DreamWorks Adventure to Santa

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The magic of Christmas has always been a very powerful force in my life. I think it’s partly thanks to my vivid imagination as a child, which kept me happily leaving out milk and cookies for Santa long after I learned that he didn’t exist; and partly due to our family being on hard times over many a holiday season, which resulted in me clinging with a death grip to the wonder of the season as a way to keep spirits up. Because while presents may cost money, magic is priceless.

And sharing that magic with my own children is something I’ve always looked forward to with great anticipation and emotion. So last weekend, when Maevie met Santa for the first time ever, thanks to DreamWorks Adventure to Santa and Club MomMe, my heart exploded with such violence that the vibrations were felt all the way up in the North Pole. Honestly, the whole experience was so saturated with magic that my mom and I were choking back happy tears throughout the entire thing!

The adventure begins when you approach the DreamWorks animated LED Christmas house, where beloved characters from Shrek appear and disappear behind windows and doors, getting the house decorated and ready for the holidays.

Families are admitted 3 at-a-time to the house, by appointment, so there’s no waiting in endless lines like many mall Santa experiences. And better yet, there were many interactive features of the adventure as we got closer and closer to our encounter with Santa.

First, we played a video game in order to win our Pilot’s License, to help us pilot the sleigh to visit Santa at the North Pole. Later, we got to virtually decorate Gingy the Gingerbread Man from Shrek. 3-D printed ornaments of everyone’s finished product are available for purchase online at gingyscookiemaker.com.

These interactive elements are a great way to keep families entertained and engaged as they wait their turn to meet Santa, and bring great added value to the experience. It was great fun for my mom and me to do, since Maeve was too young to participate.
Adventure to Santa collageThe ride to the North Pole was definitely a huge highlight. We all piled into a sleigh in front of a huge screen, which transformed into an amazing, exciting, and charming virtual ride to the North Pole with Shrek and Donkey. My mom and I had such a blast on the ride, and even Maeve seemed into it! Check out this brief clip from the beginning to get a glimpse into the magical illusion and excitement of the ride.

Soon after, came the moment we had all been waiting for. Santa’s elves told us to get ready, and opened the door with a cheerful exclamation: “It’s SANTA!” and we were ushered into a gorgeously decorated study featuring the man himself.
Adventure to Santa final

I’ve seen many a mall santa in my day, and let me tell you, this guy was the REAL DEAL. He was incredibly warm and tender and gentle with our wee Maeve, and had all the trappings of your dream Santa Claus conceivable. And when I saw my little girl look up into his eyes with such wonder, my heart burst.

DreamWorks Adventure to Santa is available in 14 locations across the US and even in London – and reservations are required.

Dreamworks adventure to santa

If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the locations for Adventure to Santa, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m already looking forward to taking Maeve back next year, when she’s able to understand and enjoy the experience a little more. It was a completely magical day for 3 generations of LaRue women: Maeve, me and my mom!

Thanks to South Bay Galleria, DreamWorks and Club MomMe for the invite! It was a truly unforgettable experience!


How to cook the perfect holiday turkey in only one hour.

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This is not a joke, nor an exaggeration. Indeed, it is a promise. A gift to you, from the bottom of my heart. Because you CAN cook the perfect turkey in one hour, and transform your Thanksgiving experience forever. Believe me, you and your guests deserve it. Not only is it perfectly juicy, tender, and flavorful every time… but the skin is crisp and gorgeous, too. It’s everything you want your bird to be… in a fraction of the time.

cook a perfect turkey in one hour

I’ve been cooking turkeys this way for a few years now, ever since my high school bestie posted her father-in-law, Ron’s, youtube instructional… and I’m never going back. Nor are the friends and family that I’ve turned onto this style. Why in gobble’s name should anyone slave over a bird for hours on end, basting and fussing and checking temperatures… when you could be kicking back with a glass (or three) of wine and good conversation and family and friends?!?

So without further ado, I present to you… Ron’s One-Hour Turkey. Beloved by all who dare to try it themselves – satisfying dinner guests with minimal effort and maximum reward!

And to make it even easier for you, here’s a handy dandy link for the Granite Ware Covered Oval Roaster you’ll need. I got mine at Target, but Amazon Prime is even easier!

Welcome to the good life, friends.

(…and stay tuned, folks, because coming up soon is my famous, epic, thanksgiving feast layer cake recipe! I’m full of delicious inspiration and holiday cheer!) 


Epic Thanksgiving Feast Layer Cake

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I’m so thrilled to see so many of you sharing the One-Hour Turkey post with your families and friends on Facebook! Thank you! I can’t wait to hear about your life-altering experiences with it. But, if that one blew your minds… hang onto your hats! This one takes the cake! (pun heartily intended.)

What’s better than a thanksgiving feast, I ask you? WELL, A THANKSGIVING FEAST IN ONE EPIC LAYER CAKE FORMAT, FRIENDS! I got the inspiration from a series of posts on “meat cakes” over at Vegansaurus back in 2010 (in a past life long ago… when I was a (gasp) vegan). Culinarily curious gal that I am, I felt compelled to take up the challenge and put my vegan cooking skills to the test of tests by making as much of it from scratch as possible… from the faux turkey base to the mashed potato icing and cranberry sauce topping. Mind you, this could easily be made carnivore-style. Just swap in real turkey, butter, and cream as you please! Mmmmm.

how to make a thanksgiving feast layer cake
With Turkey Day right around the corner, I thought I’d bring this post back from the BAB archives, for those of you still looking for that “blow them away” holiday table treat. I have to say, making it was much simpler than it seems (bonus!), and I still consider it the masterpiece of my culinary endeavors thus far. (You’ll have to bear with the shoddy photo quality. I was but a wee blogger back then!)


