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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kicked Up Queso

It's getting chilly outside and I am
craving warm and spicy foods and
there isn't any queso like this queso!

The secret is all in the 
Frank's Buffalo Sauce,
one of those sauces that my kids
and their kids have become addicted to.
I keep a supply of it in the pantry so
we don't ever run out.

I first had this fantastic queso this summer
at our neighborhood Walk and Talk on
Sunday evenings where everyone gets out
for a walk and visits and we stop at 3 houses
where they serve refreshments.

My friends Sue Ellen served this and
I couldn't walk away from her crockpot!

She had created this fantastic variation
of queso that I know you are going to
love.  It isn't hot, just savory.
We made it several times during
the summer and are having it again
now when it is freezing outside - this
is a year round recipe!

And it goes together in minutes
with things you can always have
on hand if you need to throw together
a fast appetizer or meal.

You can serve it straight out
of the pan or crockpot, but I
decided to serve mine up in these
fun mini cast iron frying pans that I
got at Costco last Christmas season.  
I sure hope they are going to have them
again.  They came four to a package and
have been the perfect size for individual

Kicked Up Queso Recipe

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion
2 cans Rotel tomatoes (mild)
1 small can chopped green chilis
2 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 C. Franks Red Hot Wings Buffalo Sauce
(don't get the hot one, get the medium one)

Chopped tomatoes and cilantro for garnish
Additional Buffalo Sauce if desired

In a large dutch oven pan brown the
ground beef and onion.  Drain.  Add the
Rotel tomatoes and the chilis.  Stir in the
cubed Velveeta and heat on medium until
the cheese is melted.  Add the beans and 
Buffalo sauce and heat through.

Serve garnished with chopped tomatoes
and cilantro and a splash of additional
Buffalo sauce.  Use tortilla chips as dippers.

This makes a large batch to serve a crowd
but it tastes great as leftovers too.

Dip in and enjoy some with me!

It is queso that is kicked up with
flavor from Buffalo sauce and I 
think you will love this.  I haven't served
it yet without someone asking for the recipe.

I will be posting this with

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley

Guess what arrived at our house 
by Owl Post?

I went outside of the house and there
was a big box on the porch.  I do love
to get packages but usually I know
what is coming.

This one was a huge surprise.  The return address
said Universal Promotions.

Inside I found this fabulous surprise.
Wow, I wish every trip I took came
with this kind of a
"Special Delivery"!!

My niece had booked the trip-
so she knew that we would be receiving
a package by Owl Post but it was
a complete surprise to me.

So we are off to Diagon Alley
where everyone attending Hogwarts
must pick up their supplies for school,
at Universal Studios  Theme Park
in Florida.

It just opened July 8th
and we are there!!  

We were just enchanted by 
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
that opened a few years ago where
we could enjoy delicious cold
drinks like the Hogwart students'
favorite, Butter Beer.  We love
the frozen, slushy one.  And don't worry
this isn't beer, the kids weren't drinking beer,
it is a butterscotch flavored slushy drink.

Stop at Florean Fortescue's
for ice cream.  The line gets
significantly longer as the day
goes on, so we decided to stop
early in the morning!

How about Butterbeer
soft serve ice cream.
Yum!! We also tried their hand scooped
ice creams with the Salt Caramel and 
Chocolate Chili coming out as group

Be warned, no Muggle (non-magical folk)

 food is served here so no diet drinks, but
it is fun to try all of the fun sugary drinks -
we are on vacation!

Find these special mugs at the Fountain of Fortune-
frozen Butterbeer on the left and cold Butterbeer
on the right - a butterscotch flavored soda.
(Use your American Express card and you
get 10% off at Universal!)

How about this fun drink 

that we had - 
Fishy Green Ale -
a mint flavored beverage with

blueberry "fish eggs"

that pop in your mouth!

The main attraction is
Escape From Gringotts 
where you get to ride down into the Goblin
Vaults to see where Harry's money is stored
and see Harry, Ron and Hermione along the way.

You need to escape from Bellatrix and He Who
Must Not Be Named.  It combines 3D, motion simulation
 and a rollercoaster ride. 

I have to say the Gringotts guards
were all very friendly!

 It is
very fun starting with the animated goblins
up in the bank.

The architecture of the building
is just stunning.  You enter the bank
and are greeted by these massive chandeliers
and marble columns.  As you pass down the
center of the bank you can observe the
goblins hard at work on either side.

