Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival 2017

The Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival opens THIS WEEKEND!! We're heading over tonight for a special VIP preview. We won't get to see any of the cool bands that are coming, but we will get to sample all the yummy food!!

Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival 2017 - Concert Line Up and More on Having Fun Saving & Cooking

The festival returns with signature dishes and exciting new cuisine – including duck tacos, lobster ravioli, bacon mac & cheese, brown sugar rubbed pork belly, banana foster panna cotta, gator bites, and cabernet-filled chocolates – as well as an expanded selection of wines, craft brews and cocktails.

Food and beverage is not included with park admission and is available for an extra fee. You must be 21 years of age or older to consume alcoholic beverages.

How much does it cost? The festival is FREE with park admission. How much is park admission?

For a limited time, buy a Busch Gardens Fun Card and get an Adventure Island Fun Card FREE.  And don’t forget about the Busch Gardens Preschool Card – kids 5 and under get in FREE. I prefer the Annual Pass which offers unlimited admission all year, free parking, no blockout dates and special benefits totaling more than $300. With EZpay, Annual Passes start at just $14 per month for one park, and $16 per month for both Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island.

Will you be heading to the Food and Wine Festival this year?

Meal Planning: Whole 30 Week 4

Is it already the start of week 4? I was talking to my husband and kids last night and they were shocked to learn that I haven't had ketchup in 20 days. I LOVE ketchup. Seriously. I love it on eggs, chicken, pretty much if anything can be dipped in a condiment, I'm dipping it in ketchup. I've been this way since I was a little girl and without a doubt this has been the longest I've ever gone without my beloved ketchup.

When we were in New York City they had a piece of ketchup artwork and I had to get my photo taken with it. I have ketchup issues.

That's the first thing I'm missing on the Whole 30. I'm also missing beans; black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans.

And lastly...

But on the plus side...I have learned to tolerate black coffee.

And have rediscovered how freaking fantastic REAL eggs are! Thanks to Nom Nom Paleo for teaching me how to make the perfect hard boiled egg!

 And last, but certainly not least is my new found love for sweet potatoes and yams. I've made a sweet potato hash every week and eat it for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner nearly every day. It's become a staple in our diet (me and the husband.)

I don't miss the sugars at all (unless you count ketchup) and it's been over 2 months since I've had a diet soda or any sort of artificial sweetener at all.

I'm feeling great, and will easily be able to keep this up after the official Whole 30 is over. Except for ketchup, beans, and beer. I'll be adding those back in to my diet, though I will really try to limit the ketchup since it has so much sugar. I don't eat junk food, fast food, processed food and haven't for over 4 years, so I didn't have to "give those up" when I started the Whole 30 because I was already living a fairly clean lifestyle.


We did well last week with eating up all the ground turkey, but I have a lot of shrimp, salmon, tilapia, and chicken breast, so this weeks meal plans will focus on those items as the main dishes.

Monday: Sauteed shrimp with onions and cherry tomatoes

Tuesday: Chicken Fajitas

Wednesday: Salmon Patties

Thursday: Breakfast for dinner: eggs, sweet potato hash

Friday: Blackened Pork Chops James has a request for pork chops, so I will make these for him and the kids.

And there you have it! Week 4 will be done! We usually have leftovers on the weekend, though on Sunday May 5th, we're heading off for an awesome SUP adventure! We're going to be paddling with the manatees with Manatee Paddle in Crystal River! We need to be there at 9am, so we'll need to eat a nice hearty breakfast before we leave, and then I'll pack a cooler with healthy snacks, which is something I do regardless, and for lunch I'm sure I can find a salad and a sweet potato at nearly any restaurant Smile


If you have followed or are following the Whole 30 what the HARDEST food/drink/condiment for you to give up?? The ketchup one really surprised me. Tongue Out I knew beer and beans would be somewhat of a challenge..but ketchup? That one snuck up on me.

The {nearly} gluten free diet

My youngest son has been diagnosed as PDD-NOS, which means he has an autism spectrum disorder. He has some other issues as well, which I won't get in to on this blog, but just know that it's challenging living with him, and I'm sure it's challenging having to BE him. He been on mood stabilizing medication since he was 3. Yes, 3. James and I often have long conversations about our son, and what we hope for him in the future, and how we can teach him the skills he'll need to be able to cope with his condition(s).

