Dining at Disney – Sanaa

Time for another disclosure, this is my second favorite restaurant at Disney World and there are days I have difficulty making that ranking decision between Sanaa and California Grill. They are dramatically different restaurants both in food and price, but the quality shines through in both locations. The food is so unique here that we verify all of our dishes are nut and fish free so that we all can share bites of everything.

I remember our first visit to Sanaa and encouraging my husband and boys to try the bread service with all of the toppings, they weren’t sure about it, but I had visited India and knew how good this could be. Sanaa executes this perfectly and we now order it every time we visit; yesterday was no exception and it vanished quickly.

We ordered a South African wine to pair with our food; most of the menu is African and Indian flavors and my husband and I learned long ago that a wine local to the type of food will pair well.

All of our dishes were amazing, and I have sincere compliments to the chef; that original visit inspired me to bring lamb into my own cooking. My eldest ordered the lamb shank, on our original trip it was the youngest, and I tought them both to make sure they get the marrow from inside the bone as well as the meat from outside. After the duration of cooking it’s perfect. The meat simply falls off of the bone when you pick it up: perfection.

I selected the duck; I can’t get it fresh and I haven’t had success reproducing recipes with frozen so this has not made it into my repertoire. It was served a perfect medium rare, with very crispy skin and duck confit (made from the legs and thighs) on the side. Like the lamb and other red meats, when cooked correctly it simply melts in your mouth.

My husband opted for the Braaivleis, a trio of grilled meats; the meats aren’t ever listed on the menu as they are subject to change. His came with pork tenderloin, lamb chops, and a boar meat sausage. All were perfect and flavorful, with the sausage as a clear favorite of my husband and boys due to the unique flavor profile.

My youngest selected the Spicy Durban Shrimp with Aloo Masala after researching all of the terms so that he knew what he was ordering. Again, another amazing dish, the shrimp were full of flavor, and we may have to start ordering extra bread to soak up the sauces.

When it comes to nuts, the desserts are different story and my eldest made sure he ate enough that he didn’t want dessert. My youngest got the Spice Trade Candy Bar and my husband and I split the Kenyan Coffee Petit Entremet. Both were amazing.


If you are willing to be a bit more daring in food options, definitely try Sanaa.


Stir Fry and Soup

Sundays are for cooking, Mondays are for working my butt off at karate, and eventually Tuesdays are for sitting down for a few to write. Sunday I made meals for both days since yesterday was going to be a cooking impossibility with karate and soccer at the same time. I also made the time to sit down and make a menu for the week; my husband and I were both fortunate to have time off for the holidays this year and so I’ve been lax on the menus, but not the cooking. 

While I was skimming recipes I came across a lamb stir fry. My eldest has a fish allergy and we unfortunately regularly served him Chinese food when he was young and the allergy was mild, we ignored the “I don’t like it claims” not realizing it was actually making him sick. Sadly he is still resistant to eating Chinese food and I don’t get nearly enough stir fry to suit my taste. The reason this caught my eye is because he likes lamb as much as I do; it is a stir fry, but there is nothing Chinese about it, it has a Middle Eastern flair. 

The recipe is pretty good as written, but I strongly recommend a longer marinade than the recipe’s 15 minutes. I cleaned the leg of lamb and then let it marinate in the fridge while I made the soup for tonight’s dinner. It took me about 30 minutes to break down the leg and cut it into stir fry pieces, I’m pretty discriminating when I trim. It was a 3.5 lb. bone-in leg and when done I had about 2.7 pounds of meat so I doubled everything. Along with my son’s fish allergy he also has a tree nut allergy so I deemed the pistachios to be optional and promptly omitted them. 

I served it over brown rice following a Greek salad. 

As mentioned I made soup for Monday while the lamb was marinating. It is a hearty soup, but simple and delicious. I like it with the chicken. I added the sage to the cold soup and then heated in a small pan, one bowl at a time based on our schedules. I topped with crumbled goat cheese (easier with the multiple dinner times) and the pancetta. It also freezes well so the other half is frozen for when I need/want it. 

Lamb Stir-Fry with Pomegranate and Yogurt
Prep 1 hr ∙ Cook 15 mins ∙ Makes 4 ∙ Source Bon Appétit | March 2014

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1½ pound boneless leg of lamb, thinly sliced against the grain
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into ½” wedges
  • Cooked rice (for serving)
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios (optional)
  • Fresh oregano, mint, and/or cilantro leaves (for serving)


Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Let cool, then finely chop. Toss lamb with cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic, vinegar, and 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl to coat; season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 2 hours; return to room temperature prior to coooking.

Whisk yogurt and 1 Tbsp. water in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook lamb, tossing occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes per batch; transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.  

