Amy’s Black Bean Vegetable Soup a filling and mildly seasoned meal in a can

Amy's Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup
Amy’s Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup

Product: Amy’s Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup – $4.29+

As you may very well know by now…I love soup.  Absolutely LOVE soup.  If I have the time and ingredients, I will make any soup from scratch, freeze it, and eat it whenever the urge to slurp something hot and filling on a cold (or sometimes warm) day strikes.  This winter has been particularly good for soup.  Except my time hasn’t been as free as I wish it were at times, so a from-scratch soup doesn’t happen as often as I would like.  That being the case, I stocked up on a couple gluten-free and low-sodium cans of soup to grab if the need to warm up and have a quick meal should strike.

This was the case last night.  Over a week ago, my office moved buildings.  And, unfortunately, the temperature control is…not the best.  The building is old…but I still like to be able to feel my toes when I’m at the office.  Just sayin’.

Needless to say…I was freezing pretty much the entire day.  Which made me really not want to go on my fun run.  It was not bad outside last night, actually.  Somewhere in the low 40s, which is great running weather.  But, after being chilled to the bone all day, the last thing I really wanted to do was step outside, on purpose, and go for a 30 minute run in Louisville.

BUT…on the way home, my roommate talked me back into it.  After all, I had already had it in my head to prepare an easy meal prior to going (soup with a gluten-free and vegan grilled cheese sammie), that wouldn’t be too heavy, but will still power me through my run.  So, I agreed that I was being a wuss and said that when we got home, I’d warm up the soup and get the sandwiches cooking before changing and heading over the river to run with my running group.

Upon walking through the door to the apartment, I shed my jacket and immediately went to the kitchen to pull out a pot to warm the soup in.  The only can of soup left in my pantry (mental note made: buy more soup!) was Amy’s Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup.  My roommate retrieved the can for me while I turned on the stove and got out the vegan cheese and other such items for the sandwiches.  I left the bread in plastic bags to thaw while we were at work.

I opened the can and poured it into the pan, setting it over a medium heat so that it gave me time to get the sandwiches assembled and into the skillet.  At first…it looked…rather disgusting.  This thin brown broth followed by chunks of vegetables and this thick black bean puree.  Yeah…it smelled okay…but it didn’t look very good.  I managed to give it a good stir and get all the ingredients incorporated together. This thickened up the broth and made it look much better overall.  I mean, it’s black bean soup…of course it’s not going to be beautiful.  But…it needs to at least look appetizing.

It heated while I got to making the gluten-free and vegan grilled cheese, and they did finish up at the same time. Miracle of miracles.  So, I plated the sammies and then grabbed a couple of bowls from my cabinet to ladle the soup into.  It wasn’t as thick as most black bean soups tend to be, but I loved being able to see the variety of vegetables that were included in this soup, so it wasn’t just beans and spices.  That was a nice touch.  And yes…it smelled amazing.  I will definitely concede to that fact.  I walked the bowl out to my roommate then went to put water in the pot to soak while I went to eat before getting ready to head out to my running group’s Monday run.

I asked her as I was getting my food together what she thought of the soup.  She said that it reminded her a lot of chili, which she has been craving, so that was a good thing.  And if the roommate likes it…that’s also a good thing.  She can be quite picky about certain things.  And, human nature deems that all of us prefer different flavors and textures.  I love a lot of spice in my food, so I found this rather unimpressive in that category, while she thought there was some heat to it.  I found it mild, she found it sort of spicy.  See what I mean?

Overall, however, it did it’s job.  It was a satisfying meal that provided plenty of nutrients, protein, and wasn’t overkill on the calories and sodium like a lot of soups can be.  Especially when they involve heavier ingredients like beans.

In fact, a serving size of this soup is half the can.  And that will only set you back 140 calories and 1.5 grams of fat.  How awesome is that?!  A serving does contain 620 mg of sodium, which is higher than I like…but lower than a lot of soups on the market.  So, we went with it.  And, thanks to the black beans, one serving packs 6 grams of protein to your diet.  That’s amazing.

So, while I would have liked a little more spice, this soup is a safe, gluten-free and dairy free soup.  No cholesterol.  And, most importantly, filling and delicious.  If you like a little more flavor…add some of your own spices or a dash of hot sauce.  I might do that next time.  This soup is rich and filling and was the perfect way to warm up before going for a chilly run.

Another delicious product from Amy’s Kitchen.

A bowl of Amy's Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup
A bowl of Amy’s Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup

Gluten-Free in Disney World a walk in the park

Gluten-Free Dining at Disney World
Gluten-Free Dining at Disney World

For the first time in my life…I was excited to be heading to Disney.  Yes…I’m in my thirties.  No…I’ve never been to a Disney park.  No Disneyland.  No Disney World.  My family could never afford to go when I was growing up…so that was one thing many of my friends had done that I hadn’t yet achieved.  It was certainly on my bucket list, and from what I had been told…I’d enjoy it more now that I was older anyway.

That being the case…the perfect opportunity to go there arose with the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  Originally, I was going to run this one in 2012, but I didn’t have the money for it.  So, the moment registration opened for the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon, you better believe I was registered and ready to run.  The way I figured it…if I went ahead and registered, I couldn’t talk myself out of it due to financial reasons.  No looking back.  I signed up the minute registration was opened…and I was locked in.

Disney World.

Trust me…I do not travel without doing some research as to what I might be able to eat.  Thankfully, Disney World is pretty much the #1 go-to vacation spot if you have food allergies…especially Celiac or gluten intolerance.  Trust me.  I was expecting to have to eat many a Go Picnic meal while on vacation, but I only had to break into one of the little packs I brought…and that was at the Atlanta airport on the way home.  That definitely speaks very highly of the park and of Disney.

So…here I go with yet another combination blog about my amazing dining experiences while at Disney World.  I wanted to be particularly safe in my food choices being that I was there to run a half marathon and being glutenized while on vacation sucks enough…but being glutenized before running 13.1 miles sucks even more.

Safety was key…and I never felt as if I were in any danger of becoming sick at any dining establishment where my roommate and I chose to dine.

I suppose the best place to start…is at the beginning of the trip…

Sanaa - Animal Kingdom Lodge
Sanaa – Animal Kingdom Lodge

Restaurant: Sanaa – The Animal Kingdom Lodge

What better way to experience Animal Kingdom, our first park of choice, than by eating at the Animal Kingdom Lodge that night for dinner.  What really added to the ambiance of this particular dining attraction was that you could literally gaze out of the window and see exotic animals roaming around the Sunset Savanna as you eat.  The cuisine is African-inspired with Indian flavored.  Mmmm…I totally dig Indian food.

My roommate and I arrived about 15 minutes ahead of our reservation.  As we checked in, the hostess said that she saw that there was one person in the party with a gluten allergy.  I nodded and said that it was me.  She handed us our little pager thingy and we took a seat to wait for our table.  Despite arriving early, we were taken back as soon as something opened up…which was just before our reservation time anyway.

I loved the dimly lit quarters in which diners were seated.  All around were decorations from Africa, really adding to the

Hazelnut Rooibos Tea
Hazelnut Rooibos Tea

amazing feel of the restaurant itself.  And, once seated, our waiter came over to the table to get our drink order and talk about some specials.  I went ahead and ordered a hot tea to go with my dinner, settling on the Hazelnut Rooibos tea ($6.29) with some water.