We do research, lots of research on how environmental factors can exacerbate his symptoms. A few years ago I came across a lot of evidence that stated that cutting gluten out of the diet helped other children with conditions similar to Ronin's. I approached my husband about going gluten free, but he didn't get on board, so I tabled the discussion.

Fast forward 3 years. James does his own research and decides that gluten might be the cause for a lot of issues that our son not only has, but our oldest daughter (skin issues) and even himself. He decides a gluten free diet is a worth a try. We discuss it (like we discuss EVERYTHING, in great detail) and we plan on making it a family affair because it will make it easier on the three that need it, so basically Ella & I are tagging along for the ride.

We decided to go gluten free on February 2nd. Also happens that I run a 10k on February 2nd. You know what's at the end of every race? Beer. You know what beer has in it? Yup, gluten. Guess who drank the beer. Yup, me. And it was good. Cool

We make it through the entire week gluten free. I switch up the kids' lunch routines and pack them rice cake sandwiches with almond butter and sliced apples. They are loving it. Breakfast is easy, oatmeal or eggs. It appears that we are breezing right through the first week of being gluten free. And then I get an email from the kids' automatic school lunch account saying that Ronin needs his account replenished. Undecided Say what?? Why would he need more $$ in that account, he hasn't been eating in school since I stopped working in November. Or so I thought. He hasn't been getting lunch at school, but almost every single day that little stinker had been going to the cafeteria and getting a 2nd breakfast. I look up the meal history on the account and I about blow a gasket!!  All last week, EVERY morning he was going and having a gluten filled breakfast. I went through the roof, called the school, immediately cancelled all accounts, etc, etc, etc, and then had a nice long chat with "the boy" when he came home from school on Friday. Ugh. No issues with my girls, but the one of us that needs this the most is the one that had been sandbagging us the entire time. AND HE KNEW IT!! ARGH!!

Clean slate, we start over with him on Saturday. So now he's been gluten free for nearly a week and his nasal/breathing symptoms seem to be getting better. Might be my imagination, but really he sounds like he's talking out of his mouth now and not his nose. We're still dealing with some other issues relating to his PDD-NOS (and other ABC disorders as I call them b/c they all have acronyms) but overall I'd say that I am seeing some improvement, so we're going to keep going with this gluten free business.

Buying gluten free products hasn't been that difficult because I'm not going all whackadoodle gluten free. We don't have a deathly allergy to gluten, so I'm not worried about gluten in shampoo, etc. but we're eliminating ALL wheat, barley, and rye. I will buy products with oats and rice, and they don't have to say "GLUTEN FREE" on them b/c really I don't think a dash of gluten here and there in some oatmeal is going to derail the results of this experiment. But I won't buy any products that obviously have the big 3 gluten contributors in them.

I spoke with all three of the children's teachers and let them know that they can NOT under any circumstances have any food at school that is not brought from home. Today is Valentine's Day and each of their classes is having a little party, so I sent in special gluten free cupcakes for each of my babes from Stacy's Gluten Free Goodies.

The kids and James eat a lot of pasta, so we had to start buying some gluten free pasta and it's more expensive than regular pasta, but that's okay. Dr. visit co-pays add up too. Wink

Tonight I am making a gluten free Chicken Parmesan. Modified by Jenny, Original Recipe from the Gluten-Free Homemaker

Chicken Parmesan
  • 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup brown rice bread crumbs
  • 28 ounces pasta sauce
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  1. Place chicken breast in a plastic freezer bag and pound the heck out of it with the flat side of a meat mallet until it is thin. Take your daily stress out on the chicken.
  2. Dip each piece of chicken in the egg and then coat it with the brown rice bread crumbs. Place the pieces in a Pam sprayed baking dish.
  3. Bake the chicken at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
  4. Pour pasta sauce over and around the chicken pieces. Top each piece with the cheeses.
  5. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is done.
  6. Serve with hot cooked pasta. (which of course will be gluten free, I used brown rice spaghetti)


I've never made Chicken Parmesan before, but it's red and well it is Valentine's Day, so I figured what the heck! And let me tell you, this was GOOD!! Husband even had seconds!


So now we're on a gluten free, MSG free, HFCS free, processed food free lifestyle. Whew. Except for beer. I am not giving up my beer. And that my readers, is why I am {nearly} gluten free.


What about you?? Are you gluten free? Any dietary restrictions that you follow because you think it helps your overall health??