Flowers and Bacon!!!

I realize that I am having a hard time getting into a good blogging schedule. I am the type that can knock out a writing assignment in no time and at the very last minute. Well I was the type, before kids. When my world is 100% quite this would be no problem…. But alas…. The two and four year old in my life make sure my life is anything but quiet. Bless their little hearts!!! Eating the food and cooking isn’t the problem- getting it all out there for y’all to read and enjoy is. But I will say my fingers felt the pressure of writing when I realized that the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival starts in just a few short weeks and we haven’t discussed all the amazing things that are about to appear in my home away from home!

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The Flower and Garden Festival holds a special place in my heart because it was my first stop as a Horticulture intern.
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My internship started mid- May and I had the opportunity to join the topiary crew for its last few weeks that year. I will never forget driving out on world showcase for the first time in our crew’s truck and getting dropped off to work on my first topiary, Lady and the Tramp.
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The theme that year was couples and love, so naturally some of Disney’s most loved couples were in topiary form all over the park.
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A lot of time has passed since my 2006 internship and I love how the Flower and Garden Festival has evolved and changed for the better.

What’s not to love about Epcot being completely covered in flowers and topiaries of your favorite characters? Add multiple garden experts to the mix at the festival center and its every gardeners dream! For me personally I love that! I wish it lasted longer than just a few months. But Disney is so smart… They knew they had something pretty special with their Food and Wine Festival in the fall, so they added similar elements to the Flower and Garden Festival. For several years now they have incorporated a bunch of outdoor kitchens offering seasonal favorites that will be sure to please your palate. This year the festival is getting extended for a few extra days (now enjoy for a full 90 days) which makes me happier than a bumblebee in a garden.
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This year there will be about a dozen or so outdoor kitchens that will offer a variety of national and international foods; similar to Food and Wine but with a garden flare. They like to give it that “from the garden” vibe. The menu is very different from Food and Wine, but the portion is the same; allowing you to sample multiple offerings as you stroll the park. In addition to the flowers and food there will be specialty gardens (butterfly house and hummingbirds at home), children’s play areas (Harmony Gardens Musical Playground and Mike and Sulley’s Monstrous Garden), garden rocks concerts (concerts take place at the American Gardens Theater on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and garden tours (Epcot Gardens or the World and English Tea Garden).
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Now back to the food!!! Since gardening isn’t only about flowers I would like to point out something pretty special. There is an attraction at Epcot that actually helps contribute to Disney’s food supply. Living with the Land is an attraction in The Land pavilion (located between Figment and The Seas) that educates guests on hydroponics, aquaponics, biotechnology and agriculture in general.
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What people might not realize is that if it is seen on the Living with the Land boat ride something on that plant is edible since they only showcase food crops. The crops harvested from that attraction are actually sent to restaurants on Disney property, many of which are restaurants within Epcot.
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Just something cool to know- so next time you are munching on a salad, enjoying some farm raised fish or having a deliciously sweet fruit desert know that some or all of the ingredients could have come from The Land. The Land is happy to contribute to special events and that includes the festivals of Food and Wine and Flower and Garden. As far as the menu this year- well that’s still somewhat of a mystery. I’m going to mention some of my favorites from last year that I hope will be on the lineup for 2016, and I’m gong to include a delicious recipe to take something sweet home with you! Enjoy the pictures from previous years along the way!

Here is the line up for Outdoor Kitchens this year and I have included menu items from the past that I have personally tried. As the festival gets closer and the menu is released I will update the post according with as much information as I can give.