As he was going over some of the favorites on the menu, he noted that I had the gluten-free menu in front of me and said that a chef would be out to talk to me specifically about the menu, but that if anything on the regular menu looked like it had gluten in it…it was not on mine.  Just as he was starting to go over the gluten-free bread option should I want to do the Indian-style bread service, which means I get poppadoms instead of the traditional bread, the chef, Jake, came out to speak to me about the menu.

Chef Jake really did a lot to put my mind to ease.  Not only did he promise to watch my ticket carefully as it was prepared, he also went over the poppadoms that I could use for the Indian-style bread service, should I choose to do that.  He went over which sauces/chutneys would be okay with that (they were listed on the menu) and said that I could put my mind to ease…as they would take good care of me.  I thanked him for his time and he returned to the kitchen, leaving us once again in the capable hands of our server, Chris.

With a little bit of time to decide on what we wanted, my roommate and I placed our orders.  Cathy decided on the Chicken Tandoori Pilaf ($17.99).  As for me…the Sanaa Vegetarian Sampler ($14.99) sounded awesome.  I was able to choose two of the five vegetarian dishes and have them served with basmati rice.  I was able to choose between Paneer Tikka; Stewed Lentils; Spicy Peas, Chickpeas, and Potatoes; Mixed Seasonal Greens and Tomatoes; Vindaloo-style Vegetables.  I knew for certain I wanted the Vindaloo-style Vegetables, so the difficult part was deciding what the other choice would be.  After a little back and forth, I chose the Stewed Lentils as my second option.

Chris went to put in the order and I left my fate in the hands of Chef Jake and his knowledgeable kitchen staff.

Sanaa's Vegetarian Sampler - Stewed Lentils, Basmati Rice, Vindaloo-style Vegetables
Sanaa’s Vegetarian Sampler – Stewed Lentils, Basmati Rice, Vindaloo-style Vegetables

Food arrived at our table and I couldn’t wait to try it out.  It looked fantastic.  Three bowls were placed before me.  The middle one held the basmati rice, the one on the left had my tewed lentils, and the one on the right had the vindaloo-style vegetables.  It smelled fantastic and I couldn’t wait to dig in.

The basmati rice was perfect with each of these dishes…for one thing.  And the rice was cooked to perfection and lightly flavored, so as not to take away from the dishes that accompanied it.  I started with the Vindaloo-style Vegetables.  This dish included a blend of okra, tomatoes, green beans, cauliflower and onion.  It wasn’t packed with flavor…as I was expecting a bit of a spice to accompany it.  But, that being said, it wasn’t lacking either.  I thought this was going to be the highlight of my sampler…but it was slightly too mild for me and definitely not as full of flavor as I anticipated.  That being said, it did taste good.  I just was familiar with my last vegetarian vindaloo experience where I had a lot of heat in each bite.  This wasn’t at all bad…it just wasn’t as fantastic as I had built it up in my mind.

The stewed lentils, however, are another story.  These golden lentils were not only packed with protein (me and my protein!), but also seasoned to perfection.  They were creamy and had a hint of spice to them that I enjoyed.  I dished some rice into them and it was a perfect combination when mixed together.  I loved the texture and taste of these lentils.  Nothing grainy…nothing too bland.  Perfection.  These thrilled me.

Despite being full, Chris talked my roommate and I into dessert.  As we were both rather full, we decided to split something.  And the dessert menu at Sanaa was not lacking as far as gluten-free options went.  As we were splitting, Cathy and I chose to try our waiter’s suggestion, the Banana Kulfi Sundae ($5.49), which he described as a banana split without the banana.  Well, I was totally sold!

Sanaa's Banana Kulfi Sundae
Sanaa’s Banana Kulfi Sundae

The dessert was brilliant.  A cube of banana flavored kulfi (which is sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk that is flavored) is served with a wedge of dried pineapple, warm chocolate sauce, strawberries, a dollop of whipped cream, and spiced cashews.  Kulfi is a bit denser than ice cream and actually takes longer to melt.  Pretty awesome.  And the dessert…was fantastic.  Amazingly tasty.  I especially loved the strawberries that came on the side.  I tried to mix as many of the components together for a bite and it was magical.  I suggest to anyone dining at Sanaa they save room for dessert and give the Banana Kulfi Sundae a try.  Trust me…it was worth the extra money and indulgence.

Sanaa was certainly a good way to kick off my week at Disney World.  I was put to total ease from the moment I checked in and never felt like I needed to second guess any of the food placed in front of me.  Total win.

Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant - Downtown Disney
Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant – Downtown Disney

Restaurant: Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant – Downtown Disney

Well, by now, you know how it is when a pub is in the vicinity with my roommate and I.  We definitely love our pub grub.  She definitely always has more of a selection because being gluten-free at a pub is definitely not easy and being a vegetarian on top of it…even more difficult.  But, I still love the atmosphere of Irish pubs and we chose this one specifically because of how it was rated with gluten-free fare.  Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant is located in the bustling, busy, crowded Downtown Disney.

Let me preface this by saying that of all the places I ate at Disney World…this one was my least favorite.  There were options on the menu for me…many dishes being labeled as having a gluten-free version of it (and yes…this included the fish and chips).  So, that was very calming for me as far as menu choices went.  The thing was…beyond a salad, there wasn’t too much for a vegetarian to have…aside from the Raglan Risotto…which I almost settled on.  The server said I could also enjoy the Portobello Beauty Sandwich without the bread.  But…with all that being said…I decided to stick with something I could pretty much guarantee wouldn’t make me sick.

Let it be known, Cathy cannot enter a pub without getting the Fish and Chips ($19.00) which she always gets with a drink, and since they had Magners ($7.00 – and it’s gluten-free) on tap…she was definitely one happy girl.

I decided to stick with water for my beverage and finally settled on one of the salads on the menu that was vegetarian and gluten-free.  My choice…the Vroom Salad ($12.00) with a helping of some gluten-free carbs…a side of their fries (or chips as they say in Ireland) ($5.00), which would be prepared gluten-free for me.

Dinner arrived at our table.  My roommate loved how her fish and chips were served traditionally…wrapped in paper and poured out onto her plate.  She loved the tartar sauce that came with it.  She did enjoy the fish, but the chips lacked.

As for me…the Vroom Salad intrigued me right away.  The Vroom Salad is made up of gluten-free quinoa grains with cider vinegar marinated

Raglan Road's Vroom Salad with a side of Chips
Raglan Road’s Vroom Salad with a side of Chips

beans, sweet and sour carrots, watercress, and served with a honey mustard dressing.  It was presented in the center of a plate in a pile, which I totally destroyed with my fork to scatter things about the plate and mix with the dressing.

As far as a salad goes…this one was actually one of the better offerings I have had at a pub.  The addition of the quinoa was a fantastic protein-packed addition to the usual greens and vegetables that I get stuck with at such establishments.  The flavors from the beans and carrots only heightened the flavor of the salad.  I felt they were a little heavy-handed with the watercress, but it added a nice green throughout the salad, once I mixed it up.  The watercress was the most unwieldy part of this salad.  It was the best part of this meal.

That being said…my roommate and I were more than disappointed with the chips.  These fries were mostly soggy and lacking that firm crunch I love on the outside of fries.  I don’t get to eat fries out much, so I was looking forward to these.  And they were a huge disappointment in the end.  I ate more of them than I intended, but as I was paying for them…it seemed like I had to put some effort into it.

Would I go back to Raglan Road on a follow-up visit?  Not likely.  Which is too bad…because I do love pubs.

