Plant Based (Vegan) in Disney World (and Universal Studios)!

pizap.com14132139386231I just came back from a week in Orlando Florida, visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios and LegoLand. It was a blast!

Being plant based (vegan), I had done some research on what were some good places to eat and snacks to try, and I can say that I was not disappointed! I wanted to share with everyone some of the best snacks and places to eat while on your own trip!

Magic Kingdom

All the Disney parks have Mickey Soft Pretzels, if you are hungry and need something quick you are sure to find these! I had one for a late morning snack/lunch, and I got some mustard to dip it in, it was pretty good.

10710851_10152534236900326_7330502295980303420_nIn the all new Fantasyland there is a small area next to the new ‘Be Our Guest’ Restaurant that looks like the little town that Belle is from in Beauty and the beast. There is a cute shop and Gaston’s Tavern. We popped in there for a quick snack and I was pleasantly surprised. There was a lot of offerings for vegetarians, and for the vegans they had a fruit plate, a veggie plate with hummus, and the highlight was La Fou’s Brew. This ridiculous concoction of frozen apple juice, sweetened with a toasted marshmallow syrup and topped with mango foam was AMAZING! It was tasty, sweet, and beat the heat! Even came in a cute souvenir mug :) (Update: I have confirmed that the drink is dairy free and ingredients lists appear to not have animal products, however, ‘natural flavors’ are listed and I cannot confirm that they are vegan, I personally feel fine drinking it, but if you are uber sensitive to making 100% sure your consuming vegan products you may not want to try this)

In Tomorrowland there is Ray’s Cosmic Starlight Cafe. There is a section for sandwiches and salads where you are sure to find something to eat, but I highly recommend going over to the Burger area and getting a veggie burger and fries. It was SO YUMMY! They have a toppings bar for you to add whatever you want, I had mustard, pickles and sauteed onions. Also, it was a good deal, about 9 dollars got you a lot of food!

I wanted so badly to try the Dole Whip, as it was recommended by many other vegan friends, but the line was an hour long, no joke! Everyone, vegan and non vegan, were lined up to try it. Next time I will have to go there straight away!

Epcot Center

1621982_10152536347755326_362402086891552208_nThe Land was one area of Epcot I was looking forward to the most. The educational tour of the sustainable farming and research that Epcot is a part of was amazing. And better yet we then got to eat some of these foods! The Sunshine Seasons restaurant had lots of options to choose from. There was a grilled veggie pita sandwich, a selection of salads (many had cheese which you could easily ask for without) and there was an Asian noodle area, although all the dishes were served with rice not noodles! The Asian section also had a grab and go area where you could get vegetable fresh rolls, veggie sushi, seaweed salad etc. The highlight for me was the Tamarind Vegan ‘beef’. I should have asked what it was made out of, but I was so hungry I didn’t care. It was so delicious and again inexpensive (editors note: when I say ‘inexpensive’ I mean for Disney standards, it was still upwards of 10 dollars for one dish at lunch!) for how filled up I felt afterwards.

10659417_10152536829055326_2266905741063008077_nWe were lucky to have booked our trip during the annual Food and Wine Festival too, so there were plenty of places to stop for quick bites and tastes all throughout the World Showcase. The very first food booth we came across was called Terra, and it was ALL VEGAN. Not only was this all vegan but it was amazing, even the non vegans in my group were loving the dishes we tried. First up was the crabless crab cake, served with a spicy sauce and slaw. I would eat it over a real crab cake any day, it was unbelievably delicious! Next up was the chocolate and blood orange cupcake with chocolate tofu frosting. I’m not a big fan of orange flavor in my food, but this was perfect and subtle, and you would never know it was a ‘vegan’ cupcake, it was moist and the frosting, wow! Lastly, to drink we had fresh watermelon juice. I have no words for how much I love this beverage. It was literally just watermelon juice, nothing else, and it may be fighting for the number one spot on what I ate on this vacation. I am about to dig the juicer up out of the basement and start juicing watermelons all the time!

There were plenty other delicious things to eat, all of the menus were marked with vegetarian choices, and almost every place had something for the vegetarians. It was a little harder for vegans, as many of the vegetarian dishes had cheese or dairy in them. However, not impossible. At Disney they were very accommodating when you told them you were vegan.