It’s an entire holiday dinner in one meal: “turkey”, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing. For a lover of sweet and savory together, this business rocked my palate’s world. And everyone, even my most carnivorous of friends, was transfixed by the beast. They thought it was a regular cake, until I sliced it open and displayed it’s hidden magic! Everyone embraced it, vegan or not, and they gobbled it up like they were the (very very hungry) turkeys. And oh yeah baby, it was even better the next day.

how to make a holiday feast layer cake
I started with a base of homemade “turkey” seitan, for the meat part. Seitan is a protein-rich meat substitute made from vital wheat gluten powder… and though it may seem intimidating, its super easy peasy lemon squeezy to make. After a “meh” test run with one recipe I found, my bestie directed me to Ellen DeGeneres’ recipe… and holy gobblesworth, it was DELISH!

The big “trick” to making it successfully is to freeze between layers, which allows it to “set” and makes for easy spreading with the softer components like the potatoes and sauce. For the turkey and stuffing, I filled them each into a round pie pan, packed them down, and froze them for about an hour before layering, which created the right shape and size to begin with.
I also planned ahead to stack them in a way that makes sense, considering their textures. Turkey on the bottom because its sturdy and pre-shaped from the pie pan, then I slathered that with mashed potatoes. Once that had set in the freezer, I turned out the pre-frozen stuffing from the pie pan on top, and slathered that with sweet potato puree. Once that was set, it was easy to layer on the cranberry sauce. Then another layer of turkey, then sweet potatoes, another pan of stuffing, and the icing of mashed potatoes once more. I “piped” out a border to hold in the cranberry sauce topping, using a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off, which really added to the “cake” effect. I know, it sounds m-fing crazy. And it was time consuming, but actually really fun, and more rewarding than I ever imagined. I mean, I never pictured myself making a whole (delicious) thanksgiving meal by myself, much less turning it into a trompe l’oeil like a layer cake!


Hungry yet? Well, an epic feast deserves an epic post, so here come the recipes! And yo, its so much simpler than it sounds. Trust.

The Seitan Turkey

  • 4 Cups vital wheat gluten
  • 1 Cup bread crumbs
  • 1 Cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 large onion small dice and caramelized
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Cups strong No Chicken, chicken stock (veggie stock)
  • 1 full sheet of cheesecloth
  • Butcher’s twine

Start a large pot of water boiling. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another. Caramelize the onions until soft and golden brown and add them to the dry ingredients. Mix the two bowls together until a loose batter forms, and shape that into a loaf-y shape. Lay it out onto a full sheet of cheesecloth, folded over once.

seitan turkey
Roll it up tight into a cylinder, and tie it with bakers twine at either end, and twice in the middle. Drop that puppy into your hot water, cover, and let simmer gently for 2 hours, turning once throughout.


When its done, carefully unwrap it while its warm. Otherwise, the outer layer sticks to the cheesecloth and makes it much harder to remove. If you’re feeling cheeky, you can brush it with Earth Balance butter and blackening spices and bake it awhile to get a nice browned outside. I didn’t find this necessary, either way really. By the by, this makes a HUGE roast, so I’d halve the recipe if you’re cooking for a smaller crowd. Or, just freeze half and save it for a rainy day!

The Stuffing

This is the one component that was semi-homemade, as I used Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix and followed the instructions by adding veggies and broth. I just wanted to mention it because I used sauteed Trader Joe’s Stuffing Starter (a blend of celery, onions, fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) as the base, which was too easy and tasty for words. But I am bereft to report that, this year, they’ve discontinued the stuffing starter. WHY, TRADER JOE, WHY?!? So sub in some celery, onions, and herbs of your choice. In my mother’s tradition, I also added raisins, which brings a supremely sweet and rich dimension that I simply adore.


The Sweet Potatoes

  • One 3-pound bag whole sweet potatoes
  • Unsweetened, organic soymilk to taste
  • Earth Balance butter, to taste
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

This one is very dependent on how you like your mash. I boiled the sweet potatoes whole until they were fork tender. The skin just slips off when they’re warm, but be careful not to burn your fingers. I pureed them in my sexy-ass 14-cup Cuisinart (thanks, Cuisinart!) and added enough milk and butter until they were juuuuuust right. I gotta say, this was the silkiest, most satiny, savory sweet deliciousness ever. I lurved these babies!


We don’t have pictures of these final two parts, whoops! Use your imaginations, k?

The Mashed Potatoes

  • One 5-lb. bag whole russet potatoes
  • Unsweetened, organic soymilk to taste
  • Earth Balance butter, to taste
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

I did these the same way as the sweet potatoes, and I don’t really know what I did wrong (was it the type of potato? The cook time? Did I over-puree?)… but they turned out a bit gluey and thick. It was actually pretty suitable for this dish, especially the icing part… but if it were just a side dish I’d have tossed it out and started over cuz I prefer my mashed taters more light and fluffy in general.

The Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 bag whole, fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup orange juice, with pulp.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to taste
  • pinch of salt

This one is simple pimple. Just boil everything up in a pot, then reduce and simmer until it reduces to your desired thickness. Add the spices last, so you can monitor how potent you want them.

That’s it! Just layer and freeze, layer and freeze, “ice” with mashed taters, and brace yourself for an EPIC flavor party in your mouth. To serve, just cut into slices and warm them up individually, but its also super yums when cold. Oh, enjoy all the compliments and comparisons of yourself to Martha Stewart…. cuz that’s just how fly this bad boy is. It really is. YUM. And if you’re like me, after your tastebuds do a happy dance, you and your friends can do one too… like we did!


So, what do you think? Would you give it a shot?