No dessert…instead my roommate and I hit up Downtown Disney Babycakes NYC bakery for a gluten-free cookie sandwich.  My favorite thing I ate all night.  But I’ll get to Downtown Disney’s brach of Babcakes NYC soon enough…

Sunshine Seasons - Epcot
Sunshine Seasons – Epcot

Restaurant: Sunset Seasons – Epcot

With all the food options available at Epcot…there was very little around the park that I could actually eat.  Today was the day before the race and I needed to be very sure about the food I consumed.  One bit of cross contamination could be disastrous for me and my race that I paid so much to run and trained hard for in the cold weather of Indiana.

My roommate already knew what she was going to consume at the park – Lamb Schwarma Platter ($12.99) from Tangierine Cafe in Morocco.  That plate of food came complete with her protein of choice (lamb) as well as a side of hummus, tabouleh and a Tangierine couscous salad with fresh Moroccan bread.  We had met up with our friend Indy, who was also running in the race, and she ventured over to Japan for some sushi.  This only left me to find food.  And while I hoped for some gluten-free vegetarian sushi, I was informed that only the Tariyaki Salmon was gluten-free in Japan.  No good.  I left feeling down.  Looked like it was back to the original plan for me that day…grabbing something at Sunshine Seasons in the food court at Epcot.

I was told they were famous for their soups…but it was hot outside and I wasn’t feeling soup.  I checked out some of the grab-and-go options…including the sushi…but not gluten-free.  Of course.  *sigh*  With no other options, it looked like I was having yet another salad.  We spoke to the person at the salad bar to find out if the Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad ($7.89) was gluten-free.  She wasn’t certain, so she went to check with the chef.  He said that as long as there was no cracker served with it…it would be okay for me.

I wasn’t feeling it…but I was hungry.  So…that’s what I ordered.

Sunshine Season's Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad
Sunshine Season’s Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad

The salad was rather small, comparatively speaking.  It was basically roasted red and yellow beets, served over lightly dressed spring greens.  Generous heaps of goat cheese were served with it.  And, on top, cinnamon-roasted pecans to add a bit of texture and flavor.  The entire salad was dressed with a mild honey-sherry dressing.

It was…okay.  I liked the nuts and goat cheese the best.  The beets were, actually, a good choice for the day before the race.  But there was nothing really great about this meal.  Grab-and-go is not my favorite thing as it is…and food courts are…not always the best option as a go-to for me.  But…I had to eat.  While all the flavors worked together…this just wasn’t what I really wanted that day, so it paled in comparison to anything else I could have sought out.  The problem was…this was all there was.  So, while the salad was good…it wasn’t amazing.  And I probably wouldn’t order it again even if it were the only option once again.


Damn you Epcot and your lack of gluten-free, vegetarian ethnic food throughout your showcases.

Riverside Mill Food Court
Riverside Mill Food Court

Restaurant: Riverside Mill Food Court – Port Orleans Riverside

This…was not a planned food stop on this trip.  Not at all.  But…here’s the thing.  I am an athlete through and through and I have my traditions and my superstitious.  And here is the thing…before every big or long race I run…I love to have gluten-free pizza.  And if pizza is not available, gluten-free pasta will do in a pinch.  But it’s that gluten-free pizza that seems to power me through the following morning.  And after spending the day at Epcot and only consuming a small salad…I needed something that would give me some energy for the early morning race (the race kicks off at 5:30 a.m.).

Panic mode.  None of the restaurants that have gluten-free pizza were in range of the resort.  My roomie and I were staying at Port Orleans Riverside.  And we had made it back over that way when I said I needed to have my gluten-free pizza/pasta tradition.  Honestly…this isn’t something I take lightly.  But with nothing close…I wasn’t sure how to accomplish this.

My roommate went to speak to the concierge on duty.  His name was Will and he was fantastic.  He said he knew how difficult it was to be a Celiac and said he would see what he could do to help.  He picked up the phone and called down to the food court in the resort to see if there was something they could help me with.  He was told to send us down and have us ask to see as chef.  We thanked him for his help and meandered that way.

Chef Will (from Columbus, Ohio) came out to see us and we explained that I was running in the half marathon the next morning and have a tradition of either gluten-free pizza or pasta prior to the race.  He said he could prepare either one of them for me.  So, my roommate and I each decided to get one of the gluten-free pizzas.  She could have actually gotten anything from the food court, but I think she was just trying to keep it simple.  Chef Will went to go prepare two gluten-free cheese pizzas for us (individual size) and I was forever grateful and already feeling better about the run in the morning.  He went over to the kitchen at Boatwright’s Dining Hall to actually cook the pizzas.  Then, after they were ready, he walked them out himself.

Riverside Mills Food Court Gluten-Free Cheese Pizza
Riverside Mills Food Court Gluten-Free Cheese Pizza

Pre-race, individual size, gluten-free cheese pizza ($8.99) made specifically because I had a dietary need…from the Riverside Mill Food Court.  I was impressed.

The pizza was…not one of the better ones I’ve had.  The usual rice cracker crust with pasta sauce and some cheese…warmed through and put onto plates.  Nothing special.  Nothing fantastic.  Nothing that made it stand out from some of the other places I have dined on gluten-free pizza.  But at the moment…nothing could have tasted better.  I appreciate the effort that Port Orleans Riverside put forth for me, specifically the help that both Will and Chef Wes gave to me to help me get the food I needed the night before my reason for being in town.

Huge sigh of relief.  Mediocre pizza…but man…that night…it tasted oh, so good!

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano - Hollywood Studios
Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano – Hollywood Studios

Restaurant: Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano – Hollywood Studios

Of all the places I ate at Disney World…this one, ironically, was my favorite.  Really.  I say ironically because it is, after all, an Italian restaurant and for the most part…Italian food is a no-go for the gluten-free diet.

Unless places can accommodate patrons.

And this place was rated high on how they can deal with food allergies…specifically gluten-free dining.

We arrived a little early for our reservation, but they didn’t mind.  A short wait and we were still seated ahead of our reservation time.  Loved that.  Our server, Elizabeth S., came to the table and noted the tag marked “ALLERGY.”  She inquired as to what the allergy was and I told her gluten.  She said the chef would be out to speak to me about my options.

A few moments later, Chef Michael was coming to the table to talk about the menu.  He said that the pastas could be made gluten-free…and he

Mama Melrose's Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls
Mama Melrose’s Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls

also had gluten-free flatbreads and dinner rolls.  And, should there be room for dessert…a gluten-free flourless cake.  He asked if I knew what I wanted and I explained that since I was a vegetarian as well, I was really looking at the Spaghetti Marinara ($14.99).  He said that he could even throw in some vegetables for me if I would like.  I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like…so I told him I was totally game for that and he could have some fun with it.  He asked if I was interested in the gluten-free dinner rolls, and I had run 13.1 miles that day…so of course I was.

That being decided he returned to the kitchen and Elizabeth returned to the table.  Cathy opted for the Spaghetti with Meatballs and a Four Cheese Sauce ($18.99), which came with complimentary bread.

This would also be a great time to mention that my gluten-free dinner rolls…were also complimentary.  No charge.  Not at all.  And I was given 3 in my basket when they came out to the table…warm and ready to eat.  I broke one open and took a bite.  Delicious.  It tasted like what I remember a honey wheat bread to taste like.  But…it was completely gluten-free…warm…amazing…soft…and just plain YUMMY!

