Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blueberry Acai Smoothie

With a numb mouth from getting two of my old fillings replaced this morning, I decided to have a liquid lunch.

This was my first time trying Sambazon acai smoothie packs, which I purchased at Publix.  

Since I wasn't in the mood to go to the grocery store, this smoothie was all about using what I had in the house.  

My NutriBullet has been great for making smoothies, hummus, and even pesto.  It blends everything so smooth.  

I was super excited by how well this smoothie turned out.  It is packed with so many healthy foods, and tasted great too!

Blueberry Acai Smoothie


1 C frozen blueberries
1 C lowfat plain kefir
1 Acai berry smoothie pack (100 g)
1 T raw honey
1/2 T chia seeds
1/2 T flaxseed meal


Put all the ingredients in a blender or NutriBullet, and blend until smooth.

Recipe Notes

This recipe made enough blueberry acai smoothie to fill one 16 ounce glass.

If you are using unsweetened acai smoothie packets, increase the honey to 2 tablespoons.

My daughters love this smoothie with a 1/2 cup of blueberries. 1/2 cup of raspberries, and a half of a banana.  All the other ingredients remain the same.

Kefir (pronounced kee-fer) is a cultured milk product, like yogurt, that contains tons of probiotics, and is a rich source of a variety of different vitamins and minerals.  You can read more about the health benefits of kefir here.  I purchase it at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or Publix.  

I used orange blossom raw honey from Winter Park Honey.  This honey is amazing!  We purchase it at The Fresh Market or the Winter Park Farmers' Market, which is held every Saturday.  You can read about the many health benefits of raw honey here, and the possible benefits of local honey for fighting seasonal allergies here.

You can read about the health benefits of chia seeds and flaxseed, two superfoods, here.  Make sure your chia seeds and flaxseed are labeled gluten free.

Acai and blueberries are rich in antioxidants, and with the ingredients I used, this smoothie packs a whopping 14 grams of fiber.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Mara Breakfast - Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Today, my daughters and I had breakfast at The Mara at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This quick service location was named after a river that flows through Kenya and Tanzania.  

When the chef came out to see me, she said that breakfast options 1, 2, and 3 could be made gluten free for me.  

The girls and I had already decided before our arrival that we were going to try the Bounty Platter, which includes scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, bacon, sausage, a biscuit, and a Mickey waffle.  Because I couldn't eat the biscuit, we were given two gluten free Mickey waffles.  

Option one, the African Breakfast Platter, contains scrambled eggs, sausage, pap, chakalaka, and grilled tomatoes.  I wasn't sure my daughters would like this one, so we ordered options two and three.  

Option two, the bounty platter, is a generous plate of food.  We all agreed that our favorite item from the bounty platter was the breakfast potatoes.  Next time we eat at The Mara for breakfast, we will definitely be ordering an extra side of the potatoes, which were seasoned so perfectly.  The scrambled eggs were very good as well, which surprised me, because I am usually not a fan of scrambled eggs.  My daughter Emma and I thought the sausage was great, so we might just skip the bacon next time and order an extra sausage.  

We also chose option 3, an adult portion of Mickey waffles, served with bacon.  With this dish, I asked for turkey bacon, which I always enjoy more than the regular bacon at quick service locations.  Judging from the taste, I would say the Mickey waffles were made with Bob's Red Mill mix.  They were definitely not made with Cup4Cup Pancake & Waffle Mix, and they didn't taste like the Namaste waffles I have had at other locations.  My kids and I agree, the ears are always the best part.  :-)

Overall, we really enjoyed our breakfast at The Mara.  I have had better gluten free Disney themed waffles and turkey bacon at other restaurants, but they were still very good.  We couldn't pass up the opportunity to enjoy some gluten free zebra domes, so we asked the chef for some from the back.  By the time we made it home, after running a bunch of errands, they weren't as pretty as the ones in the picture, but they were still delicious.  You can read more about The Mara and Boma's gluten free zebra domes, and check out my lunch review of The Mara here.

