philly cheesesteak stuffed peppers

Sorry sorry, don’t worry, we’re extending American week for a few days to make up for the gaps. See I went to see Terminator Genisys last night after a cheeky Nandos. IT WASN’T CHEEKY. IT WASN’T COCK-A-DOODIE CHEEKY AT ALL. Sorry but I can’t abide the use of the word cheeky. Having a glass of warm prosecco in a beer garden surrounded by people with red shoulders is not cheeky. An ice-cream amongst the dog turds on the beach isn’t cheeky. Jack Whitehall is cheeky. My arse is literally cheeky. STOP FUCKING SAYING CHEEKY AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH MAN.

So yes, Terminator. It was excellent, in a ‘pop your brain in your bag and enjoy the show’ sort of way. Lots of explosions, people melting, ridiculous action scenes and Arnold Schwarzenegger still looking like a varnished lamp-post with mumps. I really like him as an actor, he doesn’t give a shit and we can all respect that. If you read the snotty “official” reviews you’d think it was about as much fun as watching a beloved dog being put down in front of a crying child, but as long as you don’t go in expecting Peer bloody Gynt you’ll be tickety boo.

I also managed to swizz an extra scoop of Ben & Jerry’s (SYNNED) by telling the charming lady behind the till it was my birthday. I don’t think she fell for it, but rather just wanted me to move away from the counter and stop going ‘aaaah’ and ‘uuuum’ like an old inkjet printer.

Anyway that’s quite enough from me tonight. Remember this week is my time off! Today’s American entry is super long and the recipe is RIGHT at the bottom, so scroll scroll scroll. I’d apologise, but a gay man never apologies for length. If you want to buy the rest of the book. I’m still #1, woohoo, it’s right here. Go! 


Day 21 and 22 – lots of bits and pieces

OK, I’m going to cheat a little on these days. I didn’t take any notes and we didn’t go anywhere ‘special’, just mopped up the activities on International Drive and lazed about in the hotel. Remember, we’d been going non-stop for a good twenty days – we needed to rest! To make things easier for me, I’m going to write it as ‘one day’ where we travelled from one activity to the next. We did this, just spread over two days with lots of sleeping and honeymoon-happiness in between. So, this is going to be a long one… cue wavy lines of retrospective…

Breakfast first, and Sizzler here we come. You can’t fault somewhere where you can get an all-you-can-eat heart attack and all the British Fury (in the form of the Daily Mail) you could ever need for less than $10 a head. We should confess – if something is all you can eat, it’s all we can do not to push ourselves past the point of no return. I think it’s because I’m so tight with money that I like to feel I’m getting my money’s worth. That said, it still repulses me to see all the American land-cows loading their plate with chunks of brownies, rashers of bacon and those tiny twiglet-like sausages all in one go. I mean, at least separate the items that simply don’t belong together. I’ve seen people come back from the buffet with plates piled high like a Frank Gehry building, walking slowly lest a stray bit of food drops to the floor. There’s no need! Mind you, I’m up on my soapbox, I’m still the one who smuggles a few pastries out under my moobs to snack on later.

Go-Karting next. There’s a go-karting er…track up by Wet ‘n’ Wild, and we had passed it many a time thinking we would never be able to squeeze our voluptuous rears into the karts. This time round, we didn’t care, and in no time at all were squashed into the kart with ne’ry a seatbelt and a strong smell of petrol in our nostrils. The man in charge was the double of Kenan from Kenan and Kel and this led to me being late off the starting line whilst I wildly gesticulated to Paul to try and point this out. Ah well. I still managed to lap him. Tell you what mind, the amount of blue smoke that must have been pouring out the back of the karts as they chugged Paul and I up the hills must have been terrific. I remember being on holiday in Ayia Napa (before it went all WKD) with my family about ten years ago  – my parents hired two scooters to take us all over the island. My sister and mother jumped on one scooter and zipped merrily right up the steep hill to the hotel, whereas the scooter holding me and my dad struggled for about ten minutes at 2mph, pumping out more blue smoke than the smoking shelter outside Mecca Bingo. Bless. I’ve never been lithe.