Mama Melrose's Gluten-Free Spaghetti Marinara with Chef Michael's Vegetable Selection
Mama Melrose’s Gluten-Free Spaghetti Marinara with Chef Michael’s Vegetable Selection

Entrees arrived at the table and I was taken aback by just how much food was in that bowl.  Lots of pasta.  Lots and lots of pasta.  And my favorite part was the plethora of vegetables that Chef Michael added to my dish.  I found carrots, broccoli, peppers, spinach, and mushrooms.  It was so much fun seeking out those little morsels and mixing them with the rice noodles and the delicious marinara.  I fell in love with this meal.  So much.  And, sadly, there was a lot of it.  I couldn’t finish it.  But I at least did the chef justice by eating every last vegetable I could find in that bowl.  It was a treasure hunt and I enjoyed every single bite of it.

As I had two dinner rolls remaining, I chose to take those with me to have as lunch while out and about in the parks the following day.  We were heading back to Epcot and I knew there was little for me to eat there…so now I had something that could quell any hunger pains before dinner that night.

Now…if you will recall…I mentioned that this was my favorite place I dined while in Disney World.  And, for me, that meant…I wanted more.  I was so intrigued by this gluten-free flatbread that I asked if, perhaps, on our last day there…if we could go back for dinner.  We had a big breakfast planned that morning but nothing else, and I figured we’d want something to eat before heading back to the resort to finish packing and turn in for the night.

The problem was…there was no reservations available for us.  We checked with the concierge at Port Orleans Riverside the night before…but nothing.  We checked again the following morning…still nothing.  So, it seemed we were out of luck.  On a whim, however, we decided to at least hop down to Hollywood Studios that evening to see if they might be taking walk ins.  That…was a negative.  However, the hostess did tell us to check back around 6:30 p.m. if we wanted to wait that long (it was just over an hour wait), because some people never turn up for their reservation, opting to go to the Fantasmic! show instead.

I was starving by this point, mind you, and the thought of waiting that long was daunting.  However, hopping the bus back to Port Orleans Riverside to dine on Go Picnic meals on our last night in Disney World was less than exciting.  Our other option was Sanaa, but online reservations would have us at 6:50.  Might as well wait until 6:30 here at Mama Melrose’s and see if something opened up.  If not…we’d figure something out…

Luck was with us that night.  We turned back up at 6:30 p.m. as instructed.  The hostess radioed back to see if they could take a party of two…and they could.  It meant a 20 minute wait, but I had already come this far to eat here again, I wasn’t going to stop now.  I think our wait was actually less than 20 minutes…but well worth it.  We were seated, and the allergy tag was stuck on the table once again.  Our waitress tonight was Rose.  She said that we might have to wait a little on the chef tonight, as a party of 14 was seated near us and they had kids with multiple food allergies.

The wait was well worth it.  Chef Michael came to our table and welcomed us back, already setting a basket of gluten-free dinner rolls down.  He remembered us!!  Two nights ago he made me a fantastic Spaghetti Marinara.  And we told him that we had returned tonight, since he intrigued us by gluten-free flatbread and flourless chocolate cake.

Cathy and I chose to split the Wild Mushroom Flatbread ($12.99).  He said he would get right to work on that and would keep in mind the

Mama Melrose's Gluten-Free Wild Mushroom Flatbread
Mama Melrose’s Gluten-Free Wild Mushroom Flatbread

flourless chocolate cake.  YAY!  Rose came over to record the order to put it into the system and let us sit and enjoy our hot dinner rolls.  Chef Michael returned with some olive oil and spices to dip our rolls in, as well as some fresh butter to spread over it should we choose.  We did both.  And both were delicious choices.  We actually devoured all of the rolls before the flatbread came to the table.

The Wild Mushroom Flatbread is sort of like a pizza.  This one is a gluten-free flatbread crust that is topped with roasted cremini and button mushrooms, a garlic-shallot spread, and then finished off with the most amazing balsamic reduction.  This was complete love at first bite.  The balsamic reduction was the best touch for this, but all of the components worked together.  And the gluten-free flatbread was beyond fantastic.  Finally…a “pizza” I could really enjoy on this trip.  Amazing.  We had no trouble splitting this and polishing it off.

Mama Melrose's Gluten-Free Brownie à la Mode
Mama Melrose’s Gluten-Free Brownie à la Mode

As for that flourless chocolate cake though…the chef searched high and low…and couldn’t find one.  But here is where the magic of Disney happens.  Because he had promised it…he instead sent out a gluten-free brownie topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce…free of charge.  The brownie was crisp on the outside, soft and warm on the inside.  And the cold ice cream sitting on top of it only enhanced the already amazing chocolate flavor of the brownie.  Right here is proof enough that gluten-free doesn’t mean tasteless or hard or dense.  This brownie was hot, rich, and packed with fudgy chocolate flavor.  It was a truly decadent and sinful treat.  But it was our last night there…and I was ready to indulge.

A very nice tip was left for our waitress and lots of praise and thanks were shared with the hostess to pass on to Chef Michael.

And I would dine here over and over again…and next time I’m at Disney…I will do just that.

La Hacienda de San Angel - Epcot
La Hacienda de San Angel – Epcot

Restaurant: La Hacienda de San Angel – Epcot

Epcot…oh, Epcot.  Returning to the land of very little food for me.  But this was different.  This was dinner.  And the one place that my roomie researched when it came to gluten-free options was this beautiful Mexican restaurant in the World Showcase of Epcot.  The restaurant – La Hacienda de San Angel.

Now…I love authentic Mexican food.  I don’t eat much of it anymore because there are just too many factors that go into the food that could lead to cross contamination.  But the reviews about this place were a huge help and brought a sense of comfort with the service and the food that would be served.

In fact, it was stated online that La Hacienda de San Angel makes their own gluten-free corn tortillas in house!  This was exciting news.  My roommate took the time to print off the vegetarian menu from the Internet prior to leaving, so I had an idea of what I was going to get from that.  The Enchaladas de Vegetales actually sounded very appetizing to me as that day I was suffering a little from the banana split I had for dessert the night before (too much dairy!).  So, with an off stomach…Mexican food was sounding very daunting…but I wanted to give this a go.

We showed up early to the restaurant.  Actually, we thought we were right on time, given that there was a huge line that we went to stand in just to reach the hostess outside of the restaurant.  But, after a few minutes of standing there, the entire line cleared up.  So we were now a good 40 minutes early for our reservation.  The hostess looked up our reservation and sent us through the doors to the restaurant to have a seat and wait.  I actually anticipated waiting the entire time, but we were actually shown to our seats soon after that.

Our waiter let us slide into our booth and then he settled a napkin on each of our laps.  Ooooh….fancy.  I suddenly felt under-dressed now.  This happens every time I get a napkin placed on my lap.  But, you know…they didn’t seem to care about my jeans and t-shirt at all.  So, that fleeting moment of fashionista critic passed in a blink.  We were handed menus and asked what we would like to drink.  I once again stuck to water.

And here…was where a wave of panic settled in.  I started to peruse the menu…and save for the Ensalada de la Hacienda…there wasn’t much for me to eat.  Upon the return of our server, we were asked if we knew what we wanted to eat.  I explained that I was a gluten-free vegetarian and he said that they could easily whip up their Tacos de Vegetales (Vegetable Tacos) for me on corn tortillas.  I decided that would be much preferable to yet another salad and gave a nod of approval and said that sounded fantastic.