April 14, 2015 Update

This morning, I went to The Mara for breakfast to try their Bobotie platter, a recent addition to their menu.  Bobotie is a traditional African dish with ground meat, seasoning, and an egg custard baked on top.  My bobotie contained turkey, mushrooms and peppers, and tasted exactly like the bobotie served at Boma for breakfast. 

The bobotie platter is served with pap and chakalaka.  If you like grits, you will enjoy the pap.  I wasn't sure I would like the chakalaka, because I am not a huge fan of cooked tomatoes, but it had a really nice spicy kick, and I enjoyed eating it on top of the pap and my bobotie.  I thought the bobotie platter was great, and would order it again. 

While I was at The Mara, I also found this lime cheesecake.  Ingredients - cream cheese, dairy, sugar, eggs (may contain nuts).  

You can view The Mara's breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus here, on Disney's website.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at The Mara?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Maggiano's Little Italy

Yesterday, my husband decided that we should go out to dinner, because it was our anniversary.  We had our date night on Saturday at California Grill, but it was a nice idea to take the kids out to celebrate on our actual anniversary.  We talked about going to Winter Park, but then I remembered that Maggiano's had sent us a coupon for $10 off our next visit as an anniversary present.  

We first dined at a Maggiano's in Charlotte when we lived in North Carolina, before I was diagnosed with celiac.  In Orlando, Maggiano's is located at Pointe Orlando on International Drive, right next to the parking garage.  Take your ticket in, because they do validate parking.  

I love that when our server came to our table, she mentioned right away that Maggiano's can accommodate food allergies and special dietary needs.  When I told her that I had celiac, she brought out a chef for me to speak to.  I was told that all of the salad dressings and pasta sauces are gluten free, and they have gluten free corn pasta.  The chef mentioned that they could also make me any of the chicken or veal dishes, without the breading.

After getting some recommendations from my blog readers on my Facebook page, I knew that I had to try the lobster carbonara and Maggiano's famous Rigatoni 'D'.  Thankfully, my wonderful husband agreed to split two gluten free pasta dishes with me.  When our meal came out, I was shocked by how large the portions of pasta were.  The gluten free corn penne was al dente, and the taste and texture were just like the wheat-filled pasta I remember from my gluten eating days.  Both sauces were amazingly flavorful, and we didn't have to add any extra Parmesan, like I often have to do at restaurants.  I couldn't resist digging in to the lobster carbonara first, because carbonara is one of my favorite pasta dishes, and I am a huge fan of lobster.  I was impressed by how much lobster was actually in our carbonara, and I loved the addition of the crisp snap peas.  With the garlic cream sauce and smoked bacon, this dish gets an A+ from me.  

Maggiano's Famous Rigatoni 'D' contains herb-roasted chicken, mushrooms and caramelized onions, tossed in a Marsala cream sauce.  This dish was just as delicious as the lobster carbonara.  The cream sauce was slightly sweet, and perfectly complemented the vegetables and chicken, which was nice and tender.  

My daughters, who eat gluten, split an adult portion of lasagna, which disappeared quickly.  I know I will have no problem getting them to go back to Maggiano's again.  They loved the bread, their lasagne, and the lemon cookies they had for dessert.  

Currently, the only gluten free dessert item is the creme brulee, which is described as a rich and creamy vanilla custard with a hint of citrus, caramelized sugar crust, topped with fresh strawberries.  As far as creme brulees go, this one was really good, and I enjoyed the addition of fresh berries.    We ordered the large portion, which was plenty for my husband and I, plus I was able to share some with our girls.  The chef I spoke to mentioned that they might be adding other gluten free desserts in the the next year.  

Maggiano's in Orlando has beautiful banquet rooms, that would be great for a business event, rehearsal dinner, wedding reception, or other special occasion.

We have dined at Maggiano's in Orlando before, and always had a great experience.  A couple of years ago, I remember ordering and enjoying their gluten free pasta with the vodka cream sauce that is on their gnocchi.  Besides the lobster carbonara and the Famous Rigatoni 'D', other dishes recommended by my blog readers include the Alfredo sauce, meat sauce, beef tenderloin medallions, and the filet mignon.  One blog reader mentioned that some locations have gluten free garlic toast, but the Orlando restaurant does not currently offer gluten free bread.  Another mentioned that they make everything from scratch, and love to make something special for celiacs if you call ahead.