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood studios, like Magic Kingdom, had snack stands all over with the soft pretzels, popcorn, even funnel cakes. Although not the healthiest options, they were vegan. We didn’t realize how busy the parks would be and failed to make reservations at a restaurant for dinner, so we went to the marketplace on Sunset Boulevard, near the Tower of Terror. I found a delicious veggie black bean burger, topped with a spicy sauce and guacamole, and serve with fries. Very yummy, about 10 dollars and I could hardly finish it, it was so big, bigger than the regular beef burgers. There were also places to get fresh fruit and lemonade, which was lovely on such an excruciatingly hot day! Hollywood Studios is a smaller park, it seemed to me that unless you went to one of the restaurants, the black bean burger or a plain salad were your only options for a vegan meal, outside of snacks like fruit, popcorn and soft pretzels.

Universal Studios – Wizarding World of Harry potter: Diagon Alley 

I am only going to talk about Diagon Alley, because that’s were we ate and spent 90% of our day. I would like to assume that throughout the park there are things to eat for vegans, but I can tell you right off the bat Universal was not nearly as friendly and aware of vegan diets as Disney Parks are. When I told the person I was ordering from that I was vegan she told me that she had no idea what that meant! That part aside, we did enjoy a wonderful day. We ate lunch AND dinner at the Leaky Cauldron. There were little to no vegan friendly options. At lunch I shared the Ploughman’s Platter (serves 2) with my friend, and it was tasty. A salad of greens with a zesty mustardy vinaigrette, pickles, a piece of bread, a beet and apple salad, as well as two kinds of cheese, scotch eggs (which I gave to my husband) and a mustard aioli (made with real mayo). I avoided the cheeses and the mustard, and was satisfied with the rest of the platter. At dinner they told me they had a vegetable platter that was not on the menu, and it was salad and veggies, so I ate it, and it was good, but nothing special.

10485310_10152542256225326_7359561796129786746_nEven though I wasn’t thrilled with the food options, the MOST DELICIOUS thing I had on the trip was at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and that was the BUTTERBEER! It is vegan and non alcoholic, and I cannot gush about how amazing this stuff was enough. I was worried it was going to be sickeningly sweet, but it wasn’t it was just perfect. It tasted a bit like cream soda, and the butterscotch tasting foamy topping was what made it. I had about three of them, I could have had more, and I went into withdrawal from it as soon as we left the park. I plan on finding as many copycat recipes as I can to try to recreate this nectar of the gods! (Update: Many sources are conflicting as to whether or not butterbeer is vegan. Some say it is, some say it isn’t, some say it is only dairy free, but not necessarily vegan. As of today, my research shows that Universal has yet to provide a definitive answer to anyone yet.)

Those were the vegan highlights of the trip. I will say that we also went to downtown Disney and ate at T-REX. When I first looked at the menu I was sad that I would probably end up eating another plain salad for lunch, but then I decided to just ask the waitress, and it turns out they had a veggie burger available that is not on the menu, It was quite tasty and served with guacamole. So, I strongly urge you to speak up and ask the waitstaff if there is anything else for vegans like a veggie burger, because I realized that at Disney, there usually is! Also, we realized that although they check your bags at all the parks, they were not strict about bringing in outside food and drinks, so everyday we packed some apples, bananas, veggie sticks, nuts and water bottles. We probably saved hundreds of dollars by filling up our water bottles at the water fountains all over the park and having healthy snack options on hand.

I hope this helps you plan your next trip! Enjoy!

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October 13, 2014 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

Why I Went Vegan

downloadMy whole life I struggled with eating meat. Whether I thought it was the taste, the texture, the smell, the fact that I was eating a once living being, it always bothered me to some degree. But I ate it, sometimes it was because I was led to believe it was good for me, or forced by my family to eat it (hey that’s what we did in the 80s, I was a card carrying member of the clean plate club!).

As I got older I got very picky about the meat I did eat. At first it was just beef or chicken that was skinless and boneless, as far away from resembling that it had ever been a living thing.

This year, I decided to become a vegetarian. I already ate very little meat and drank very little milk, but oh was I hard pressed to give up cheese and eggs. I mean I got them from reputable companies that touted free range and grass fed animals that were humanely raised.

So, I went vegetarian, no real issue there, except for time I forgot that I went vegetarian and ate a BLT (oops). As I continued to search for vegetarian friendly recipes and lifestyle I came across more and more information on what animal products do to the body. I also learned more about factory farming and how those free range grass fed touting companies were not what we thought they were (some are, but many are not). I watched documentaries and undercover footage of factory farms, even dairy farms, where the milk and cheese was coming from. What happened to the male chickens born at hatcheries etc. It was horrifying to say the least. Many times I sat in front of my computer in tears and ready to throw up from the revelations laid out before me.

