Keeping Keto at Disney World

mk_crystalprerover_20170201_7938321358Last week we took Isak and met my parents at Disney World for the week.  We go every January near the end and celebrate Isak’s birthday early.  It is literally my favorite week of the year.  This year, I had lots of people ask me if we were breaking our food rules for the trip.  Nope, not at all!  It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, I’m not going to lie.  Not because there were so many temptations, because at this point, temptations aren’t really a “thing” anymore.  Yay keto–cravings disappear.  It wasn’t the easiest thing to do because literally, 95% of the food found at Disney contains grains or sugar, which we avoid.  There was one night at Epcot where we each had a quarter of a gluten-free roll.  It was really good as far as gluten-free goes…but most of that stuff feels like wet sawdust in my mouth, so the texture wasn’t appealing.

The thing about staying keto at Disney is that you have to implement some preparation and research.  I did not find any acceptable snacks on the menus of any of the restaurants beforehand when I was researching, so I knew that we were going to have to keep easily portable snacks.  Also, there isn’t much in the way of breakfast food (that isn’t ridiculously overpriced), so we knew we were going to keep a bunch of compliant stuff in the fridge at the resort.  Typically I don’t eat breakfast because of the intermittent fasting (though as of this week I’ve flipped my fast over, but that’s for a later post), but when we’re walking 10-15 miles a day in the parks, I eat more often.

For the fridge and pantry in the resort, we kept: pre-cooked bacon, black forest ham, cream cheese, french onion dip, string cheese, pork rinds, and pepperoni.  If you haven’t tried pork rinds with french onion dip, you’re missing out.  Try it now.  For portable park snacks, my only requirement was that they didn’t need to be kept chilled.  I didn’t want to carry a cooler pack in the park.  We carried macadamia nuts.  Lots and lots of macadamia nuts.  I also kept a few Atkins bars in the bag, and for Isak we had single bags of nut/dried fruit mix.

Now for the fun part…the meals!

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Neither of us could remember where the turkey legs were sold at Magic Kingdom, but after asking 900 cast members, we finally got the right location: the tavern in Adventureland, across from Pirates of the Caribbean.  This was our first stop as soon as we got to the park.  Usually we fly in and wait until the following day to go to the parks; however, we were able to snag an extra day, so JR and I went as soon as we got off the Magic Express and got Isak situated in the resort with Gammy and GrandDan.  We split one turkey leg between the two of us and dipped it in a few packets of mayo.  Everything tastes better at Disney, you know.

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Breakfast on official day one: steamed heavy cream with sugar-free vanilla syrup from Starbucks at Epcot.  This is Isak’s favorite drink.  He calls it “warm chocolate,” no matter what sugar-free flavor it is.  The vanilla though…it tastes like hot-off-the-stove vanilla custard filling.  It’s delicious.  That and a handful of cashews kept him going until lunch.

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This one was my favorite table-service meal of the trip (and yes, I left the handful of fried wonton skins on–they weren’t enough to kick me out of ketosis and Epcot is always where we walk the most).  This is the Beijing Roast Duck Salad from Nine Dragons in China, in the World Showcase at Epcot.  One alteration had to be made: the hoisin sauce dressing was out because, well, hoisin sauce.  Instead, they gave me a small pitcher of the potsticker sauce, which was to die for.  Seriously, my favorite meal of the week.

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In The Seas, at Epcot, there is a restaurant called Coral Reef.  Honestly, we go here for the experience because you’re basically eating inside a giant aquarium.  In my opinion, the food is decent, but it’s not the best food ever.  I got the grilled New York strip steak with double veg instead of veg and mashed potatoes.  We had them bring out extra butter because it wasn’t nearly fatty enough.  This is where the gluten-free rolls were.  Like I said, as far as gluten-free rolls go, those were pretty good, especially when slathered with butter.  If you’re looking for that option, definitely hit up Coral Reef.  JR got the heirloom tomato salad thing here.  I gave him half of my steak and we pretty much ate off of each other’s plates.

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You can’t really tell what this is from the picture, as is frequently the case when making keto alterations, but this is a bacon cheeseburger from Cosmic Ray’s in Magic Kingdom.  They have a topping bar there where we added the mushrooms, onions, and (not pictured) some garlic ranch dressing.  It was a pretty good burger.  JR and I split the burger and…

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…the Greek salad, from the same place.  It was a pretty rockin’ Greek salad, in case you were wondering.  The chicken looks huge, but really it’s just pounded out thin.  The feta wasn’t as good as the stuff we get from Ali Baba; however, it was a decent substitute (and let’s be honest, if you don’t have a refined palate for Middle Eastern food, you won’t notice the difference).  We also put the garlic ranch on this salad.  Yeah, I really liked it.

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This was an Italian sausage without the bun from whatever that sausage company is at Disney Springs (what used to be called Downtown Disney).  The sausage was our least favorite thing of the trip.  It was just “meh.”  Those pickles were awesome though.  Seriously awesome.

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This is actually one of the meals we had at the airport in Atlanta on the way back to San Antonio.  I forget what the place was called, but it’s similar to a Chipotle-type deal.  It was a steak burrito bowl.  Why do deconstructed foods always look like a pile of stomach contents?  Regardless, it was tasty.

I didn’t remember to take pictures of all the food we ate in the parks, so here are the other items we had that I can remember:

Chili Cheese Coney without the bun from that Casey’s hot dog place on Main Street in Magic Kingdom (a delicious addition to our curbside seating for the Festival of Fantasy parade!)