I forgot to ask what brand of pasta they use, but Maggiano's just messaged me on Twitter that they use Barilla.

December 1, 2014 

A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner at Maggiano's with my daughters.  They ordered gluten free penne with Alfredo sauce, and I chose the beef tenderloin medallions with portabella, balsamic cream sauce, and garlic mashed potatoes.

My girls loved their pasta, and I was happy that they were willing to order the gluten free version so I could try it.  If you are a fan of Alfredo, you will definitely enjoy this dish.

My beef tenderloin was so tender and flavorful with the balsamic cream sauce.  I was also really impressed with the garlic mashed potatoes.  I loved everything about this dish, and would order it again. 

For dessert, the chef I spoke to said I could have creme brulee, or spumoni made up of cherry, chocolate, and pistachio ice cream.  Wanting to try something different, I went with the spumoni, which was one of the best I have ever had.  I especially enjoyed the chunks of cherry and chocolate in my ice cream.  The portion was huge, but I managed to eat every last bite.  

You can read more about Maggiano's Little Italy, and view their restaurant locator and menus on their website here.

Because the service and food were so amazing at Maggiano's, I will definitely be adding it to my list of Best Restaurants for Gluten Free Dining in Orlando.

April 25, 2015

Maggiano's Little Italy will unveil a gluten free menu on April 30th!  The menu will feature new items, like cheese ravioli and a flourless chocolate cake.  You can read more about this new menu, and the precautions taken by Maggiano's to avoid cross contamination here.

Update - the Maggiano's in Orlando does not have the new gluten free menu.

January 28, 2017 Update

You can read my food reviews from the Maggiano's in San Jose, California here.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at Maggiano's Little Italy?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

California Grill - Disney's Contemporary Resort

Last night, my husband and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary at California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort. This wasn't our first signature dining experience at Disney World, but it was definitely our best.  

After being seated, I was given the sushi menu for guests with allergy and dietary considerations.  Not being a huge fan of sushi, I decided to pass.  When I told our server that I had celiac and couldn't eat gluten, he assured me that my special dietary needs were "easy," and I could pretty much order any entree I was interested in, because they are all made from scratch and can be modified if they aren't naturally gluten free.  A chef never came out to speak to me, but our server was knowledgeable about the gluten free options on the menu, and if he wasn't sure of anything, he went and asked.  Every time one of our dishes was delivered, I was told that my food was an "allergy" dish, which made for a worry-free evening.  When my friend Shelley dined at California Grill in June, a chef came out to speak to her without her asking for one.  After reading my friend Sarah's review of California Grill on Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW, I didn't expect a visit from the chef, and I didn't ask for one.  

The only disappointment of the evening was the gluten free bread.  The GNI rolls were not heated well, so I only took two small bites for the purpose of tasting the butter, which was good.  

For an appetizer, I chose the sweet corn and halibut soup, which contained sweet corn, spiced Alaskan halibut, and ancho oil.  It was flavorful, and slightly sweet from the corn. I would definitely order this soup again.  

My husband enjoyed his stone fruit and kale salad with peaches, cherries, goat cheese, and a cherry vinaigrette. 

We both ordered the same entree, the oak-fired filet of beef with Zellwood sweet corn risotto, tomato butter, grilled corn relish, and popcorn shoots.  

My only complaint about the dish was that I could have used some more tomato butter.  It was so delicious, I used it all up before finishing my filet. 

My meat was cooked perfectly, seasoned well, and was nice and tender.  The sweet corn risotto was creamy and flavorful, and I loved the grilled corn relish that accompanied the dish.  

There are three gluten free options on the dessert menu, the chocolate pudding cake, vanilla creme brulee, and blueberry-lemon cheesecake.  Our server recommended the blueberry-lemon cheesecake, but I knew it was a sugar free dessert, so I decided to pass.  When I asked about the sugar substitute, he told me they use Splenda.  My friend Shelley ordered this dessert in June, and said it was delicious. 