Go-karting is good fun though for a few minutes, so might be worth a look. One of the things I want to do when I return is to learn to drive – if this is a benchmark of my driving then bring it on! We moved on, over the road to Tiki Volcano Golf Course, or whatever the devil it is called.

When we first came to Orlando, this was all we would do of an evening – crazy golf, eat, sleep. We remembered this course being amazing but I reckon it’s more down to rose-coloured nostalgia as it was…crap. Everything was chipped, sodden or broken. We still enjoyed the challenging holes (story of my life) but the volcano never went off, even when I cheated at the end and used Paul to distract the attendant whilst I reached through the netting and stuck my ball in the hole for the ‘Free Game and Volcano Erupt’. Damn it! Perhaps it was karma for me slicing my ball into the car-park with an overzealous swing…I rather thought the ball was making a bid for freedom but hey. I bet the course isn’t there when we go back in 2013, though. I won, and we left.

We had lunch at Dennys, which was fun. Our waiter was a pleasant enough chap but super-mega-fat, and he had a distractingly sweaty forehead, to the point where I didn’t bother adding salt to my fries because I was sure enough he’d manage to drench them for me wobbling his way from the kitchen to our table. The food wasn’t great, but you don’t go to Dennys expecting to have your mouth blown off with flavour, after all. It’s another one of those ‘meals’ we can cross off our list.

Now, what can two young lads do on International Drive with bulging wallets and a keen eye for history? That’s right! Titanic: The Experience. A wee bit of background – we love Titanic (the movie), it’s so wonderfully cheesy and after both of us suffering it everytime there was a ‘rainy day’ at school, we can quote big old chunks of the movie at each other. For example, on the plane to Orlando, we managed to shoehorn in a ‘Typical, the first class passengers bring their dogs down here to take a shite’ reference when we descended down the mystical stairs from the bubble to look at those wedged into economy. So yes! We love Titanic. In we went.

For those who don’t know, Titanic: The Experience offers visitors an interactive tour around artefacts from the Titanic and tells the story of the doomed ship through a mixture of actors and props. We were given tickets detailing our new job on Titanic and we were told we could find out whether we lived or died at the end. Drama! Everyone knows that fat people survive maritime disasters – we simply bob in the water until we’re hoisted out, our bulbous ankles kicking in the wind. Either that or we beach ourselves and need to be hosed down with gravy. We were greeted by Danny Devito in a smoking jacket who spent the next twenty minutes telling us about the dimensions of the ship and all those who perished then started the tour. In and out of various rooms we went to be shown artefacts not from Titanic but rather her sister ship. Not sure I get the point of this. I understand it is a bit of a swim down to the Titanic but you can’t advertise saying you’ll ‘see bits of Titanic’ then get them in from another ship! Good lord. Half of the tour seemed to enjoy the tour – but – ‘not the better half’. Arf!

Towards the end, things got surreal – you are led into a room to find out whether you lived or died (we both lived – told you!) and then watched a short movie comprising of all the dramatic bits from the movie, all accompanied by O Fortuna (the music used when the judges slither out on The X-Factor). It’s so crass! The only thing missing was Celine Dion warbling away through her 50p-shaped face.

Two minor diversions. As we were bored and a little disappointed by the whole thing, we decided on a bit of mischief, and upon finding the air-conditioning panel hidden away behind a wall, we dropped the building temperature down to a chilly 10 degrees. What can I say? I wanted to do my bit to add to the realism and I’m simply too buxom to carry off a Molly Brown outfit. The other diversion? Redneck fighting. Yep, in a museum devoted to the many victims of Titanic, a fattychops on a mobility scooter started arguing with his equally well-furnished wife about how bored they were. Awesome. They got wheeled out, to a chorus of our tuts and ‘Well I Never’ – missing out on the chance to ‘feel the chill of a real iceberg’.