While we waited on our food, our server brought out the house made (and gluten-free) corn tortilla chips with two different types of salsa.  One red.  One green.  The red one was robust in tomato flavor and had a nice kick to it.  But, surprisingly, it was the salsa verde that I fell in love with.  I normally go for that heat kick, but the sweet salsa verde blended so well with the corn tortilla chips.  I couldn’t stop dipping into it.  But I knew I had tacos on the way, so I kept my pre-meal chip snack to a bare minimum.

Cathy ordered the Tacos de Camarones ($23.95).  These were basically flour tortilla tacos that were filled with fried shrimp, cabbage, lime, salsa verde, and a chipotle-lime aioli.  It was the chipotle-lime aioli that caught her eye.  In fact…she said that the description reminded her a lot of the shrimp tempura tacos that she gets at our local eatery, Dragon King’s Daughter (locations in New Albany, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky).  And when they arrived, they actually sort of resembled that too, save for the addition of the cabbage.

My Tacos de Vegetales ($19.95) were a similar story.  I was so impressed with these…and that was at first glance when they set them down in

La Hacienda de San Angel's Tacos de Vegetales on corn tortillas (gluten-free)
La Hacienda de San Angel’s Tacos de Vegetales on corn tortillas (gluten-free)

front of me.  These corn tortillas were stuffed full of grilled vegetables, cabbage, roasted corn, black beans, and topped with a little queso fresco.  My tacos were also topped off with a bit of the chipotle-lime aioli as well and…yeah…it was magic.  A Mexican fiesta in my mouth for sure.  The depth of flavor in these simple tacos was astounding.  The black beans were awesome and added a nice protein aspect as well as a richness that the tacos really needed.  The cabbage gave it some crunch.  And the roasted corn and grilled veggies were delicious.  The corn was the star of the tacos though.  Roasted to perfection and full of flavor.  I devoured all three of the tacos on my plate.

La Hacienda de San Angel's sides of Mexican Rice and Refried Black Beans
La Hacienda de San Angel’s sides of Mexican Rice and Refried Black Beans

Our meals were served with sides of refried black beans and Mexican rice.  The rice was fantastically seasoned and spiced.  It had a bit of a kick to it, which I enjoyed and appreciated.  But the star of the sides that came with our food was definitely the refried black beans.  They were rich and full of this depth of flavor that was astounding.  I wanted to eat the entire bowl, but the tacos were very filling, so I had a couple of spoonfuls of both the rice and beans and left it at that.

Dessert was offered, but we chose not to indulge tonight as our meal was quite filling on its own.  We left completely full and quite happy with the value of the meal and the quality of the food we experienced.  I loved how the staff didn’t even bat an eyelash when I said I was a gluten-free vegetarian, immediately having a dish that they could offer me.  I enjoyed how they assured me everything was gluten-free and safe for me to eat.  And I enjoyed every…filling…bite.

I would have gone back to this restaurant in a heartbeat as well…but they were booked solid the night we were there and not accepting walk-ins at all…so I bid it adios and was thankful for the dining experience.

1900 Park Fare - Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
1900 Park Fare – Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Restaurant: 1900 Park Fare – Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Let it be said that you should never travel to Disney World and not attend one of the character breakfasts.  For real.  My roommate did all the planning on this one, deciding on a breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, located inside the Grand Floridian Resort.  Now, this resort is rather grand on its own…outside and inside.

But the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast was our character breakfast of choice.  This is basically a festive, all-you-care-to-eat breakfast buffet, with Disney character guests that make appearances while you eat.  We actually arrived earlier than anticipated because our Disney bus driver dropped us off at the resort instead of having us get off at one of the parks to catch a bus to the resort.  Awesome.  We appreciated that, but it left us with a bunch of extra time.

So, after wandering around the lobby we noticed a line forming at 1900 Park Fare and decided that we could at least check in with the hostess and maybe get seated earlier instead of with the 8:30 a.m. wave.  They were happy to accommodate and noticed that there was a food allergy listed on the reservation.  They handed me two tickets for the breakfast, both marked “ALLERGY.”  When they opened the doors to seat us, we handed over these tickets and were shown to our table.  I was informed by the woman who seated us that a chef would come over to talk to me.  While Cathy could have gone and loaded up her plate with breakfast goodies, she opted to wait for me to see the chef.

The chef did arrive a little bit later and asked me to walk with him.  What he did was take me through the buffet line, pointing out what foods I could safely eat.  They were good about keeping things were there would be no cross-contamination.  The fruit was okay, the scrambled eggs were safe, the potatoes were safe…etc.  And then he said the words that made me the happiest gluten-free girl in Disney that morning.  That he could make me gluten-free waffles.  Gluten-free Mickey Mouse waffles.  Just.  For.  Me.

THRILLED!  I said that waffles sounded amazing and he said he would get to work on them and bring them to my table…but to go ahead and get anything else from the buffet that he pointed out to me.  So, with that said, I joined Cathy at the table and said he was making me some waffles, but we could hit up the buffet now.

From 1900 Park Fare's Supercalifragilistic Character Breakfast Buffet (Fresh fruit, hash browns, eggs, and strawberry soup)
From 1900 Park Fare’s Supercalifragilistic Character Breakfast Buffet (Fresh fruit, hash browns, eggs, and strawberry soup)

In the line of the buffet, I went ahead and got a bunch of different fruits…honeydew melon, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, grapes…yummy.  In addition, I ladled a little of the strawberry soup into a bowl to try.  I decided to give the hash brown potatoes and some of the scrambled eggs a try as they were deemed safe for my consumption.  And I was hungry.

As I settled back into my seat and started eating some of the sweet fruit, the chef appeared at my side with a plate of four gluten-free Mickey Mouse waffles.  I thanked him and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I moved one over to my plate, sliced off an ear, and gave it a dip in the real maple syrup he brought out with it.

1900 Park Fare's Gluten-Free Mickey Mouse Waffles
1900 Park Fare’s Gluten-Free Mickey Mouse Waffles

Waffles never tasted so good.  They were sweet and light and fluffy and SHAPED LIKE MICKEY MOUSE!  I mean…come on!!  It doesn’t get much better than that.  And honestly, I’ve eaten quite a few gluten-free waffles at places, as well as made my own, and had the frozen kinds…and none come close to equaling these.  Perfection.  The fact that they weren’t heavy made it a synch to eat all four of them.  And I still went back for more fruit, more eggs, and a few more hash browns.  WORTH IT.

And, to top it off…our Disney character guests arrived and made their way around the dining room to greet the guests.  At the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast, we had the honor of meeting Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, and The Mad Hatter.  And all of them were so much fun to talk to, get pictures with, and interact with.  I don’t care if I’m in my thirties…I loved every moment of this breakfast and meeting the characters.  You’re never too old for Disney characters.  Mary Poppins sure was charming and I had been wanting to meet her all weekend.  So this was AWESOME!

The Supercalifragilistic Breakfast is $21.95 per person and includes the buffet and a non-alcoholic beverage.  The food was really delicious.  The company was awesome.  And the care was above and beyond expectations.  I am already wanting to go back and do another character breakfast!

Babycakes NYC - Downtown Disney
Babycakes NYC – Downtown Disney

Restaurant: Babycakes NYC – Downtown Disney

The one place that I was anticipating indulging in as often as possible was Babycakes NYC in Downtown Disney.  The most difficult part, at least the first night we were there seeking it out…was locating the place.  For the record, it is located in the same building as Pollo Campero and Bodie’s…right next to LEGO Land.  So…now you won’t have to log onto the Web site and look it up.  You’re welcome.