I also watched the documentary Forks over Knives and learned so much about a plant based diet, the health benefits, and the detriments of animal products. All of these experiences were eye opening and life changing. As a self proclaimed animal lover I could not continue to live my life counter intuitive to my beliefs. So i chose to go vegan.

I now consider myself a vegan. Is it hard sometimes to say no to that cheese pizza? Yes, sometimes it is, but then I remind myself of how that cheese got here. The harm to the animal and the environment, and the potential harm to my body if I consumed it. Its not hard then to walk away from the decadent strawberry shortcake in the office. (although that would not be so hard to make into a vegan version!).

I have found so many incredibly delicious recipes, supportive friends and great resources and products to keep me on this path. I do not want to go into the specifics of factory farming and how animal products harm the body and the environment, there is PLENTY of information out there, just check out my Pinterest board or Google factory farms, and check out Forks Over Knives. 

Moving forward I pledge to only share delicious vegan recipes here, and maybe revamp some of the old ones to fit this new life.

Bon Apetit!

September 15, 2014 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

Homemade Marshmallows

10173759_10152138040480326_749504309667395726_nRecently my boss brought in some homemade marshmallows to the office. They were amazing, fluffy, white, sweet puffs of deliciousness. I was inspired to make them myself as I love marshmallow everything! I used Alton Browns Marshmallow recipe and they turned out great. I did, however, run out of granulated sugar and compensated by adding some extra corn syrup. I think this made them feel and taste a lot more like what you would expect a marshmallow to be if you bought a big bag of them in a store. Not bad at all, however, the home made ones I was after were a tad more fluffy, so next time I will have plenty of sugar on hand!

10013982_10152138035905326_5647854166855334660_nI won’t go into the details of the recipe here, but it was fairly simple. It was my first foray into candy making and I was nervous. I will tell you, if you are also new to this, you really do need a candy thermometer (I got one at the grocery store for 3 dollars) and a stand mixer. I cant stress enough how much you will need a stand mixer. Even if you have the endurance to hold an electric hand mixer for 15 minutes straight, it would be quite a feat to do so while mixing this sticky concoction. Even my stand mixer was moving around from the viscosity in the bowl! Also, don’t expect to eat them right away! They need to cool for at least 4 hours before you can cut them out and devour them. It was hard to wait!

So, four and half hours later I have these yummy pillows of sugar. What to do with them?! Well its April, not much of a hot cocoa season anymore. But marshmallows and chocolate mmmmm…..

10150631_10152138062055326_3235906161928690389_nSo I decided to dip them in chocolate and top them with whatever I had laying around! Graham crackers? Check! Coconut? Check! So I made s’more marshmallows and coconut marshmallows and they turned out fabulous.

I simply melted a cup of semi sweet chocolate morsels in the microwave. You can use a double boiler if you want, but its soooooo much easier just to put them in a microwave safe bowl, pop that into the microwave for a minute, give it a stir, and pop it back in for another minute. Then just remove and stir until smooth. If you want to be more professional you can add shortening to the chocolate and do some fancy shmancy stuff, but I was working on the fly here!

Once chocolate is melted and smooth grab a marshmallow dip into chocolate and then dip lightly into your topping of choice – or you can just stick with plain chocolate. Let sit on a piece of parchment or a tray, plate, whatever until the chocolate hardens, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container.

Pretty easy! Enjoy!!

April 14, 2014 at 10:18 am Leave a comment

Winter Minestrone

1513974_10151948350970326_269901050_nWhat to eat on a cold snowy night? Soup! Duh! This is one of my absolute favorites, it works for everyone – it’s hearty so meat lovers won’t mind, and it’s completely vegetarian, and can easily be vegan by making sure you choose vegan products. Most importantly it’s packed with nutrition and its delicious! I like to serve this with toasted sourdough or a rosemary ciabatta roll. Also, you can chop the veggies as fine or as large as you like, I prefer a chunky soup so I tend to chunk up the veggies rather than dice them, your call!

What you need:

  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (or more to your taste! I really use like 5 but that’s a lot for some people)
  • pinch of dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes (preferably without salt added)
  • 1 quart vegetable broth/stock (you can substitute chicken broth/stock if you like)
  • 1 14-ounce can of cannelini beans
  • 1 bunch kale, center rib removed and leaves shredded
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 box of ditalini pasta, cooked
  • freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

What you do:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat (I used a large dutch oven, but any large pot will do). Add the veggies and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flake, oregano and rosemary and cook another minute. Add the can of tomatoes and the broth, and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling cover and reduce heat to low, cook for 25 minutes. While the soup is cooking, prepare the ditalini pasta according to the package. After the soup has simmered, add the beans and the kale to the soup and let it wilt. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  ( You can also add more herbs to taste at this point as well) Right before serving stir in the red wine vinegar. Serve with a sprinkle in Parmesan cheese.

