Tag Archives: gluten-free

Gluten-Free: Legoland California

We have been on break from Preschool Playdates for Spring vacation.  We will start up our Playdate recaps again next week when I share all the fun we are having today as we celebrate Ireland.  This whole month is Irish-American Heritage month…so even if you are a little late to catch the St. Patrick’s Day theme, you can celebrate the Irish all month long.

Last week, I showed you how we did gluten-free at Disney California Adventure Park.  Today I am going to share the second part of our California trip in Carlsbad, CA.

We have a Lego problem at our house…as I imagine happens to many families who have children that are constantly playing with these little building blocks, they hardly ever turn down the opportunity to play with Legos.  A whole park full of Legos and Lego-themed activities?? YES, PLEASE!!  Every year we go, at least one child asks when we are going to move in…

Anyway, I digress.  Here was another park that went above and beyond to assuage my anxieties over the phone before we visited the first time.  After a successful first trip, by which I mean we could feed our children in the park without having anyone get sick, we have made it a regular stop on our visits to Southern California.

The third year we went back, we were also able to stay and enjoy the Legoland Hotel.  They have the same policy as the Disney parks: the head chef will come out and talk to us.  They listen to what our food allergies are, take us on the tour of the buffet to show us what is and isn’t safe for our family, and then they can also prepare gluten-free items that are not out on the buffet.  For breakfast, the extra gluten-free items are muffins and gluten-free bread; for dinner it is macaroni-and-cheese and brownies.

Even with the items that are prepared in the kitchen, there is plenty to eat out on the buffet.  We get up early enough that I was able to take pictures of breakfast choices…dinner is too crazy, and I am too self-conscious to run around with my phone snapping photos when it’s busy.  Since there are no photos, I’ll tell you that at dinner there are plenty of gluten-free protein, grain, and vegetable items to choose from – you will not leave hungry anytime you eat at the hotel buffet.

It just so happens that one of our favorite areas to hang out also has all the gluten-free food available restaurants we like.  Castle Hill is home to Castle Burgers, where they will do gluten-free hamburger buns, Knight’s Smokehouse BBQ that has salads and GF meats and sides, and Granny’s Apple Fries, hands-down our favorite snack pretty much anywhere on earth.

(See a map of the resort HERE)

Although we have never eaten there, there is a salad and sandwich restaurant where we might be able to eat at Pirate Shores.  We are usually in that area at the end of the day getting wet, so it has never been on our lunch stop.  The other place we have gotten food that is safe and yummy is at Wok N’ Bowl Raman, which used to be part of Duplo Funtown. That part of the park has been redesigned and updated to be the Lego Friends Heartlake City.

Although we couldn’t stay as long as we usually do this year (only one day of apple fries – boo hoo!), we had an awesome time at the park and at the hotel. They do offer different hotel pricing for peak times and off-times, so go if you can swing it!! The themed rooms are amazing (we may or may not have gotten a sneak peek at the new Friends room – squee!), the play area is every Lego aficionados dream – parent and child alike can be found building to their heart’s content.

So here is a visual tour of some of the food we enjoyed while we were on our Legoland California trip.



Gluten-free items on the children’s buffet: sausage, tater tots, fruit This bar is just the right height for a child to serve themselves.


The oatmeal is gluten-free. Potentially, the grits may be – if you eat grits, you can confirm with the chef.


Hot cereal fixings on the right; yummy lox and all the fixings on the left: lox, tomatoes, lemon, capers, onions, hard boiled eggs, cream cheese – Oh My Yum!!


Fresh Mango and Berry smoothies are blended up every morning.


Breakfast potatoes and vegetable selections are gluten-free.

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Omelet and egg station – made to order!



Fresh fruit and gluten-free fruit snack options.


lucy’s gluten-free cookies!!!


Fresh apples


Potato chips

http://Gluten-free gummy fruit snacksIMG_4943



Salad, vegetable fries, and corn-on-the-cob. In all fairness, I didn’t ask about the vegetable fries – check first if you have celiac disease!! Mine is just a sensitivity after eating gluten-free for the last 8 years so that the Sweet Peas don’t feel isolated or alone in their allergy.