Cathy and I were seeking this out at night to have breakfast ready in the room, that way we could get an early start and not have to wait for 9 a.m. to roll around to get breakfast…and then eat…and then head out for the day.  This way…we were set and could head out after a quick bite in our room.  This was a fantastic arrangement, by the way.  And the baked goods were just as good the following morning.

I own a Babycakes NYC cookbook and the vegan & gluten-free foods sounded fantastic.  I haven’t made it up to New York City yet…but the fact that they have a branch at Disney World was enough for me to tell Cathy that we were eating there every single morning that it was feasible.  And, with the exception of two days…we did exactly that.

Being that we were seeking out breakfast…we stuck to the case with the doughnuts and loaves.  We each would pick a doughnut and a loaf to enjoy the following morning.  And there was quite a selection to choose from too.  All of these were both vegan and gluten-free…meaning I had nothing to worry about when it came to my breakfasts.  The most difficult part was choosing what I wanted to eat.

So…it went like this:

Babycakes NYC Gluten-Free Doughnuts and Loaves (Top Right: Day 1; Top Left: Day 2; Bottom Right: Day 3; Bottom Left: Day 4)
Babycakes NYC Gluten-Free Doughnuts and Loaves (Top Right: Day 1; Top Left: Day 2; Bottom Right: Day 3; Bottom Left: Day 4)

Trip #1: Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut ($3.49) and a Blueberry Toastie (Loaf) ($3.49)
Trip #2: Vanilla Glazed Doughnut ($3.49) and a Pumpkin Chip Loaf ($3.49)
Trip #3: Chocolate Dipped Doughnut ($3.49) and a Pumpkin Loaf ($3.49)
Trip #4: Jam Twist Doughnut ($3.49) and Banana Loaf ($3.49)

And that was just breakfast.  In addition…Cathy had a few other options as well that I didn’t get for me, but we sampled each other’s choices.  Cathy fell in love with the Lemon Poppyseed Loaf ($3.49), the Chocolate Cookie Crunch Doughnut ($3.49), and her favorite…the Cornbread Loaf ($3.49).

Okay…my most favorite of the doughnuts was the Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut…but cinnamon sugar has always been one of my favorite doughnuts to eat (blueberry being my favorite!).  But here was the thing…they were so moist, so light and so very delicious.  No one would be able to tell that these were vegan and gluten-free just by eating them.  I was in sugar-rush heaven.  I’m not big on glazed or dipped doughnuts, but these weren’t too bad.  I find glazes and dips to be heavy…and these were…but the doughnuts were light and fluffy and flavorful…and when all is said and done…they worked well together.  Everything just worked.

And the loafs…OH. MY. GOD.  My favorite had to be the Pumpkin Chip Loaf…but they were all very good.  They were sweet enough to satisfy that food craving and filling without being too much…even with the doughnuts.  I found each one full of flavor.  And my roommate will forever rave about that corn bread loaf.  It was her favorite thing…and she only was able to get it one night…so thankfully she took a chance on that when she did.  I also really liked the Blueberry Toastie…which had tons of fruity flavor and sweetness with the glaze and all.  And of course, pumpkin and banana bread…you can’t go wrong with either of them.  So moist.  Bite-for-bite…even after sitting overnight in a box on the table in the hotel room…these were still moist and tasted like they were fresh from the bakery.  Yeah…beyond impressed.

But we also sampled some other choices from Babycakes NYC as well.  For dessert one night, we split one of their Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches ($3.49), which was fantastic.  The chocolate chip cookies are thin, and crunchy, and sweet.  Honestly…gluten-free cookie perfection.  Normally I’m a chewy cookie kind of girl…but these were wafer-thin and had that perfect crumbly, sweet texture that works with chocolate chip cookies.  And the frosting was vegan and made with cane sugar.  It was moist and very sweet…so I was glad Cathy and I were splitting the cookie sandwich.  I actually forgot to take a picture of that…but it was delicious.

Babycakes NYC Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie
Babycakes NYC Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie

So, on our last night there…we picked up our breakfast doughnuts and loaves…and they had a special on their gluten-free chocolate chip cookies ($1.00).  So, we got two of them…one for each of us…because they were each discounted by $0.50…and when you’re on vacation and stocking up on sweets…that’s a good deal.  We saved these for our last walk around our resort, and happily chewed away at the crunchy, buttery-flavored, amazing cookies.  Yeah…heaven in cookie form.  It was the right amount of sweetness and really hit the spot.  It was the best way to wrap up our stay at Disney World…enjoying a vegan and gluten-free treat from the place we visited the most – Babycakes NYC.


And there it is…my dining experiences at Disney World.  Nothing catastrophic happened.  I had my favorite food moments and my favorite food places…and I had meals that amazed me…meals that made me want to go back…meals that made me happy…and only a couple of disappointments.  Not bad for this gluten-free vegetarian traveler.  I am so thankful that Disney World is trained, prepared, and helpful to people with dietary restrictions.  It took a load off my mind…and helped me focus on enjoying myself…and of course…preparing for the half marathon I was there to run.

Which…went so well, despite being high humidity (yes…at 5:30 a.m.)…leading to me shaving 2 minutes off my personal record and setting a new record for myself.  I enjoyed the race…I enjoyed Disney World…and I enjoyed eating there and feeling confident in the fact that they truly were looking out for me in those kitchens.

Talk about taking a load off.

Recipe: Gumbo for Vegans

Tomorrow, my dear friends, is Fat Tuesday.

It’s that time of year when everyone is getting into the Mardi Gras spirit.  King Cakes are being baked, brought into office/home, and consumed.  Cajun food is a big, big thing.  And it lasts…all the way through Mardi Gras.

But most Cajun food is very sausage and seafood heavy.  And for someone like me…a gluten-free vegetarian, that’s not a good thing.  Especially since…I love Cajun food.  Red beans and rice…heck yeah!  Gumbo…bring it!  Jambalaya…oh yeah.  Loved it all.  And ate plenty of it prior to becoming a vegetarian.

Some Cajun food does happen to be vegetarian friendly.  Some is even gluten-free friendly.  But finding a combination of the two isn’t easy.  Especially out in the wild.

So, with the upcoming Fat Tuesday falling tomorrow, I took a recipe from Top Chef alumni (and fan favorite) Fabio Viviani and made a few changes to it in order to truly make it gluten-free and vegan.  And I cooked this all up on Sunday night for dinner…and it made enough for my roommate and I to dine on it all the way through Fat Tuesday.  Gotta love that.

Below is the recipe with my modifications.  What emerges is a delicious dish and meal that will satisfy even the most savvy Cajun carnivore.  I hope to make it again sometime soon.

Recipe: Gumbo for Vegans

Gumbo for Vegans
Gumbo for Vegans

Servings: 6
Time: Prep 20 minutes; Cook 30 minutes


  • 2 tbsp flour (I used Hodgson Mill Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper (I used a red pepper because they just looked better at the grocery store)
  • 2 chopped celery stalks
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (I  used Colgin Liquid Smoke)
  • 1 tbsp file powder (I used cornstarch)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (I used Pacific Natural Foods low sodium)
  • 1 lb chopped baby collard greens (I used rainbow chard)
  • 10 oz frozen black-eyed peas (I couldn’t find frozen, so I used one can of organic black-eyed peas)
  • 1 cup dried jasmine rice


In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of dried jasmine rice and 2 cups of water to a boil.  Cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the rice cooks, in a large saucepan, cook 2 tablespoons of flour in 3 tablespoons olive oil until golden, about 3 minutes.

