If At First You Don’t Succeed

Here we go again…

Today was the day. I got up this morning with mixed emotions and decided I would late fate decide: to run the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend, or not.

Yes! Who am I kidding?? Of course I’m going to take another shot at a runDisney event!

I drove my daughter to school, put on a pot of coffee, logged into my laptop, fired up the runDisney Events page and waited.

Thirty grueling minutes later, it was done. I’m in!


A New Hope


I will admit I was so excited for the Star Wars Rival Run trip and the excitement I’m feeling for this trip/run is very different. I had to rethink this trip: how much to keep the same and how much to change? Turns out switching it up has helped me get excited about it all over again.

First, my Star Wars trip was meant to be a solo trip and a personal challenge for my 50th birthday. This new trip is not that. Instead of registering for the challenge, I’ve registered for “just” the 10K (a girl can only throw out so much in Canadian funds to sign up for runs that offer no refund). I did however register for the Star Wars Virtual Half Marathon so that will be my challenge to myself once my doctor gives me the ok to run again. And I’m keeping the solo aspect of this trip and am excited at that. Disney on my terms, my way.

Second, I LOVE everything Star Wars and was absolutely stoked at the idea of being a part of the Rival Run excitement. Light side vs dark side? And those medals?? Loved it all! So only a food-themed run during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival could get this chef as excited to try again. And hey, thanks to Disney’s latest announcement about the earlier than anticipated opening of Galaxy’s Edge, I get to combine both of my loves in one trip (just me and about 5 million others).

Third, was the resort issue. Stay at the original resort I had planned, or pick a different one? I decided to go for a whole new one. I’m picking a Disney Resort that we’ve never stayed at in the past (more about that in a future post).

So here I sit excited about a whole new trip and a new experience. This will be my first solo trip, my first runDisney 10K, and my first time at my selected resort. If I can just keep my feet firmly planted on the ground and avoid anymore accidents between now and then…

…just 225 days to go!





Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve

Attending a family wedding on New Year’s Eve.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m still here. Work and life were busy over the holidays, so I stepped away from writing for a while, but now things have settled and it’s time to get back to it.

Let’s start with an update:

Marathon Training

I’m happy to say, my marathon training continues!

I backed off of my running a little bit to take a couple of months to focus more on weight training and core work. The idea was to build some muscle and I’m happy to say, it’s paying off. My body is beginning to show some definition, and now that I’m back to regular running workouts, I’ve noticed a big difference. It’s become ‘easier’ and I’m running faster and with better form (if I run on the track at my local YMCA I can see my reflection in a wall of windows which helps a lot).

I use a run/walk method and have been able to increase my intervals to 1:30 (one minute run, 30 seconds walk) and maintain that throughout my workouts without pushing too hard. It’s a big jump from the 30:30 when I started running that left me huffing!

With just 69 days to go until my runDisney Star Wars Rival Run Challenge, I’m focusing on adding those longer runs, and on fine-tuning my diet. It’s tough to figure out pre and post workout foods that work best – what was enough before, isn’t working now with the extra effort. I also know that I’ll be eating around 3-3:30 am when I do the run, but it’s likely I won’t leave my corral until 6-6:30 am, so I need to figure out the food that will help then too: what to eat when I get up, and what to eat (if anything) while I stand around in the corrals waiting to start. If you have tips on what’s worked for you, I’d love to hear from you!

At this point in the game, I’m now running 3x’s per week (two short runs and 1 long run), with 1 or 2 cross-training workouts in-between: strength training and core work.


I’ve been watching all the social media sites as the runDisney weekends keep coming. I drooled through the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend posts, and I awed at those participants that pushed themselves through the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

And just when my marathon challenge seemed so far away, we all got a look at the medals for the upcoming Star Wars Rival Run Weekend. Did you see them? I’m so excited! In case you missed them, you can see them all here. Now I’m more determined than ever to complete my challenge: I want that Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader medal hanging on my wall so bad! I just have to watch everyone else enjoy the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend coming up in February, and then it’s my turn (and good luck to everyone in February!).

Not long now! Just 69 training days left!

Holiday Food

I won’t say I didn’t indulge in any holiday treats, I did. I didn’t go crazy, but I still allowed myself to indulge now and then. As a chef, it’s hard not to take advantage of that time of year to play with and test recipes. Hey, Christmas only comes around once a year, right?

