Saturday, November 29, 2014

Turkey Noodle Soup

Yesterday, we made panini with our Thanksgiving leftovers.  Today, we decided to make turkey noodle soup.

Our leftover smoked turkey added a subtle smoky flavor to our soup.  

I used a 12 oz box of Schar Tagliatelle for my gluten free noodles.  

I love that we were able to use our leftover onion, carrots, spinach, turkey, and chicken broth in this soup.  Our fridge is much emptier, and our bellies our full.  This was my first year making a turkey soup with our leftovers, and it's a tradition I will definitely be continuing in future years, because it was so delicious!

Turkey Noodle Soup


2 T olive oil
1 medium sweet onion - diced
15 to 30 baby-cut carrots - chopped
1 tsp (2 cloves) minced garlic
2 32-ounce containers gluten free chicken broth
3 to 4 C cooked turkey - cut into bite-size pieces
5 oz baby spinach - chopped
8 to 12 oz gluten free pasta - cooked according to package directions
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
Grated or shaved Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago


In a large soup pot, saute the onion and carrots in olive oil, over medium heat, until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic, stirring until it begins to brown, then add the chicken broth, turkey, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Increase the heat to medium high before adding the noodles and spinach.  Stir the soup every minute or two until the spinach is wilted.  Add more salt and pepper if needed, then serve and garnish with grated or shaved cheese.

Recipe Notes

The amount of turkey and spinach I used is an estimate, because we didn't measure these ingredients before adding them to the soup.  I used an Italian shaved cheese blend of Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago.

The Mara Dinner - Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Mara at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my favorite quick service restaurants at Disney World.  I have breakfast and lunch reviews on my blog, but last weekend was my first time dining there for dinner.  

After the Food Allergy & Celiac Convention, I went to The Mara with some friends from the Orlando Celiac Support Group.  

The chef we spoke to said he could make us gluten free versions of anything on the menu except the falafel pita, because the falafel contains gluten.  

For entrees, you can choose the Angus bacon cheeseburger, allergy chicken tenders and fries, pepperoni flatbread, barbeque chicken flatbread, vegetable flatbread, Mara salad with chicken, hand-carved ham sandwich, chicken pita, African stew, or a Reuben hot dog.

If I hadn't been so full from all the food I ate at the Food Allergy & Celiac Convention, I would have ordered the oak-smoked rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans.  

I decided on a cup of the butternut squash soup, hoping it would be the same soup I love so much at Boma.  It was smooth and creamy, slightly sweet, and full of my favorite fall spices.  I will definitely be ordering this heavenly soup again the next time we go to The Mara.  

Jennifer and Vanessa split an order of the African stew with beef, turkey, ham, carrots, potatoes, peas, chickpeas, and raisins, served over Basmati rice.  

They also shared a vegetable flatbread made on an Udi's pizza shell with Moroccan chermoula and four cheese blend topped with portobello mushrooms, zucchini, roasted red peppers, and caramelized onions.  

They both liked the African stew, which I enjoyed for lunch, but they raved about the vegetable flatbread the whole time they ate it.  Jennifer described it as flavorful, with enough spices to compliment the veggies.  

The Mara has gluten free zebra domes and BabyCakes mini cupcakes for dessert.  The cupcakes are available in the refrigerated section, but you need to ask a chef for gluten free zebra domes from the back.  Any time we are in the vicinity of The Mara, my daughters ask me to buy them zebra domes, which are one of their favorite desserts at Disney.

You can view The Mara's menus on Disney's website here.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at The Mara?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Contempo Cafe - Disney's Contemporary Resort

Last Friday, I had lunch at the Contempo Cafe at Disney's Contemporary Resort, after purchasing a BabyCakes gingerbread boy at the Frozen-themed gingerbread holiday ice castle.  

Contempo Cafe, a quick service restaurant, has high-tech touch screens for ordering, but gluten free options were not listed, so I headed to the counter to talk to a manager.  

The gluten allergy menu was so large, I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to eat.  

After I ordered and was given a pager, I wandered around to see what other gluten free options were available.  Contempo Cafe stocks Lundberg gluten free rice chips in three varieties, and Lay's Classic Potato Chips.  

For dessert, you can purchase OMG...It's Gluten Free Fudge Brownies or Sugar Free Fudge Brownies, Enjoy Life Chocolate Chip Crunchy Cookies, or vanilla, chocolate, or swirl soft-serve ice cream.   

Contempo Cafe also had Peanut Butter Cookie Larabars, which are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, and kosher, but the Pro Bar Meal Whole Berry Blast bars are not gluten free, like their fuel bars.  

For lunch, I ordered the hot turkey sandwich topped with brie, apple butter, and arugula on toasted Udi's bread.  I was pleasantly surprised to see apple slices on my sandwich too. 