I chose the chocolate pudding cake, which is described as a luscious chocolate cake with nutella filling, meringue kisses, and chantilly cream.  This dessert was truly decadent, but I only ate half of it because it was so rich.  With a generous scoop of vanilla gelato and some whipped cream, I would have been able to eat more of my dessert, but the bittersweet chocolate was too intense for me after I finished my chantilly cream and meringue kisses.  

The texture of the pudding cake was amazing!  When I dug into it, chocolate oozed out, and it was so velvety smooth.  Being more of a milk chocolate girl, I wish it was made with semisweet instead of bittersweet chocolate.  

For our anniversary, we were given the signature dessert of California Grill, the vanilla creme brulee.  It was perfectly rich and creamy, and definitely one of the best creme brulees I have ever had.

My husband ordered the seasonal tasting, which was a trio of peach desserts that were not gluten free.  He said it was one of the best desserts he has ever had in a restaurant. 

Before we left, we were told that we could bring our receipt back to the restaurant later in the evening, so we could view the fireworks from the California Grill Lounge or the outside observation deck.  We usually go to Disney's Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue on New Year's Eve, but in 2015, I am definitely going to consider making reservations for California Grill.  It would be an incredible spot to ring in the New Year!

You can read more about California Grill, make advance dining reservations, and view their menu on Disney's website here.

June 2016 Update - You can read my most recent review of California Grill here.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at California Grill?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Four Cheese Pesto Pizza on Udi's Pizza Crust

I have used Udi's Pizza Crusts to make Rosemary Garlic Flatbread for several years, but until today, I had never used them to make pizza.  After enjoying gluten free pizzas made with Udi's crusts on the Disney Dream and at Mama Melrose's in Hollywood Studios, I decided to finally give them a try at home.  

Udi's pizza crusts are free of gluten, dairy, soy, and nuts.  They contain water, tapioca starch, brown rice flour, non-GMO canola oil, egg whites, dried cane syrup, tapioca syrup, tapioca maltodextrin, salt, xanthan gum, yeast, cultured corn syrup solids (natural mold inhibitor), and enzymes.  The only allergen warning is that they contain egg.  

The cooking instructions on the package are to layer the pizza shell with your favorite toppings, and bake 5 to 7 minutes in a 375 degree oven (longer if frozen).  

I decided to bake my pizza on my new Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Pizza Crisper.  

I love the pizza crust we make with Chebe Original Cheese Bread Mix, but making pizza with Udi's Pizza Crusts is so much easier!  I made two pizzas for my daughters and I for lunch, and they both quickly disappeared.  I liked the consistency and taste of the crust, and it was perfect for making a quick pizza for lunch.

Four Cheese Pesto Pizza


Udi's Gluten Free Pizza Crusts
Olive oil
Italian cheese blend (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago) -- to taste
Feta crumbles -- to taste
Grape tomatoes


Defrost your Udi's pizza crusts if they are frozen, and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut a handful of grape tomatoes in half, squeeze out the seeds, and cut each piece in half.

Brush the bottom of the pizza crust with a light coating of olive oil.  Brush the top with just enough pesto to coat the pizza crust.  Add the Italian cheese blend, grape tomatoes, then feta.

Cook the pizza for 7 to 8 minutes on a pizza pan on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Recipe Notes

I used homemade pesto.  You can view the recipe here.

Today, I used Shaved Italian Cheese Blend from The Fresh Market, and 365 Feta Cheese Crumbles from Whole Foods.

Because the three cheese blend is made up of stronger, sharper cheeses, I used a pretty light coating of cheese.  I also used a small amount of feta on our first pizza.  I increased the amount of cheese on our second pizza, which was also very good, but the crust was not as crisp.  No one was complaining though, because both pizzas tasted great.

I used my kitchen shears to cut the pizza.  With small pizzas, they are easier to use than a pizza cutter.

You could also cook your pizza without a pizza pan.  I tend to use a pan because I don't like cheese falling down to the bottom of my oven and burning.

I purchased my Udi's Pizza Crusts at Whole Foods.  I have also seen them in the freezer section of my local Publix. 