NEW in 2016! La Isla Fresca- Caribbean theme
NEW in 2016! Cider House- Fruit and Cheese plates
Urban Farm Eats

Kale Salad with Dried Cherries, Almonds, and Goat Cheese with White Balsamic Vinaigrette- refreshing, unique and delicious! I will be getting this again!!!
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Ghost pepper-dusted tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil featuring The Original Sauce Man’s Kick It Up Rub. The winter melon most likely came from my work (The Land), so for me this dish is a must have!!! You have to be game for spicy- this isn’t spicy like the jarred salsa says “spicy” at the grocery store. This is spicy as in open your nasal passages, comes from one of the hottest peppers in the world spicy. The trick with spicy is not losing the overall taste and depth of the food you are eating. If all you taste is spice and all you do is cough, then the spice isn’t adding to the food- it’s taking away from the food. This dish has the perfect balance of spice. The crisp winter melon slaw adds a coolness to balance the heat from the ghost pepper. The original sauce man’s Kick It Up Rub is available for purchase from the here. This is an easy dish to replicate at home- minus the winter melon, which is rather hard to come by. If searching for winter melon and you don’t have the patience for your own garden at home I suggest looking in your local Asian market.
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Pineapple Promenade
Fleur de Lys
Taste of Marrakesh

Although I haven’t personally sampled from this stand, I have eaten in two of Morocco’s restaurants in Epcot and I have nothing but wonderful things to say about them both! I’m sure I will eventually share some fun Moroccan recipes of mine but for now just know I highly recommend you give this stand a try!
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The Smokehouse: Barbecues and Brews
“Piggylicious” bacon cupcake with maple frosting and pretzel crunch- I mean its bacon and a cupcake…. What more do I need to say?!?! Try it!!!
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Pulled Pig Slider- I am a pork lover! A true Southerner at heart! This slider is simply divine. It has that perfect smoky flavor and the slaw just adds a nice fresh crisp to the sandwich. I would also like to add that it is not dripping in too much BBQ sauce. This is a true smoked pork with just the right seasoning!
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Primavera Kitchen
Lotus House
Jardin de Fiestas
Florida Fresh

Now as far as your sweet treat to take home….
I am going to include my version of the Piggylicous cupcake- I call it the Sunday Brunch Cupcake. The main difference with mine is the cake. The Smokehouse used a basic vanilla cake as their base for the Piggylicous and you can feel free to do the same. I add my bacon to my French toast cupcake and top it with maple buttercream and more bacon in lieu of the pretzel bits. Feel free to tweak it any way you like- I don’t really think you can go wrong with bacon!

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Sunday Brunch Cupcake

18 Servings Prep: 25 min. Bake 20 min. + cooling

Cake Ingredients:
½ cup unsalted butter- softened to room temp.
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs- at room temp.
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cups buttermilk- at room temp.
Approx 3 strips candied bacon (directions below)

Maple Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
½ cup maple syrup
4 cups confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto (optional)
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional Garnishes:
Pretzel bits (as seen in Piggylicious cupcake at Epcot)
3 strips candied bacon (cut into 1-2 inch strips)
and/or a waffle wedge

First work on the candied bacon so it is cooked and cooled before making the cupcakes. Place the bacon on a wire rack and press brown sugar into the bacon. Flip the strips and repeat- the more brown sugar the better. Place the wire rack on top of a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 325 until bacon is fully cooked. Start checking the bacon at 10 mins. and if not fully cooked/crisp add another 5-10 min. or until fully cooked. Crumble half the strips into tiny bits, removing any fatty bits. The other half will be reserved for garnishing later.
In a stand mixer cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy- you will need to stop and scrape down the sides several times. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla.
In a second bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Begin alternating adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to your stand mixer. Once all ingredients are added turn the mixer up for 10-15 seconds to make sure everything is mixed in well- do not over mix! Lastly, gently fold in the crumbled bits of bacon.
Fill paper-lined cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Allow to completely cool before frosting.

For the frosting begin by beating the butter in your stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. I like to beat my butter until it has literally changed color. After you beat it long enough the butter will turn from its light yellow color to almost pure white. At that point add in the maple syrup, half the confectioners sugar, vanilla, amaretto (if using) and heavy cream. Once all is incorporated add the remaining confectioners sugar. Add more or less until it reaches the desired thickness. The heavy cream helps with this- by turning up the mixer to high and letting it beat for several minutes the cream will help smoothen and thicken the buttercream. The end result is a deliciously creamy buttercream that isn’t overly sweet from adding too much sugar.

Frost each cupcake and top with desired garnish. Serve immediately.

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