I loved the combination of the tart apples with the sweet apple butter, peppery arugula, brie and turkey.  The sandwich and fries could easily be shared by two adults for lunch.  I did manage to eat it all though, but I still wasn't hungry when I ate dinner at Kona Cafe eight hours later.  

The fries at Contempo Cafe were a little skinnier than I am used to at Disney, so they must be the new fries I have been hearing about.  The skinnier the better, as far as I am concerned.  Shoestring fries are my favorite!

Overall, I loved my meal at Contempo Cafe, and would definitely go back for a hot turkey sandwich and fries in the future.

July 24, 2015 Update - here are the current allergy-friendly menus at Contempo Cafe

Contempo Cafe also has gluten free chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, which you can read about here.

You can read a guest review of Contempo Cafe by Dave Barber from the Gluten Free Disney Dining App here.  

You can read more about Contempo Cafe and view their menus on Disney's website here.  

What are your favorite gluten free options at Contempo Cafe?  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

BabyCakes Gingerbread Boys

On Friday, I visited the gingerbread holiday ice castle at Disney's Contemporary Resort.  

Inspired by the movie Frozen, and the designs of "it's a small world", the display features 14 hidden Olafs.

A variety of baked goods, and frozen merchandise can be purchased in the adjoining shop.  

I was excited to see gluten free gingerbread boy cookies made by BabyCakes.  

The gingerbread boys are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, vegan, and kosher.  

Ingredients: unrefined sugar, brown rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, fava bean flour, coconut oil, pear, arrowroot, vanilla extract, ginger, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking soda, kosher salt, and nutmeg.  

My cookie was so delicious!  It was thicker than the gingerbread boy I had last year, and it had just the right amount of sweetness and spices.  

You can also purchase gluten free gingerbread men at the gingerbread display at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, which is also selling brownie bites, ginger chocolate-chip bread, and cinnamon toastie bread from BabyCakes. 

November 30, 2014 Update - We stopped at the Grand Floridian Resort to see their Gingerbread House on Wednesday.  

Because Thanksgiving was the next day, I did not purchase the BabyCakes ginger-chocolate chip bread or the cinnamon toastie bread, though I hope to try them before Christmas.  

The BabyCakes brownie bites are being sold in packs of two.  

We did end up buying several gingerbread boys, which we did not start eating until Friday.  They were not as good as the cookie I bought at the Contemporary Resort, because they were thinner, and much harder, maybe from being a little bit stale.  With a price tag of $5.75 per cookie, I was definitely disappointed.  In the future, I will be eating my gingerbread boys the day I purchase them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sommerfest - Epcot

Sommerfest is a quick service walk-up counter in Epcot's Germany Pavilion.  

I am a little ashamed to admit that I didn't even know it existed until a couple of weeks ago, when I was shopping for a pickle ornament for our Christmas tree in the shops at the Germany Pavilion.  

Even though ethnically, I am half German, I have never really been a fan of German food.  Every time I have eaten at a German restaurant, I have been unimpressed, and my extended family loves to cook Italian food, not German.  

I waited in line at Sommerfest to see what kind of gluten free options were available, but didn't order anything, because we had just eaten at San Angel Inn.  

Gluten free options:

  • Bratwurst with a gluten free roll and sauerkraut
  • Frankfurter with a gluten free roll and sauerkraut
  • Currywurst with curry ketchup (minus the paprika chips) - ask if you can get sauerkraut or the cold potato salad in place of the paprika chips
  • Cold potato salad
Maybe some day I will be brave enough to try German food again, but until then, you can check out my friend Sarah's review of Sommerfest on her blog Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW.  

Have you ever eaten at Sommerfest? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Butterbeer - Universal Studios

Yesterday, with our new annual passes in hand, we headed to Universal Studios to check out Diagon Alley. 

After riding Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, we headed over to the Fountain of Fair Fortune for some Butterbeer.  Chef Bob from Universal did confirm for me earlier this year that Butterbeer is indeed gluten free.  If you would like to read the history of how this drink was created for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, check out Butterbeer: How the Harry Potter Beverage Was Made Real.  One thing I learned from this article is that Universal Orlando wanted the beverage to be free of dairy products, so more guests would be able to enjoy it, but sadly, when I contacted Universal, they said Butterbeer contains dairy.  Chef Bob said it does not contain any of the other top 8 allergens though.  The recipe for this non-alcoholic drink, that is prepared on property, is a secret.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Best Disney Resorts for Special Diets - Animal Kingdom Lodge

I was recently asked by one of my blog readers what are the best resorts at Disney World to stay at for gluten free dining.  I am teaming up with Dana Zificsak from Magical Moments Vacations to answer that question in my new series called Best Disney Resorts for Special Diets.  In our first post, we looked at Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter.  Today, we will focus on one of my personal favorites, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.  My commentary will be in blue.  