Gluten-free hamburger+hamburger bun; fries are cooked in a dedicated fryer



Macaroni-and-cheese – Puma declares that this is the best mac-n-cheese in the world.

Gluten-Free: Disney California Adventure Park

Our older Sweet Peas got to dance at Disney California Adventure on March 5th with their dance school, Talent Factory based in Tempe, Arizona. It is always such a great day for our family.  We go in early and stay as late as the collective Sweet Peas can handle. Sometimes we close down the park; this year they were toast by 8:00 pm.  Then again, they rode more rides than ever before, so they were definitely tired out!!

The first time we did this “field trip” with their dance school, I was freaking out about feeding our gluten-free children at the park.  What could they eat? Where could they eat? Wouldn’t the opportunity for cross-contamination be theme-park proportioned?!?

Instead of continuing to freak out, I made a phone call to the park. After a few minutes on the phone with one of the park’s dining reservations specialist, my mama bear was able to calm down.

1.) You can bring your own snacks.

2.) There are gluten-free dining options in the parks.

3.) A chef will come out and personally take your order and prepare the food themselves. They will give you a run down of the menu items that suit your allergy. (They have been able to accommodate gluten, dairy, and nut allergies for our family.) They take care to avoid cross-contamination.

4.) Our children have never gotten sick after spending a day in the park and eating at Disney restaurants.

In the past, we have enjoyed Ariel’s Grotto and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta (overviews HERE). An annual family favorite is Wine Country Trattoria. We first ate there as part of the World of Color ticket; and have returned for lunch even when we don’t have to eat there for the Color show.


Image Source: Disney.disney.go.com

This is the first year when our server took our order and we never saw the chef. Nonetheless, she was versed in the gluten-free menu, took our order, and adjusted it accordingly so that our gluten-free kids only ate gluten-free foods.  They also have amazing gluten-free rolls!! Puma and Night Owl ate them heartily!


My Cuattro Pomodoro with micro-greens and gluten-free spaghetti


Puma’s penne pasta with butter and shaved parmesan, and one of the amazing gluten-free rolls


NIght Owl had the bolognese with gluten-free spaghetti and shaved parmesan

Another “safe’ place for gluten-free families to get some snacks is Mortimer’s Market.  They feature several different options for fresh fruits and vegetables, and they also offer hummus. There are no gluten-free crackers in the hummus pack, but you could dip the carrots and celery in the hummus, or BYOGFC 😉


Say hello to Khanh for us – he was very nice and knew lots of Disney trivia!!


Night Owl with his favorite – red delicious apples!! We asked – a lot of the produce is locally sourced – yeah, Disney!!


Fruit is naturally gluten-free: this case had watermelon, mango, and pineapple on ice. So refreshing on a hot day!


More good options: carrots+celery, hummus, pickles, grapes, apples+caramel

We continue to be impressed with the amount of options and the level of consideration offered to families that travel in spite of their food allergies. I generally have anxiety about traveling with our family, and we pack A TON of snacks for the car/hotel because God-forbid we get stranded somewhere, without a place to feed the sweet peas! (I’m kind of kidding, but I’m not – my allergy-mama tribe feels me, right?)

It is nice to just enjoy the park and not be completely obsessed or over-anxious about all the ways they might get sick from accidental ingestion or cross-contamination.  It’s safe to say that we will continue to participate in this trip and enjoy our fun-day at the park!

We will see what next year will bring – we found out that Otter loves roller-coasters…maybe she will be tall enough to try out some Disney screamers next year!! And then God only knows how late we will be staying in 2017 😉

For more gluten-free Disney 411 check out these posts:

TOP 10 Gluten-Free Options from Chip and Co. blog

Eating Gluten-Free in Disneyland from the Disney Food Blog


LODGING: On a side-note, we stayed at the Embassy Suites Anaheim South. They offer complimentary breakfast every morning…our kiddos enjoyed krispy rice cereal, eggs, oatmeal, omelettes, breakfast potatoes, fresh fruit and lots of bacon!! They even offered almond milk, although none of our kiddos drink it, if I had read the menu under “beverages” I could have had some (decaf!) coffee.