One of the hardest things I endured after going gluten-free was probably my first gluten-free Christmas. Watching everyone else indulge without a second thought in holiday buffets, party food, and stuffing…oh, the stuffing. It hurt.

After that, I promised myself I would never feel left out again. I created a small library of gluten-free recipes of every holiday food I had missed out on, and tested them. And tested…and tested. Some were good, most were not. I crossed out option after option until I was left with a few good recipes I was able to modify or convert to gluten-free and that wouldn’t leave me cringing when I ate them.

Now every year in the weeks prior to the holidays (and I mean even before Thanksgiving starts here in Canada – October), I grab my gluten-free holiday booklet of recipes and get to work. I make sure my freezer is full and my cupboards have all the ingredients I might need to bake a last minute treat. I rarely feel left out anymore. Mincemeat tarts, Christmas cookies of all kinds, holiday scones, cannoli, mini pizza bites, pulled pork empanadas, mozzarella sticks, stuffing, and more.

And I’ve decided, why just leave these foods for Christmas? Keep watching my blog for holiday food posts throughout the year, and by Christmas, we’ll all be ready to indulge!

And so begins 2019..

I hope this year brings you health, happiness and all the things you’re looking for in this adventure called life.

Running for Charity in Toronto

We did it! And what a great way to see the city of Toronto.

STWM5kaThis morning we ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 5K Charity Challenge in support of the Canadian Celiac Association. It was great! With a 5:30 am wake-up, and a 6:30 am hike to the shuttle buses, it was cold, but great!


While normally we would push to run for a good finish time, this morning we took our time and tried to enjoy the scenery. After all, when else can you walk/run through the streets of Toronto without the worry of traffic or traffic lights? Still, we did break into a run several times and managed a decent finish time, so we’re happy. I’m so proud of our girls (who are not runners) who endure early wake-up calls and cold, dark mornings to participate in a sport that is not really their favourite. I’m even more proud to say they do it to raise funds to help others.








This was our first run in Toronto, but I can guarantee, it won’t be our last.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Breakfast Review (gluten-free)

If you’re like me, you typically eat the same four or five breakfast meals over and over: toast, eggs, cereal, and oatmeal. Well, when I’m away on vacation, the one thing I allow myself to indulge in is breakfast. And indulge I do.

On our recent trip to Walt Disney World in April I could not get enough of their breakfast potatoes. Whether it was in a cheesy casserole, or baked muffin-style (I’ll write about those another day), I loved them. And all of them gluten-free.

My absolute favourite breakfast potato dish though was at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at the Norway pavilion in Epcot. This was our first time dining at Akershus and we chose to go for the Princess Storybook character experience at breakfast.


Akershus is a unique dining experience in that it’s both a buffet and a family-style meal. They have an extensive buffet set up with assorted meats and cheeses, pastries, cereals, bagels and more. On top of that, a family-style platter is delivered to your table complete with eggs, sausage, bacon, and breakfast potatoes. And as if that isn’t enough, there are gluten-free waffles, muffins, and hash browns available to order.

Thankfully, there is an allergy-friendly menu to walk you through all the items and as always, you have the option of talking directly to the chef if you would prefer or if you have questions.


While everything on the breakfast platter was safe for me to eat, I also ordered the gluten-free waffles. Much to my surprise though, these were not the usual Mickey-shaped gluten-free waffles that I was used to at Walt Disney World and they certainly weren’t as tasty.


They were cold and tasteless…oh, and they came alone on the plate. Unlike at other Disney restaurants, the waffles did not come with their own little pitcher of maple syrup. I’m not sure why they were different but after a couple bites, I opted to pass.

Then I discovered the potatoes. Incredible! Creamy and hearty, topped with cheese, I could not stop eating them.


Definitely one of the better potato dishes on property!

Once back at home, and after returning to my regular breakfast routine, I could not stop thinking about the creamy goodness I’d enjoyed. I decided to try to duplicate the potatoes at home. Thankfully, having spent a number of vacations at Walt Disney World, I had collected a few Disney cookbooks over time, so I turned to those.


Sure enough, one of them contained my beloved Cheddar Breakfast Potatoes recipe.

I must admit they turned out quite well but were not exactly the same.


Maybe it was the illusion of eating them in a castle that was missing, or the absence of princesses parading around my kitchen table, I’m not sure. But I do know that every last bite of them was loved both by myself and the rest of my family. Even without the princesses.