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Resort Type: Deluxe
Location: Animal Kingdom
Transportation: Busses to all theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a destination in itself.  Disney has done a fantastic job transporting its guests to the world of an African safari through this resort. The biggest draw to the Animal Kingdom Lodge is the savanna, that houses a wide assortment of animals, including giraffes, zebra, gazelles, wildebeest, ostriches, and many more. The resort in itself is an attraction as well. The lobby of Jambo House is impressive, with replicas of African artifacts all around. Additionally, there are children's programs throughout the day, including arts and crafts. When you step out onto the savanna, there are animal experts ready to share information about the animals, and answer your questions.

There are two buildings that make up this resort: Jambo House and Kidani Village. While both buildings have a pool and a shop, there are things to consider when you are choosing which side to stay at.  There is a 10-minute walking path between the two buildings, and a van shuttle that departs every 20-30 minutes.

Jambo House is the original building, and the main building of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. The quick-service restaurant, The Mara, is here. If you feel your family would utilize the quick-service restaurant a lol, I would chose Jambo House, since it does take some time to get from one building to another. The resort’s big retail store is also on this side. Additionally, Jambo House is home to Boma and Jiko, which are both extremely gluten-free friendly restaurants.  Jambo House has standard rooms, club-level rooms, studios, and 1 and 2-bedroom villas.

Jambo House Room Descriptions:

Standard Room: These 344 square foot rooms are on the first four floors of the resort. They offer a number of bedding combinations: 2 queen beds, 1 queen bed and 2 bunk beds, and 1 king and a daybed. There are 3 types of views: Standard (parking lot or obstructed views of pool or savanna), Pool View, Savanna View, and Arusha View. The most expensive are the Arusha View rooms, which overlook the main savanna.

Club-level, Standard Room: This category has you in a standard room with an Arusha View, and access to a club on the top floor of the Lodge that offers a continental breakfast, snacks, and hot offerings in the evening. This club does offer gluten-free options all day long. You simply call the dining line, and let them know what you would like in the club.

Club-level Suites: These suites sleep either 6 or 8 people, but do not offer amenities like the villas do. These suites do have savanna views, and have access to the club-level lounge.

Villas: Jambo House offers villas similar to Kidani, except with two extra categories: value and concierge-level. The value villas are smaller than the typical villas, and a little less expensive, while the concierge villas have club-level access.

Kidani Village was built as a Disney Vacation Club resort, and houses studios, 1-and-2 bedroom units, and 3-bedroom Grand Villas. Kidani Village is also home to Sanaa, a table-service restaurant, and a great pool complex. There is a child’s water play area at the Kidani Pool. If you have a son or daughter who loves the water, and you don’t bother much with quick-service dining, Kidani is a great option.

Kidani Village Room Descriptions:

Studio: At 366-square feet, up to four people can sleep in a studio. This room has a queen-size bed, a full-size sleeper sofa, wet bar, small refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. A private balcony offers either a standard view, or a savanna view at an extra cost.

One-bedroom Villa: At 807-square feet, this villa sleeps up to 5 people. The master bedroom has a king-size bed, and the bathroom features a Jacuzzi tub. There is a sleeper sofa and chair in the living area, and also an additional full bathroom off of the living room. You can cook meals in the kitchen, and there is also a washer/dryer in the unit. The full kitchen includes: coffee maker, pots and pans, microwave, toaster, stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, silverware, and plates, bowls, and glassware. There is a private balcony which can come with a standard view, or a savanna view, at an extra cost.

Two-bedroom Villa: At 1,173 square-feet, it sleeps up to 9 people, and includes all of the amenities of a one-bedroom villa, with an additional bedroom with two queen beds. Some of the two-bedroom villas are a lock-off, meaning they are a studio and a 1-bedroom combined.

Three-bedroom Grand Villa: This is a 2-level villa, and at 2,201 square feet, this unit sleeps 12 people. There is a master suite with a whirlpool tub, plus two more bedrooms with 2 queen-sized beds each. There are 4 bathrooms total, and 2 sleeper sofas in the unit. Grand villas have a balcony offering a savanna view.

Those staying on either side can utilize the facilities at both Kidani Village and Jambo House. I tend to recommend Jambo more than Kidani, mainly because more of the dining establishments are located on this side.

I would venture to say that Animal Kingdom Lodge has the most options for the gluten-free guest, compared to other resorts at Disney World.  