Add the chopped onion, pepper, celery stalks, salt and pepper.  Cook the vegetables until soft, about 8 minutes.

Stir in 1 tablespoon of Liquid Smoke, cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika.

Add 2 cups vegetable broth.

Bring all the ingredients up to a boil and add in the chopped baby collard greens and the black eyed peas.  Simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

Serve over white rice.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Hearty Rice and Bean Vegan Nachos

Twas the day of the Super Bowl and I made my roomie one simple promise.


No…really.  She had been craving nachos and I decided, despite us not watching the big game (instead we watched cooking shows…for real!), I told her Super Bowl Sunday would be the perfect day to break out some nachos for dinner.  Of course, the one catch to me being the chef of the apartment is…I make them my way.

Thankfully…she’s quite okay with that…and words like gluten-free and vegan don’t phase her one bit.

I know…awesome!

So…after a major cleaning spree that day, I started to piece together our not-too-bad for you version of Super Bowl Snack Awesomeness.  And we dug in while watching an Emeril Lagasse show on Vegetarian Main Dishes.  I can’t make this up, friends!!  This is a true story.  But the best part of this story is…how awesome and filling these nachos turned out to be!

Recipe: Gluten-Free Hearty Rice and Bean Vegan Nachos

Gluten-Free Hearty Rice and Bean Vegan Nachos
Gluten-Free Hearty Rice and Bean Vegan Nachos

Servings: 2
Time: Prep 60 minutes; Cook 10 minutes


  • 1 cup brown rice (I used Lundberg Family Farms)
  • 5 ounces (about 6 1/2 cups) Tortilla Chips (I used Garden of Eatin’ Blue Corn Chips)
  • 3/4 cup cooked no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained if canned
  • 4 ounces Teese Nacho Vegan Cheese Sauce
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 fresh Serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional) (I roasted mine with my red pepper)
  • 1 red pepper, roasted and chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup prepared salsa
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 lime


Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Cook the brown rice according to package directions.  While rice cooks, saute the onion in a small skillet and set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add Teese Nacho Vegan Cheese Sauce and 1/4 cup milk.  Stir together until creamy and sauce thickens.  Add half of the roasted peppers.

Spread chips in a 9×13-inch baking dish and spoon rice over top.  Sprinkle with black beans beans, onions, and the rest of the roasted peppers (red and Serrano).  Bake until the nachos are very hot, 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and add the avocado slices.  Spoon the vegan nacho cheese over the nachos, add salsa, sprinkle with cilantro.  Squeeze lime over the top.



These were so amazing and delicious.  I was so happy with the way this turned out.  It was definitely the perfect food for Super Bowl Sunday.  Nothing better than some junk food on a big game night, even if you are not watching the game.  And as far as recipes go…this isn’t too bad for you.  Packed with protein (thanks to the beans…and quinoa could be substituted for the rice), vegetables, and vegan cheese…it was guilt-free snack food for dinner.

And my roommate has already requested I make them again sometime.

I only take that as a good thing.

Recipe: Crispy Baked Parmesan Green Bean Fries

As a vegetarian, I am always looking for new and different ways to eat vegetables.  That’s more than true these days since I began receiving a CSA bin of fresh, organic, local produce from my area.  Finding a new way to prepare a favorite vegetable is always fun and I’ve been enjoying playing with new techniques and recipes.

And…thanks to the magic and wonder of Pinterest…I stumbled across this recipe.  It was originally posted by Dashing Dish…and it truly caught my eye.  Well, I made it tonight and couldn’t have been happier with it.  A little crispy, a little savory, a little salty…and lots of yummy.

Recipe: Crispy Baked Parmesan Green Bean Fries

Crispy Baked Parmesan Green Bean Fries
Crispy Baked Parmesan Green Bean Fries

Servings: 4
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 20 minutes


  • 4 cups fresh whole green beans (or 1 14 ounce bag of frozen whole green beans)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

If using frozen green beans, pop the bag of green beans in the microwave for 3-4 minutes, or until just de-thawed (or you could leave them out at room temperature for a few hours).  If using fresh green beans, wash and snip off the ends.

Place green beans on prepared baking pan, making sure they are evenly spread out, and none are laying on top of each other, (this will ensure even crispiness!)  Sprinkle seasonings and Parmesan cheese evenly over green beans.

Place green beans in the pre-heated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy!  (To make them extra crispy, broil them for an extra 1-2 minutes before pulling them out of the oven).

Enjoy immediately with low sugar ketchup or dipping sauce of choice.


Taking that whole enjoy with a dipping sauce of choice, I whipped up a simple vegan Sriracha aoili…and it went with these fries perfectly.  Mine didn’t crisp up as much as I hoped, but I was also baking gluten-free/vegan no chicken nuggets in the oven as well, which took some of the heat source away from the green beans.  Regardless…these were amazing and fantastic…and I intend to make them again tomorrow with the other half of the green beans from my CSA bin.  Yeah…they were that good.

Perfect healthy side dish for any meal, honestly.  What better way to serve your veggies?

Recipe: Spicy Quinoa Stuffed Avocados (with a Vegan Sriracha Sour Cream)

I know…this sounds bizarre, even for someone like me…but the fact of the matter was…I had produce that needed to be used up before Friday…and two of the items still staring at me were amazing organic avocados.  Now, I could have done my usual standbys with these…guacamole…or put it into a breakfast scramble of sorts.

But why?  Why when I run across such interesting and different recipes such as this one, which I pilfered from the blogg Bullfrogs & Bulldogs, and adjusted to make it easier and more time efficient for me…the non-stop busy-body!  It’s very nutritious, packing a high protein punch with the quinoa, and the healthy fat of the avocado.  Awesome.

So…if you love avocado, love quinoa, and just plain love delicious things…here is a great recipe for you…done up the way I do it.  And I’ll even include my recipe for Vegan Sriracha Sour Cream.

Yes…I love you guys that much…

Recipe: Spicy Quinoa Stuffed Avocados

Spicy Quinoa Stuffed Avocado with a Vegan Sriracha Sour Cream
Spicy Quinoa Stuffed Avocado with a Vegan Sriracha Sour Cream

Servings: 2
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Cook 15 minutes


Spiced Quinoa:

  • Avocados (1 small avocado per person)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 can Green Giant Southwest Style Corn
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro + some for garnish
  • 1 tbsp taco seasoning (I crated my own using chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, and garlic powder)

Vegan Sriracha Sour Cream

  • 1/4 cup Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha


Rinse the quinoa well and place it in a sauce pan and toast for about two minutes until the quinoa starts to smell ‘toasty.’ Add one cup of water or vegetable broth and bring to boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cover.  (To get fluffy quinoa, it’s really important to not stir it, just let it be, keeping a close eye on it).

Chop the onion drain the can of Southwest Style Corn.  Combine both ingredients in a bowl and mix well with the taco seasoning.  Cover and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Remove from microwave, uncover, and allow to cool slightly.

Once the quinoa is finished, fluff with a fork and allow it to sit for 15 minutes, until it has cooled slightly.  Add  it to the vegetable mixture.