Here is a sample of their children’s grill menu available for lunch or dinner. We tried both the gluten-free pizza and the gluten-free pasta – both were good. They don’t have gluten-free hamburger or hot dog buns, so Night Owl had his hot dogs without buns both evenings. I watched him for a reaction (sometimes hot dogs have fillers even when the menu says “all beef”) but he didn’t have a reaction. Phew!


Tuesday Tip: Favorite Mac+Cheese Recipe

I love it when our Sweet Peas get involved in the kitchen and meal planning.  Night Owl’s reading skills have exploded over the last few months. I found myself sitting with him at the kitchen table on Saturday night, reading through Catherine McCord’s Weelicious cookbook, definitely one of our favorites.


Next to a chicken finger recipe he wants to try, we found THIS gem of a recipe. At it’s most basic, it’s a four-ingredient dish, and it doesn’t require any extra prep* outside of measuring the ingredients.

What’s to love:

  • It’s easy to make gluten-free and vegetarian by substituting ingredients
  • It takes 35 minutes from start to finish
  • Easy clean-up: the rice cooker container + 3 measuring cups
  • It’s a crowd pleaser!
  • A child can prep it by themselves and proudly tell the family, “I made dinner!”

How we made it work for our family:

  • We used gluten-free pasta – the Trader Joe’s penne pasta held up really well and also reheated well
  • We used a vegetable broth instead of the beef broth called for in the recipe
  • We cut the salt
  • We subbed whole milk for rice milk
  • We did actually use a real shredded cheese mix from Costco 🙂

Night Owl and I made it on Saturday evening, and served it with a side of 4-bean chili (another fave Weelicious recipe HERE) that I defrosted from the freezer. YUM!!!

I decided to try it again on Sunday to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.  Yes, it’s a legitimate win!! We are adding this to our roster of regulars.

As a bonus, I was able to steam broccoli to serve on the side in the steamer portion of the rice cooker while the mac+cheese recipe was cooking. It didn’t get overly cooked since there is not a lot of water to convert to steam in the cooking process – most of it was absorbed by the pasta in the cooker.

I hope you and your Sweet Peas will enjoy this recipe as much as we did! Leave me a comment and let me know if you try it, and if you made any adjustments that worked for your family!

*P.S. We usually make our own vegetable broth…if you make your own broth, then that would be a prep step! Since I was too impatient to defrost a freezer bag of veggie broth, we used store-bought this time.  Next time we make this, I will pull a bag of broth out of the freezer in the morning 🙂

Tuesday Tips: Allergen-Free Cupcake Recipe

I found this recipe in a Martha Stewart cookbook – it was so yummy I wanted to share it with you. The recipe is dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and soy-free.  We adjusted it to be gluten-free for us. Kiddos loved them – they disappeared.

We made them without cocoa powder because I didn’t have it with me, and we substituted the white flour for a GF Sweet Baking mix from Gluten Free Creations Bakery & Cafe. We also used apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar…a little tip from the DC cupcakes show to make them a little sweeter  To top them off, we made a buttercream frosting colored with raspberry and strawberry juice.

Find the recipe here:


Recipe from the “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes,” book, featuring 175 ideas for every occasion


Our vanilla version of the Allergen-Free Chocolate Cupcake recipe shared on the Martha Stewart Show by Divvies Bakery in 2008


We squeezed the juice from a handful of raspberries and two strawberries using a cheesecloth to make a natural food coloring.


Food Network “Quick Vanilla Buttercream” recipe colored pink with raspberry and strawberry juice.


Finished product…ultimate compliment was having someone ask which bakery I bought them at, even with a less-than-perfect “signature swirl” *wink*

Tuesday Tips: Heart-shaped Apple Snacks

Does anyone else out there like to shake it up a little and keep things “fresh” for their Sweet Peas?  I do.  However, our fun has to be fast and easy.  Here is a fun way we have been enjoying apples.

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I have been using a heart-shaped cookie cutter from William-Sonoma to make these fun mini-hearts for our kiddos to snack on.  Served fresh, you can pair them with spreads (our favorite is the Cocoa Almond spread from Trader Joe’s), dips, or cheese.