This is a thrill ride.
A troll even grabs your underground
cart and shakes it - Wild!!
The beauty of the ride is that even 
younger kids get to ride it (42 inches) That is so
nice as my 8 year old grandson is already
reading Harry Potter.  They wanted more
fans to be able to enjoy this ride.

What a spectacular bank to deposit
all of your gold into and they have
stacks and stacks of it.

The other highlight is the
huge fire-breathing dragon that
sits atop the bank.  

I asked one of the bank guards
how often this happened and
he replied, "Well, she is a dragon 
you know, so it is unpredictable, but
I can tell you she does a little rumbling
and growling before it happens."
Great answer and true.

Be sure to go back at night to see
the dragon and to see all of Diagon Alley
lit up.  It is just magical.

Don't forget to turn down Knockturn
Alley and step into Borgin and Burkes -
this place played a big role in the 
Harry Potter books.

See the famous vanishing cabinet in the back.
You can buy all kinds of "dark" souvenirs here.

This alley actually gets lit up a little
more at night so check it out twice.

I was at Universal Studios in Florida last year
and was disappointed that Jaws was being
torn down, but who knew that it was being replaced
by Diagon Alley, a nearly $450 million dollar

Our package also included breakfast at the
Leaky Cauldron
and breakfast at the Three Broomsticks.

We came back for fish and chips
and a banger sandwich.  The fish
and chips are exceptional. 

We have to be off to Hogsmeade.
You must enter by walking through
the brick wall at 9 3/4 King's Cross Station.
You can't see yourself go through the wall
but have a family member or friend take
a picture of you.

Another thrill is the opportunity to
ride the Hogwart's Express, not just
take your picture in front of it.  You
get to share the ride with your favorite
characters in your carriage.

And yes, they have expanded Ollivander's 
Wand Shop.  That was highly entertaining
but hard to stand in line in the past 
for 45 minutes to
an hour since the space was so small.
Now they have it in both parks 
and it is much quicker.

Oh, and you can't miss being entertained
by the driver of the Knight Bus.
He is fun and will pose for a picture
with you and sometimes interact with
the talking head that hangs in the 
front window.

Be sure to go around the back
and take a peek inside or 
stand on the back for a photo.

One thing I can say about 
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,
both sides, is that you are truly transported.
Of course I brought my Gryffindor robe
that I purchased last time I was here.
And yes, I took the Sorting Hat test
years ago and I am in

J K Rowlings had a big hand in this
wonderful project.

I have to say, one of my favorite things
about having to stand in the lines at either
Harry Potter worlds, and 
they are long, is that there is plenty of
entertainment going on around you from
talking pictures to your favorite characters,
including snow in Hogwarts.  Sometimes
we had to stay and be entertained and let
people pass in front of us!

Universal, you have enchanted us again.

(Yes, those were real birds!  I thought they 
must have been fake!!)

Click here to read my other post
about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Farewell to Autumn Sunshine Tablescape

We have had the most glorious
autumn here at 
Purple Chocolat Home.

The weather has been warm and
the skies clear with that wonderful
crispness of fall in the mornings and 
in the evenings.  You can't have a
more beautiful autumn.

Time to enjoy that last bit of 
beautiful weather with the 
remnants of the bounty of the garden
before the frosts come, so I decided
to fill this basket with these 
exquisite creamy white squash.

Their beautiful color inspired the color
for the tablescape.  We are keeping everything
creamy white with a touch of silver.

Silver chargers and silver flatware

and a silver pitcher turned into
a vase for the remnants of 
sweet alyssum.

You can just feel the last rays
of sunshine as the days cool and
dusk falls more rapidly.

If the garden isn't gathered in
it will all freeze soon.

I thought the chicken wire cloches
went perfectly with my neighbor Christie's
wire basket that she loaned me
for this beautiful autumn table.

The whites are set off by the
tiny bit of green remaining 
in the garden.

My hard working bubble goblets
are always welcome at any table.

Although I love the greens of the
garden, they are starting to turn brown
with some glorious yellows and reds.

And to me, there is something romantic
about early evenings.

Farewell to the glorious sunshine
 of autumn days.

Winter, here we come!
All of these winter whites
can lead us straight into winter.

The boots are already out and ready to go!

I will be posting this with


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