel sauce and place in the freezer for at least 2-3 hours.

Stay tuned for the part 3 of my adventures in the USA, where I'll reveal my favourite things to see at Disney's Animal Kingdom!

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