July 26, 2014 Update -- 5 Cheese Pesto Pizza

We liked the pizza so much yesterday, we decided to make it again for lunch today.  Because I didn't have enough Italian cheese blend to fully cover two pizzas well, I added some BelGioioso mozzarella pearls, cutting each pearl into 3 or 4 pieces.  

I cooked both pizzas at the same time, one on the bottom shelf of my oven on a pizza pan, and the second, directly on the top shelf of my oven.  Sadly, I mixed them up, so I have no idea which one I liked better.  The crust of the one pizza had a little better chew, but they were both very good.  I loved the addition of the mozzarella cheese, so I will probably be making a five cheese pizza from now on.  

If you don't have a three cheese blend, just use shaved or grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Everything POP - Disney's Pop Century Resort

Today was the first time I have ever been to Disney's Pop Century Resort.  

Having been an American History teacher for most of my 18 year teaching career, I loved the lobby of the resort, and all the amazing shadow boxes filled with memorabilia from some of my favorite decades.  

I don't know if they do it every day, but there was a sign promoting a shadow box tour from 3 - 3:30.  

I had heard great things about Everything POP Shopping & Dining from some of my blog readers, so I was excited to check it out.  

Before we even entered the restaurant, I knew I wanted the gluten free POP waffle, which I had seen pictures of online.  

I didn't really have any time to grill Chef Jesus about other gluten free options because he was helping several other people people at the same time, including one of my blog readers, who is a server at Olivia's Cafe.  

I do know that the omelets are an option if you're not in the mood for waffles.  

Chef Jesus said I could get one big POP waffle or several smaller Mickey waffles.  I can get gluten free Mickey waffles so many other places, so I told him I wanted the POP waffle, which filled up an entire dinner plate, it was so big.  It was perfectly crispy and delicious, and I was shocked that my daughter Katie loved it too, because usually my girls won't eat waffles at Disney.  Chef Jesus gave me a side of syrup for my waffle, and fruit is another option as well.  I usually like butter on my waffles, but there was only a butter blend at the condiment bar, so I skipped it.  The waffle was so good on its own dipped in a little bit of syrup, I didn't even miss the butter.  

I didn't have a chance to ask the chef what waffle mix they are using, but when my friend Sarah from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW was there in December, they were using a mix of Namaste and Bob's Red Mill, which is what I thought the waffle tasted like.  You can read Sarah's breakfast review of Everything POP here.  Landscape of Flavors at Disney's Art of Animation Resort also uses a blend of the two mixes, which makes for a great waffle.  

I was offered bacon or sausage as a side, but I asked Chef Jesus if they had turkey bacon, my new favorite breakfast meat at Disney.  Dipped in a little bit of syrup, this stuff is heavenly! If you have never tried bacon or sausage dipped in syrup, you are missing out!    

After finishing our breakfast, we walked around to see what gluten free snacks were available at Everything POP.  

In the freezer section, there were Haagen Dazs vanilla milk chocolate almond ice cream bars.  

There seems to be a whole lot of confusion about whether Nestle Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bars are gluten free.  I was told they were gluten free years ago, and used to eat them occasionally, but they aren't one of my favorite sweet treats at Disney, so I haven't had them in a while.  The controversy seems to stem from whether there are possible cross contamination issues where they are manufactured.  

Everything POP had OMG...It's Gluten Free chocolate chip cookies and fudge brownies, 3 varieties of Larabars, and Lundberg rice chips.  We brought one of our favorite brownies home to make brownie popsicles in my new Zoku Quick Pop Maker.  

We also spotted some BabyCakes mini brownie cupcakes.  

Everything POP at Disney's Pop Century Resort is definitely worth a visit.  I loved the theming of the resort, and we all enjoyed our breakfast.  My daughters both loved their gluten-filled chocolate croissants.  

You can read more about Everything POP, and view their breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus on Disney's website here.

If you have a Tables in Wonderland card, you can receive a 20% discount on food and beverages at Everything POP.  You can read more about Tables in Wonderland here.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at Everything POP?

July 15, 2015 Update

You can read my latest breakfast review of Everything POP here.