Caesar salad with salmon at the Prime Time Diner in Hollywood Studios.  This restaurant was so fun!  The staff is a hoot and the decor is hilarious.  The salad was great.

If you have any questions about going keto-friendly at Disney, feel free to ask me!  Before going, I spent an hour on the phone with one of their dietary people, who helped me navigate all of the menus in order to find compliant food that wasn’t all burger-without-a-bun situations.  But really, if you’re only going to try one thing from this list, get the salad from Nine Dragons.  You won’t be disappointed.

Slow Cooker Swiss Steak (Whole30 Compliant)

Swiss Steak

I love Swiss steak; however, I haven’t tried making it since we started on our Whole30 turned Paleo turned Primal adventure.  There is a *little* something missing in this recipe.  Typically, Swiss Steak is made with dry sherry.  I was determined to make this Whole30 compliant, so I left that part out.  Honestly, unless you eat this all the time, you won’t notice the sherry missing.  If you include alcohol in your cooking, reduce the chicken stock by 1/4 C and add in 1/4 C of dry sherry or some sort of dry wine.  Just know that it’s not necessary.

I served it with some chopped Honey Crisp apples.  At this point, we still had a few left.  Man…those suckers are addictive!  If we have them around the house, I WILL eat them.  I guess there are worse things that I could be doing…like crack or Little Debbie snacks…but still.  It’s not totally a food-with-no-brakes for me, but it’s pretty darn close.  Anyway, the apples were really lovely with the steak.

Also, I wanted to use an affordable cut of beef for this.  Because it’s in the slow cooker, it’s a bit easier to get away with the less expensive cuts because it basically braises all day.  That is one of the many benefits of using the slow cooker: you get expensive tasting meat for cheap prices.  When you’re willing to wait for the braise, it tastes like the good stuff every time.

Slow Cooker Swiss Steak (Whole30 Compliant)

Serves 4-6

6 beef shoulder steaks (this will work with just about any cheap steak cut–the shoulder steaks are what I had on hand)

1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp dried thyme

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1 C chicken stock (if you use alcohol, use 3/4 C chicken stock and 1/4 C dry sherry or wine)

2 Tbsp tapioca starch

4 Tbsp coconut oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley

1/2 C coconut milk

 

1.- Heat heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 Tbsp coconut oil.  Add mushrooms and cook covered for 5 minutes.  Uncover and cook until browning and liquid has reduced a bit.  Place in slow cooker.

2.- Return pan to heat.  Season steaks with salt and pepper.  Add 1 Tbsp coconut oil to pan.  When hot, place steaks in pan and brown steaks on all sides.  Remove to plate and set aside.

3.- Add 2 Tbsp coconut oil to pan.  Add sliced onions, thyme, and paprika.  Stir and cook 1 minute.  Add tapioca and stir well, cooking 1 minute.  Whisk in chicken stock (and sherry, if using).  Add pan contents to slow cooker.

4.- Layer steaks on top of mushrooms and onions.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Remove steaks to plate and cover with foil.  Add cream and parsley to broth, heat 10 minutes, ladle over steaks, and serve immediately.

Steaks with Cilantro Sauce (Whole30 Compliant)

 

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Today is the first day of our third Whole30!  I decided to kick it off with a bang–steak with cilantro sauce over herb garden spring greens.  My favorite part about this meal was actually the sauce…which I will forever be using as a salad dressing.  It’s truly delicious…like pesto (without the basil) by itself, and like a green goddess dressing if you add in some homemade mayonnaise (you ARE making your own mayo now, right?  RIGHT?).

As with all of my Whole30 first days, the day has been filled with motivation and excitement.  Personally, sometime around day three I start to wonder why I’m doing this…again.  By day 7-10 or so, it’s smooth sailing.  That being said, we’ve done enough of these now that my “first week slugs,” as I call them, are mostly non-existent.  I remember them, though.  The first week of my first Whole30, I told all of my friends not to be shocked if they saw me on the news for having killed someone to steal their doughnut.  It never actually happened, but you get the point.

I’ll try to post all of the different recipes that we eat during this Whole30.  I tend to make the same 10-15 recipes over and over as far as dinner goes, so maybe I’ll do some more experimenting this time around.  As always, lunches consist of dinner leftovers and/or eggs.  If you’ve never done a Whole30, I strongly urge you to try one–it’s life changing!

Grilled Steaks with Cilantro Sauce

Serves 4

1 C fresh parsley

1 C fresh cilantro

1/2 C fresh mint

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 C olive oil

1/3 C red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp cayenne

2 pounds flat iron or top sirloin beef steaks

1.– Put herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper in food processor.  Pulse until herbs are chopped.  Gradually add the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and cayenne.  Process until blended.  At this point, I put it in a jar and stick it in the refrigerator.  Truth be told, I doubled the recipe so I’d have a lot left over for salad dressing!

2.– Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper on both sides.  If using a grill, grill (covered) over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side.  If using a broiler, broil 3-5 minutes on each side.  I found out when I made this tonight that our broiler runs WAAAAAAAY hot, so the steak turned out medium/medium-well instead of my preferred “barely dead,” but it was still good…so who cares!  Let the meat rest 5 or so minutes, cut into 1/4″ slices, and serve with sauce.

If you want to make this how I did, I mixed greens, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and tangerine slices.  I loved the tangerine flavor with the cilantro sauce so much that next time I’m going to juice a tangerine over the salad before adding the steak and sauce!