Here is how we do it.  I included the ruler size because I am a doubter.  When someone writes a recipe or makes a video and tells me they used 1/4″ slices, I want to know if they are guessing, or they really mean it.  No guesswork involved for our friends:

First, slice an apple into 1/4″ rounds.  BLOG tt apples.3

The diameter of the apples that yielded double hearts from one slice were 3 and 3/8 inches in diameter.  These were Jonagolds that we bought from Costco.BLOG tt apples.2

Now that we have the OCD part out of the way, here comes the fun stuff 🙂  The how-to is under the pictures, in the captions.

Make star-centered hearts by centering the shape cutter on the apple.

Make star-centered hearts by centering the shape cutter on the apple.

To get two hearts out of the same round, start by placing the wedge of the shape cutter over the stem of the apple.

To get two hearts out of the same round, start by placing the wedge of the shape cutter over the stem of the apple.

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Then move the shape up and cut your second heart.

You can serve them plain, or with a spread, dip or cheese:

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Or, you can add cinnamon and sugar and serve them raw:

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Night Owl’s favorite way is to have “hot apples” – he loves them warm out of the oven 🙂

Charger was my big helper on picture day - he helped brush them with melted butter, and then we sprinkled them with our cinnamon-xylitol blend.

Charger was my big helper on picture day – he helped brush them with melted butter, and then we sprinkled them with our cinnamon-xylitol blend.

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These were baked for 10 minutes in our 350 Fahrenheit convection oven.

From start to finish, the raw version takes about ten minutes.  The hot apples took about 30 minutes to prep with little hands help, and then 10 minutes in the over.  We snacked on the scrap edges while we were prepping, and saved them to munch on throughout the morning.

I think this kind of project is perfect for Sweet Peas who want to help in the kitchen, especially on big cooking days like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter.  It’s enough for them to really help, without taking a chance at inadvertently having one of your major dishes altered in a way that may test your gentleness when you are feeling “perfect” pressure.

It also makes a delightful Sunday morning treat.  The “hot apple” version is great for cooler weather.  I can see us doing this with different shapes as the seasons change.  Why buy guilty gummy treats infused with chemicals and questionable ingredients when you can turn apple slices into fun shapes?  Who says that fresh can’t be fun??

As you may have noticed, this treat is also gluten-free.  I can see us making these to take along when we go out to dinner, party, etc., and we want to ensure our kiddos get a “safe”, yummy treat.  It’s simple enough that we could bring enough to share, and also budget-friendly so we could do so without straining the wallet.

I hope you enjoy making these with your Sweet Peas.  Leave us a comment and let us know how you added your own moxie to the idea 🙂

Tuesday Tips: How to Gluten-Free Road Trip

How does a Gluten-Free family pack for a road trip?

Actually, there is a little more…our allergy list looks like this: gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt), egg, cane sugar, peanuts, soy, coconut, hazelnut, and watermelon.

People who are not familiar with allergies, or who are new to allergen-aware living look at that list and freak out! What do you eat? How do you manage?  Do you eat out? Can you leave the house?

When I first learned about all the foods that send our two eldest children over the edge, I freaked out, too.  I cried.  I didn’t think we would ever eat out or go on vacation again.

Then I got over it and did what I do best: I got busy.  I read everything I could find.  I scoured the stores for gluten-free (GF) sections.  I got good at reading labels and all the unfamiliar ways those foods are listed (more on that another day).  We tried all the brands at least once and pared down the selection to a few favorites.  (We are so blessed to live in a day and age where there is so much selection…when my brother presented with a gluten-allergy twenty years ago my mom had almost zero to choose from.)

I also came to the realization that our list was only 8 items long.  That left us about 2000 foods that we can eat, and we have barely scratched the surface when I think about what our kiddos eat on a regular basis…we still have a lot of food exploring to do!!

How do we plan for a road trip?

First, we usually try to stay at hotels that have a kitchenette.  With our family our size, the kind of accommodation we need for space usually includes this feature.  This allows me to make pasta for the kiddos to take along if we are eating out.  I can also bake cookies if we are going to visit family or friends who are not familiar with our sensitivities.  When we visit, we usually bring along fruit, cheese and cookies, as well as a bag of pasta to cook there.  This way I know our kiddos are going to at the very least, eat protein, starch, and fruit, and have a “safe” dessert.  I can live with that as a meal on vacation.