Make the sour cream by measuring out 1/4 cup of vegan sour cream and adding the Sriracha to it.  Stir it together until well blended.

To assemble the avocados, begin by cutting them in half, removing the skin and the pit.

Scoop about ½ a cup of the quinoa mixture into each avocado, more if you can fit it.

Top it with a little Sriracha Sour Cream and some chopped cilantro and serve.



Creamy, rich, smooth, amazing, delicious, totally yummy and just plain good!  The blend of cool avocado with the slight spice from the quinoa/vegetable mixture as well as the vegan Sriracha sour cream on top is just…perfection.  With a healthy does of belly-flattening fats from the avocado and the blast of protein from the quinoa, this makes for one very healthy dish to have for lunch or dinner…or whenever your little heart desires.

I had more than half of the quinoa/veggie mixture left so I sense a run to the grocery store for more avocados in my very near future.

A great meal…guilt free.  Awesome.

Another healthier chip option from Boulder Canyon with Rice and Adzuki Bean Chipotle Cheese chips

Boulder Canyon Rice and Adzuki Bean Chipotle Cheese Snack Chips
Boulder Canyon Rice and Adzuki Bean Chipotle Cheese Snack Chips

Product: Boulder Canyon Rice and Adzuki Bean Chipotle Cheese Snack Chips – $2.99+

I started off with the original.  Just a touch of sea salt and I had in my possession a snack chip made from rice flour and adzuki beans.  Yes…you read that right…adzuki beans.  And what did I make of these?  That they were phenomenal.  Like…better tasting Doritos.  And much healthier option at that than what preservatives and unnatural ingredients go into Doritos.

So, this time I was quite excited to dive into the bag of Boulder Canyon’s Rice and Adzuki Bean Chipotle Cheese flavored chips.  I mean…a little extra spice is always.  Combine it with the addition of cheese…and yeah…it’s winning.

That being said, after I scooped up a serving of these chips to haul to the office with me, I couldn’t wait to dive into them and really test them out.  I mean, the original flavor had been mind-blowing delicious…so these had to be yummy-amazing right?


That afternoon, when my 3:00 snack time rolled around, I pulled out my container which had a 1 ounce serving (or around 20 chips), and took up my first chip.  One bite…and I was even happier with these than I was the original.  Oddly enough, the fact that these tasted more like Cool Ranch Doritos (despite having cheese in them) was amazing.  Cool Ranch was always my favorite.  I was hooked.  Love at first bite.

The texture and flavor with each of these was fantastic.  And one serving only set me back 140 calories and 7 grams of fat.  Not too shabby for a snack trip.  In addition, with the inclusion of adzuki beans in the ingredients, these chips give 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.  I loved these and was quite sad when I got down to the bottom of my serving and had no more to nosh on.

Would I buy these again?  In a heartbeat.  Without a moment of hesitation.  YUM YUM YUMMY!

Looking for a healthier option for a snack chip, I would definitely direct you to find Boulder Canyon’s Rice and Adzuki Bean Chipotle Cheese snack chips.  I promise…these are not just a healthier snack chip option…but delicious too.

Boulder Canyon makes a delicious chip with Rice with Adzuki Bean Natural Sea Salt Snack Chips

Boulder Canyon Rice with Adzuki Beans Natural Sea Salt Snack Chips
Boulder Canyon Rice with Adzuki Bean Natural Sea Salt Snack Chips

Product: Boulder Canyon Rice with Adzuki Bean Natural Sea Salt Snack Chips – $2.99+

Who would have thought?  A snack chip made out of rice flour and adzuki beans?  It doesn’t seem at all natural or like it should be even found in nature.  And…well, while not a natural occurrence in our natural environment, Boulder Canyon now delivers this straight to our grocery store aisles.  Founded in 1994, Boulder Canyon has been producing all natural, kettle cooked potato chips that go beyond the standard brands in both quality and taste.  This isn’t just me speaking…this is the company’s mission statement.

And…the thing is, they can back it up.

Prior to this, I had been able to try a few of Boulder Canyon’s Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.  I first sampled them here in my area (shocking, I know!) and then found them again at a grocery store out in Los Angeles, California, while visiting some friends.  We got them hooked on them as well.  And as snack chips went, these were a safe (save for the Malt Vinegar and Sea Salt variety) as far as gluten-free chips went.  Better still…they were delicious.

Well, as I’ve gotten more accustomed to the whole gluten-free snack thing…I’ve branched out some.  So, when a couple of bags of Boulder Canyon Rice with Adzuki Bean Snack Chips were on super sale at Big Lots…I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try them.  A blind tasting this time.  No samples from a gluten-free fair or expo…this was something I just saw and went with.  At the price with a 20% discount on top of it…I’d be hard-pressed not to make a purchase.

And, as is the norm, I had other snacks to work through first before I got to these…but the magical snack moment arrived yesterday.  I needed a quick 3:00 p.m. snack for the office to see me through to when I could cook dinner.  I had packed up a serving (1 ounce) of these chips and brought them with me for that purpose.  When the time rolled around, I opened up my little container and took my first bite.

I fell in love with them.  Yes…with one simple bite.  The flavor was so familiar and distinctive…but it was light, non-greasy, and clean.  I offered one to my teammate, who has a very picky and discerning palate, and she took a hesitant bite…but soon was crunching on the chip as well.  She said the flavor reminded her of Cool Ranch Doritos.  She was absolutely right.  But it had a better flavor…less mess…and was just better all around.  And trust me…Cool Ranch Doritos used to be my favorite chip!  So this is saying something!

The Boulder Canyon Rice with Adzuki Bean Natural Sea Salt Snack Chips (whew…that’s a mouthful…but a delicious one!) are made from rice flour, corn starch, adzuki beans, and corn flour.  They are seasoned with chili flakes, cumin, and sea salt.  What this does then is lend a little bit of spice and bite to each chip, keeping each taste interesting.

The flavor of these chips, I believe, mostly comes from the adzuki beans, which tend to have a nutty flavor and are commonly used in Japanese dishes.  They are low in fat and high in protein.  That’s a great combination to base a snack chip off, don’t you think?  And with the way Boulder Canyon slow cooks their chips using sunflower and/or safflower oil, you don’t need to worry about trans fat or cholesterol.  All of their products are free from both.

The Rice with Adzuki Bean Natural Sea Salt Chips have 140 calories per serving and 7 grams of fat.  That isn’t bad for a snack chip when it comes down to it.  Even though this is a flavor that is based on sea salt…the sodium content is quite low (130 mg) and each serving provides 2 grams of protein.  Not too shabby for a snack chip.  These particular chips are also gluten-free (obviously) and non-GMO.  They are all-natural, so no strange chemicals go into the making of this snack.

The flavor that these chips provide is unmatched.  You wouldn’t even guess that they are made with beans.  Never in a million years.  You don’t taste the beans…you honestly just taste the delicious flavors that are packed into each bite, seasoned to perfection, and made as healthy as a snack chip can be.  When you can back up your mission statement of providing superior flavor and superior products, then you’re doing your job well.

Boulder Canyon can definitely back up their claims.  I would buy these again in a heartbeat!  And as they taste like really fantastic tortilla chips, they’d be perfect to dip in hummus or salsa or even guacamole.  Mmmm…something to try next time.

If you are looking for something different when it comes to snacks…be bold (heh…see what I did there?) and try Boulder Canyon’s Rice with Adzuki Bean Natural Sea Salt Snack Chips.  I promise…it will be love at first bite.