Slow Running


“Today I shall be one run stronger.”

Source Unknown


If you run, you’re a runner.

I run. Slow. But I run.

I don’t run great distances. But I run.

If someone had told me three years ago that I would one day be addicted to running, I’d have laughed. Hard. But running has become my form of active meditation.

I started out walking trails in my community and fell in love with being outdoors, walking alone along a wooded trail, just me and my thoughts. Then I heard about John Stanton’s run/walk technique and began to incorporate small runs into my routine.

Run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute.

Run 1 minute, walk 1 minute.

It worked and it felt great, but it wasn’t easy. I suffer from digestive issues and once I hit a certain point in my training, I became sick. I would have to switch to a liquid diet, give up my run/walks and build my health and stamina back up again. Every time.

It was incredibly frustrating. Running had become my way to deal with anxiety and stress, to relieve a lot of tension, and to just get time alone to reboot. I happened to mention it to my doctor during a regular visit and he told me that running means your body has to put its resources into your leg muscles and pulls blood from your digestive system in order to cope with the additional strain to your muscles. He suggested I give up on trying to accomplish long distance running, and to focus on keeping with the run/walk technique and/or shorter distances until I found a balance that worked for me.

It was a lot of trial and error, trying to find a distance/time long enough that I felt I had an adequate workout, but not one so long that I suffered the digestive consequences.

Today I stick with the run/walk technique, running more than walking, and I keep the distance to 10K or less. My regular sessions are between 3 and 5K which are short enough that I can squeeze them into my schedule without making excuses (along with Pilates and resistance training on off days).

I’m happy to say I’ve signed up for and completed a few 5K runs now, and completed a few virtual 10K runs. I struggle with speed so have yet to register for an official timed 10K, but I’ve got my eyes on one in particular so that will be my next milestone. In the meantime, I work on speed and technique so when that day comes, I’ll be at my best and can put in a time that I can be happy with.

runDisney Star Wars The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend

runDisney Star Wars The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend 5K

So I may not be a marathon runner, but I run. And I am stronger today than I was yesterday because of it. Mentally and physically.


My name is Jennifer and I’m a chef, runner, mother of two girls, and a complete Disney addict.

About 10 years ago, medical issues dictated I begin a gluten-free diet. I was devastated. I had just finished culinary school and established my own personal chef business (not catering to gluten-free clients). As a chef, this news meant a drastic change in my career, my life and my business at a time I was just finding my footing. 

At first I fought the change. I continued to cook for clients, tasting gluten food as I did, and even worked part-time in a restaurant where I constantly had to taste pasta dishes, pizzas, and all sorts of other foods I shouldn’t have been eating. Not surprisingly, I remained sick and was bloated, in pain, and up about 30 lbs. 

Eventually I quit the job, hired a personal trainer to help drop the weight, and began a regular workout routine. After 12 weeks with my trainer, I was addicted to exercise.

But cooking at home and eating out was difficult. Trying to find a restaurant that would satisfy my needs while still providing what everyone else in the family wanted was a challenge. At home I cooked two meals: one for them, and one for me. I spent way too much time and money trying to figure it all out. I was ready to give up. I no longer looked forward to cooking or eating out. 

Until we went to Walt Disney World on a family vacation. I was blown away. No one does gluten-free like Disney. There the chefs happily came to visit me right at our table, talked me through the menus, and even offered to make dishes for me that weren’t on the menu. I was in Heaven. The food was incredible. Disney taught me that gluten-free didn’t have to be dry and tasteless. Gluten-free was not all about bread that crumbled in my hands, or baked goods that lasted only one day unless frozen. 

Coming home from that first trip was difficult. Restaurants in my home town were not up to Disney speed, but I had learned enough that I knew what questions to ask, what dishes I could have modified, and I came home armed with ideas for my own kitchen. This chef had learned from the experts and I felt recharged and excited for the future.

Fast forward ten years, hundreds of tested and tried recipes, and countless visits and Disney experiences later, I’m still over the moon with the food experiences at Disney (ok, with everything Disney) and I’m eating 100% gluten-free and loving it. I’ve struggled with my health off and on, but exercise, eating well, meditation, and a positive attitude have landed me in a much healthier and happier place today. 

And now I’m living free: having fun, staying fit, and making memories. Gluten-free.