In the case where we are staying at a venue without a kitchenette, I call ahead about two weeks before our visit.  I find out what kind of accommodations they make, or are willing to make, for our family.

For the times we are going to eat out (after all, vacation from the kitchen counts, right?) I also scour the Internet to find out where the “safe” restaurants are.  We know we can count on a few of them to be good for families with allergies.  On out list are P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Pei Wei Asian Diner, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, and Chick-Fil-A.  I also look for Mexican restaurants – generally safe; as well as Thai and Chinese restaurants…as long as we stay away from the soy sauce, or ask if they have gluten-free soy sauce, we are okay.

The other thing I search for are our top 3 grocery stores: Sprouts, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.  Since we travel to major metropolitan areas for the most part, we can generally find two out of three.  We bring consumables for about 3 days, stop for soft fruits upon arrival, and we plan for a store stock-up on Day 3 or Day 4 of our trip.  On longer trips, we find that we are hitting the grocery stores about every 4 days.

In the days before the trip, there are grocery store runs to all 3 stores in town.  I bake cookies the day before we leave, and I store it in daily rations.  This trip, we also decided to try a recipe from Weelicious…we made some fruit leather that tastes and smells A.Maz.Ing.

Chocolate Chip Cookies using 1-2-3 Gluten-Free Mix and Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Chip Cookies using 1-2-3 Gluten-Free Mix and Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

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Strawberries + Honey = Amazing
Puma enjoyed the puree, and Otter was looking for more “smoothie” after we gave her a taste of the puree – will definitely be making this again!

We pack in reusable shopping bags and a soft cooler that we can use when we go shopping at our destination.
Dry Goods
GF cereals
A couple of bags of GF pasta
A couple of boxes of GF cookie mix
Hardy fruits: apples, oranges, green bananas (we buy them green to allow them to resist bruising and ripen on the road)
GF Crackers
GF Pretzels
That’s It Fruit Bars (http://www.thatsitfruit.com/)
Pure Brownie Bars & Cherry Bars (http://thepurebar.com/)

Dry foods that travel well enough :)

The way we ensure some fruits get into the kiddos on the road - dry all the way!

The way we ensure some fruits get into the kiddos on the road – plus the token brownie bar 🙂

Carrot Sticks
GF Chocolate Chips
GF Chocolate Chip Cookies
Flax seed

Liquid vitamins, probiotics, cookies! fruit leather, yogurt, nectarine, cheese and hummus are under the ice pack

Liquid vitamins, probiotics, cookies! fruit leather, yogurt, nectarine, cheese and hummus are under the ice pack

The kiddos snack on the dry cereal in the car.  We can also use it when we hit the breakfast bar at hotels – we have yet to go to a hotel where I feel at ease that they take cross-contamination precautions in the big breakfast bar areas.

Snacking on the road is usually a smorgasbord.  Everybody picks three things to put in their snack bag, and this is what they snack on until we take a break and re-fill if necessary.

A mix of Vera Bradley, PBKids, and Itsy Ritzy.  Since switching over to reusable containers we hardly ever use plastic baggies - don't miss them at all!

A mix of Vera Bradley, PBKids, and Itsy Ritzy. Since switching over to reusable containers we hardly ever use plastic baggies – don’t miss them at all!

When we get where we are staying, we hit a grocery store and purchase the softer fruits that do not travel well: strawberries, grapes, mangoes and peaches for our family.

Now we have a full compliment of what our family would call “convenience” foods: single serving sizes, or easy to wash and cut when we are ready to prep snacks for the day.

Why go through all this “trouble”…because it is so worth it when we get there and see this…pure, unbridled joy with not a care in the world 🙂

Puma and Night Owl can barely contain their excitement when we arrive at our destination - best.feeling.ever

Puma and Night Owl can barely contain their excitement when we arrive at our destination – best.feeling.ever

P.S. Hello, Bernice!  We got to meet a SPB/SPF fan out on our shopping trip on Sunday – so lovely to meet you! Thank you for being a devoted reader and an awesome mama yourself 🙂

Crafty Garden Mama