January 2, 2014 at 7:33 pm Leave a comment

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes (Gluten Free)

Twitter4d76bbe_jpgSo now I have all this pumpkin pie puree…. what to do with it?! I was craving pancakes for lunch so I whipped up a batch of these yummy treats! They are made with Greek yogurt and they almost remind me of a thicker version of the breakfast crepes my boyfriend makes, which is a little denser and gooey-er than a regular pancake. I used a gluten free flour mix, but I think any type of flour would work in this recipe.

What You Need:

  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup GF All Purpose Flour
  • sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice

What You Do:

Whisk the ingredients together and scoop onto a medium to low pan that has been greased up, either with cooking spray or butter. You will want to grease your pan, these babies are sticky!  Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, i cooked two at a time.  Check with a spatula on the cooked side to be sure it’s browned before flipping. Serve with maple syrup and cinnamon!

October 10, 2013 at 11:59 am Leave a comment

Sugar & Spice Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Twitter71e0916_jpgIt’s that time of year again!!! I got three sugar pumpkins from the CSA and I’ve set about to making pumpkin puree for all the seasons recipes. I use this great recipe from Raspberry Bloom, it’s super easy and the flavor is just unbeatable, so much better than canned!

Of course I have all these scooped out seeds to deal with, so of course I’ve chosen to roast them. I don’t remember how this recipe evolved, but regardless, it’s super yummy! I love the combination of spices and sugar, and of course the dash of Worcestershire sauce just really makes them special.

I hope you enjoy them too!

What You Need:
  • 2 cups of pumpkins seeds (cleaned)
  • 2 tsps of olive oil
  • ½ tap of sea salt
  • ½ tsp of onion powder
  • ½ tap of garlic powder
  • ⅛ of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp of powdered sugar
  • ⅓ tsp of cinnamon
  • 2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees, cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray or lightly grease with some canola oil. Add all the ingredients to a bowl, see pretty easy! Stir until all the spices have been mixed in and incorporated and the seeds are coated well. Bake at 275 for about 60 minutes and voila! Let them cool before eating, especially if you’ve got little kid hands getting grabby for the delicious snack.
They will store in the refrigerator for up to a year, only three months if left in the pantry.

 

October 10, 2013 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

Spicy Husk Cherry Chutney

2809040225_31d0c5170dEvery Tuesday I venture over to our friends farm, Stout Oak Farms, a certified organic farm in Brentwood New Hampshire. We belong to their CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture). This week I picked up the last bounty of the season and discovered a pint of husk cherries. I had never had one before, I didn’t even know what they were called. I had seen them in the various farm stores but never bothered to ask about them.

They are smaller than the size of cherry tomatoes and resemble a tomatillo.  The ripe ones are a pale golden yellow. They have a hint (just a hint) of tomato, but are much sweeter. They smell like fresh strawberries, have the sweetness of grapes, and have a vaguely pineapple flavor. And a little vanilla, too. A little strange, in the way the flavor catches you off guard, but so good! Also called ground cherries or strawberry tomatoes.   After doing my research on various recipes that these little gems would taste good in I decided to make them into a chutney. Although a recipe on a husk cherry pastry caught my eye, maybe next time!

What You Need:

  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • one small onion, minced
  • half jalapeno, minced (I kept the seeds for the spice, if you don’t want it too spicy discard them before mincing)
  • 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 cup husk cherries

What You Do:

Bring sugar and water to boil in a saucepan. Allow to boil for a few minutes until it caramelizes, gets bubbly and golden brown. Add the minced onion, jalapeno and vinegar. Be careful it will bubble up at this point. Stir a little until the mixture settles, add the husk cherries. Return to a boil and allow to bubble away for 7 minutes, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely and thicken up.  You can can it at this point if you’d like or store in the refrigerator. Chilling it will allow it to thicken even more, this chutney is a tad looser than your traditional mango chutney.

You can use this the way you would a mango chutney, or use it as an accompaniment to goat cheese on a hearty cracker, or you can even mix it with cream cheese and use as a spread or dip. Yummy!!

chutney0001

October 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment

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