Yeah – the chill. The final part of this thrilling experience was the chance to experience a real-life iceberg. Exciting! However, all was not what it seemed. We were shepherded into a room to find the iceberg, which was a slab of ice stuck to a box. Disappointment was etched on everyone’s face. I could have stayed at home and opened our freezer door to replicate this experience – granted there wasn’t a box of Crispy Pancakes wedged in the Orlando version, but we would have got the jist. Bah!  All in all, we did not love Titanic: The Experience. I can only assume they’re using ‘Experience’ in the sense that having a smear test is an experience. Not pleasurable and (I imagine) quite cold.  To be honest, if I wanted to spend an hour wandering around a museum devoted to an old wreck full of seamen, I’d break into Katie Price’s house. Yep, I went there.

From one chilling experience to another – the Ice Bar. We had walked past this place many times and always said ‘let’s give it a try’ but when you’ve got theme parks and wonder to take in, the prospect of spending thirty minutes in a freezer with hooray-henrys didn’t rank up there amongst the must-does. Ah well – with time on our hands, we paid the six million dollar entry fee and we given a charming insulated jacket to wear. They don’t suit fatties – I ended up looking like a hot water tank. Nevermind – in we went. Let me say one thing – don’t bloody bother. Yes, it looks good – everything is truly made from ice, from the bar to the chairs, but that’s it. There’s no atmosphere, no excitement, no music (I think) and the ‘fire’ is a collection of twinkly Christmas tree lights. You’re given a free shot of vodka which was nice enough, but I’m Geordie – frozen wastelands don’t excite me, I have to drive past Gateshead every other day. If you want an extra drink, it’s a case of sawing off an arm and a leg to pay for it. Whilst this is doubtless easier as you’re numb from the cold, it isn’t worth it. I don’t think we stayed for our allotted thirty minutes, and we were out of there before we were brayed to death by the chortling poshos. That made me laugh actually – the place was full of people hooting and neighing thinking they were somewhere special, but come on love, you’re in an air-conditioner unit at the back end of International Drive.

Over the road from the Ice Bar is another thing that we have always wanted to do, but always ruled out on safety grounds – the I-Ride Helicopter Tours. I’d love to go in a helicopter but there’s something about the way these guys seem to throw their helicopters to the ground that worries me – like they get rid of one party, chuck another one and away they go – where are the safety checks! The rational side of me knows that a pilot wouldn’t take the risk but still. Or maybe this is all a smokescreen because I was terrified we’d get on board and a light would light up on the dashboard saying ‘Maximum Weight Threshold Reached’ and we’d have to wobble out, shamefaced. Next time we’ll do a proper tour from Disney, methinks. Once I’m slender.

As an aside, I make a lot of jokes about our weight, but we’re not actually that fat. I WAS hugely fat at one point – that, coupled with my long hair, meant I looked like Meat Loaf. I decided to cut my hair (well, I set fire to it lighting a cigarette off a gas hob, which may have accelerated my decision) and lose some weight by joining Slimming World. I lost over seven stone and was in the running for Slimming World: Man of the Year too! However, I lost out when I was asked how I had lost the weight and replied ‘Heroin’. That answer, plus the fact that one of my competitors had a sob-story about being too fat to get onto an operating table, meant I didn’t win. The sods! Since those days, we’ve always been chunky rather than out-and-out fat, and I don’t take my weight seriously. So ignore our self-deprecation, we’ve happy really.

Another golf course – this time, Congo River Golf again. Told you this was our favourite, and despite having done it not so long since, we had to do it again as we hadn’t completed the mini-task of finding things that they offer. We had the course pretty much to ourselves, which led to a few glamorous photos being taken, including a recreation of our famous picture (in our house) where Paul looks bloody horrible – sat staring into the camera with a scrunched up face and smoke billowing out of his nostrils. I think he looks like Albert Steptoe. Undeterred, I got the original photo blown up and framed and I put it in the hallway everytime I know we have an engineer or a gasman coming round. To be fair, Paul counters this by putting up a framed picture of me in a wheelchair at Disney with a scabby leg. I didn’t need the wheelchair, but I was being lazy and wanted to try it out for an hour. I know I know, but we’ve all thought about it. If it makes it better, I didn’t use it to get onto any rides. We thought about stopping at the George and Dragon again just to ram home our dislike of it, but it seemed busy (I think there was a match on) and I hadn’t had my hepatitis vaccinations, we decided against it, and wandered a little further up International Drive in search of somewhere to eat.