The Mara is Animal Kingdom Lodge’s quick-service restaurant. They have plenty of gluten-free options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For breakfast, you can order the Bounty Platter with gluten free Mickey waffles, the African Breakfast Platter, Bobotie Platter, or Mickey waffles with bacon or sausage.  We especially love their gluten free Mickey waffles, which are some of the best on Disney property.  

For lunch, gluten free options include, but are not limited to, the amazing African Stew, gluten free flatbreads, allergy friendly chicken tenders, several salads, and the Angus cheeseburger.  Gluten free dessert options include Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC mini brownie cupcakes, gluten free zebra domes, and allergy-friendly brownies and chocolate chip cookies. You can read my reviews of The Mara, and view their allergy-friendly menus here.  

Boma is Jambo House’s 1-credit table service restaurant. I had never eaten here until this past year, and I am so happy we finally decided to try it. Boma is a buffet-style restaurant with many naturally gluten-free items. My favorites are the beef striploin and the African pap, which is a cornmeal-based side. Most of the time all of the soups are gluten free, or at least three out of the four. I really enjoyed the sausage & lentil soup. 

Even the bobotie at Boma is now gluten free, because they have removed the bread!  Before I was diagnosed with celiac, one of my favorite dishes at Boma was the bobotie, so I was so excited to try their new gluten free version a couple of weeks ago.  It was just as good as I remembered!  You can read my dinner review of Boma here.  Boma has been one of my family's favorite restaurants at Disney for dinner since we first tried it over 10 years ago.  

The best part of a gluten-free meal at Boma is dessert. Many of their desserts are naturally gluten free and the chef will make gluten-free Zebra domes as well, and present it all on a beautiful, cross-contamination-free platter.

This past summer, I went to Boma for breakfast for the first time since my celiac diagnosis.  Their gluten free Mickey waffles served with bananas foster are absolutely amazing, and they also have a delicious pecan praline sauce as well.  You can read my breakfast review of Boma here.  

Jiko is Animal Kingdom Lodge’s signature dining restaurant, and it is located across the hall from Boma. If you are using the Disney Dining Plan, Jiko is two table-service credits.  The food is rich, and the service phenomenal. They have a gluten-free menu which changes seasonally, featuring gluten-free appetizers, entrees and desserts. I have always enjoyed the Taste of Africa sampler appetizer, which is a selection of dips and lentil pappadam.  Every time I have visited Jiko, I have always had the oak-grilled filet mignon as my entrée. It comes with a red-wine reduction, potatoes and vegetables. Other entrees include prawns, lamb loin, duck breast, guinea hen, and braised beef short ribs. For dessert, the usual offerings are a flourless chocolate cake, crème brulee, and panna cotta. I have always indulged in the crème brulee.  You can read my review of Jiko here.  

Sanaa is the one table-service credit African-Indian fusion restaurant at Kidani Village. One of the best things for a gluten-free diner here is the Indian-style bread service, which comes with gluten-free naan or falafel chips.  It can be ordered with three or nine accompaniments, with different flavors and spices. It’s a great way to try new flavor profiles. Gluten-free soups and salads are available as well.  For entrees, there are Tandoori-style offerings, slow-cooked meats and seafood served with rice, a vegetarian sampler, and fish. There are usually three gluten-free dessert offerings: sorbet, tapioca pudding, and kulfi, an Indian-style ice cream.   

Sanaa is one of our favorite restaurants at Disney for lunch and dinner.  We always order the Indian-style bread service with their amazing gluten free naan.  My daughters love the butter chicken, which we usually order with basmati rice, and the slow-cooked short ribs.  For dessert, we never pass up the seasonal kulfi, which is a light and refreshing dessert after a big meal.  I have both lunch and dinner reviews of Sanaa on my blog, where you can view their allergy-friendly menus.    

Staying and dining at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for the gluten-free guest is a fun adventure, and with all of the dining options available, you will certainly not go hungry, nor will you get bored having to eat the same type of meal every day.

Boma, Sanaa, and The Mara are featured in My Favorite Table Service Restaurants and My Disney Top 10 Quick Service blog posts.  They are some of my favorite restaurants on Disney property, and if we didn't live in Orlando, the Animal Kingdom Lodge would be one of my top picks for a Disney resort.    

Dana is a Disney fan with Celiac disease. She is also a travel agent for Magical Moments Vacations, Authorized Disney Vacation Planners. She specializes in gluten-free travel, and can help you book a perfect gluten-free Disney vacation. Her services are 100% free to you - you pay the same price you would if you booked directly with Disney, but when you book with Dana, you get one-on-one help from a frequent Disney visitor who knows the ins and outs of gluten-free dining at Disney World. To learn more about Dana and stay up-to-date on Disney specials, like her Facebook page, or you can request a free, no-obligation quote here.  

Dana Zificsak, Agent
Magical Moments Vacations
(484) 886-9225