We went back to Sweet Tomatoes for our evening meal. I know, we had such a crap experience in there the first time but we went for two reasons – one, we needed some more vitamins, and two, if Andre the Giant (Bumhole) was there, we were hoping he might say something. Sadly, he wasn’t, and we actually had a lovely meal. As I spent most of the last time frothing at the gob and moaning, we could actually enjoy the meal this time around, and I can’t recommend it enough to those who want something other than deep-fried animal and potatoes. Would a Sweet Tomatoes franchise work in the UK I wonder? A salad buffet is a simple idea and all we have over here is the lacklustre fare given at the likes of Pizza Hut where their idea of salad dressing is to sneeze on the lettuce. I guess we don’t have the weather for it. Anyway – we had a good mixed salad (with raw broccoli – oh my yes!), some black bean soup, and an oil-drum full of ice-cream. Delicious! This time around we left a good tip and came away happy.

The final evening at the Four Points was spent washing and ironing all of our clothes, looking out the window at the derelict lots over the road and watching lots of nonsense on the TV. We were tinged by sadness a little – after all, this was now the last leg of the holiday, and the prospect of going home was coming ever closer. That said, we were to finish on a high – Harry Potter, the Universal parks and best of all – Hard Rock Hotel!

A quick review of the Four Points – we thought it was terrific. It’s an unusual hotel which seems to attract an eclectic mix of people – the amount of ‘dashing’ pilots coming through reception would be enough to warrant taking an extra HRT pill amongst the older women, whereas the amount of rich Mexicans coming back with their Mall at Millenia bags may mean you’ll need ear-plugs. The rooms are large, the hallways well-appointed, and the whole hotel polished and clean. It would have been nicer to get a room higher up for the views but as it stood, we could still watch Rip Ride Rockit barrel around at Universal from our room, which helped build the anticipation. The only downsides that I can think of? The pool is TINY. Yes – if you’re a family, I’d think twice about this if you have water-babies, as it really is only big enough for about 10 people. Perhaps I’m biased as the last time I took a swim in it, I was getting eyed up (and that’s not me being arrogant, she was making it blatant) by this well..alright, I’ll be mean, facially-challenged porker. To be fair to her, I’m not sure she was eyeing me up in retrospect – she did have one eye going to the shop and one eye coming back with the change, so who knows. The other downer was the tiny laundry facilities but who comes on holiday to worry about laundry? Not this mincer! Anyway. Phew. I’m knackered. That’s all folks! Universal love tomorrow!

philly cheesesteak stuffed peppers

to make philli cheesesteak stuffed peppers, you’ll need

  • 600g beef steak
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 4 peppers
  • 100g brown rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 80g reduced fat mozarella (65g is one HEA)
  • handful of chopped chives

and you’ll need to do this:

  • rinse the rice under cold water to get all dust off
  • bring 325ml cold water to the boil in a small pan
  • add the rice to the boiling water, reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes (keep an eye, but this is brown rice so it’s got to be boiled in magma until your soul departs)
  • with about 20 minutes left on the rice, rub the beef with the garlic, onion powder and black pepper and cook the beef steak to however you like it – generally with beef we just wipe its arse and wave a match over it and it’s done
  • leave the meat to rest for five minutes
  • preheat the oven to 190 degrees
  • slice the meat into thin, bitesize chunks and place in a bowl to rest a little more
  • cut the top off the peppers and scoop out the seeds
  • heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and cook the onions in a little oil until golden brown and translucent
  • add the onions to the same bowl as the steak
  • using a sieve squeeze as much water as you can out of the rice
  • add the rice to the bowl with the steak and onions
  • tear up the mozarella into small pieces and mix half into the steak mixture, keeping the other half aside
  • place the four peppers into a baking dish and spoon the mixture evenly into each one
  • top with the remaining mozzarella
  • bake in the oven for about 20 minutes
  • top with the chopped chives

We served with tenderstem broccoli. This makes enough mixture easily for four big peppers and then plenty left over, so I reckon you could make six or seven.