Add onion to skillet and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Add ½ cup water; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and water is evaporated, about 3 minutes.Return lamb to skillet and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

 Serve lamb over rice, topped with yogurt, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and herbs.

Do Ahead: Lamb can be marinated 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

Butternut-Corn Chowder

Prep 30 mins ∙ Cook 30 mins ∙ Makes 8 to 10 servings ∙ Source Bon Appétit | November 1999

  • 4 ounces pancetta, sliced ¼” thick and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2¼ pounds butternut squash, roasted, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • 2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chilies
  • 4½ cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 cups frozen sweet white shoepeg corn (unthawed)
  • ½ rotisserie chicken, shredded (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 4 ounces chilled soft fresh goat cheese, cut into ½” thick rounds


Cook pancetta in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. 

  Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels. Add onion to drippings in pan; sauté until just tender, about 4 minutes. Deglaze with wine then add butternut squash, garlic, broth, chilies, and 1 cup of corn; simmer until squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. 

 Transfer soup to blender; puree, or puree with immersion blender. Mix in remaining corn; simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix in sage. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with pancetta and cheese.


Roast the squash halves at 350°F for 35 minutes. (Cut it after to make it easy to scoop into the soup.) The garlic can be roasted in a foil packet with a bit of olive oil while you roast the squash, just set it off to the side of the squash.

 Pancetta and soup (prior to adding sage) can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover pancetta; chill. Chill soup uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring pancetta to room temperature and return soup to a simmer before continuing.

Optional: Add shredded roasted chicken with second addition of corn. Also, you can adjust the amount of chipotle to suit your taste.

17th Birthday Dinner

Birthdays are special, you only get one a year and you should make them memorabe. We should all be thankful for the lives we lead and for all of the people you get to meet on the journey. For my kids, if they make a request for a meal they get it. My eldest turned 17 today, I am amazed by how fast the time has gone. We celebrated yesterday, my parents and my in-laws were able to make it. He didn’t have a request for dinner this year, so my choice. 

I decided upon a recipe from Bon Appétit that caught my eye three years ago: Braised Lamb Shanks with Gremolata and Baked Polenta. Very early in our marriage I tried to make lamb, unfortunately I was weary of how to cook it, I probably left it in the freezer too long, and my skills were not what they are today … it was not good. After that I stayed away from cooking lamb, it fell into the category of things I only ordered at nice restaurants. It continued to tempt me though, I have a wonderful friend who makes a delicious lamb curry for boxing day every year, and she said I should try. That was almost 3 years ago, and after that I broached it cautiously, starting with recipes that used ground lamb. At some point, well over a year ago, I had a hankering for lamb while out for a work dinner and ordered a rack of lamb; it was cooked correctly, but had no flavor and the craving was left unsatisfied. Within the next few weeks after that I saw them on sale and tackled Mint and Cumin Spiced Lamb Chops, and later a rack. 

As of this week I still hadn’t tried to do anything braised or in a stew … back to the recipe. 

The recipe requires a lot of planning, I had to start on Friday (which was busy enough!). I was not able to find enough lamb shanks so for my first go at this I substituted ½ legs of lamb for about 3/4 of the meat. Both were wonderful, the ½ legs took longer to cook, so you could cut each in half. On Friday, I trimmed the meat, rubbed in the spices, and put it in the fridge.    

 I came back to it Satuday evening, and braised it when it was cool I put it in the fridge again. This is a great part of the recipe; the meat sits in the sauce soaking up flavor while the excess fat rises to the top. When I took it out the next day the fat was simple to remove. 

The polenta was the easiest I have ever made; I made no edits to that portion of the recipe it is perfect. While I cooked I also served appetizers; I cut a wedge of brie in half horizontally and put chopped basil, coarsly ground black pepper, and a bit of strawberry rhubarb jam in the middle then wrapped it in puff pastry and baked it at 350 for 20 minutes. My dad brought a smoked whitefish, which my 17-year  old can’t eat, more for the rest of us!

I did also make artichokes with tarragon drizzle; this was my first shot at artichokes and they weren’t perfect yet so I won’t share. 

My MIL brought a wonderful greek salad to start us off, and dessert was my son’s only request, apple pie. This is what he requests every year for his birthday and as frequently as he and his dad and his grandpa can convince me. My mom offered to do this for me, she taught me so I accepted. 

My son and family said that it was on of the best dinners they had ever had; another reminder to work at home with the ingredients that you love. The recipes follow the pictures.    


Braised Lamb with Gremolata and Baked Polenta

Beef and Lamb, Entrées, Soups Stews etc., Tested and Approved!

makes 8 ∙ difficulty Medium ∙ source Bon Appétit | October 2012


  • 6 lb. lamb, leg or shanks (6–8 shanks or 3 leg halves, depending on size), trimmed
  • 1-2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 8 cloves garlic, separated
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large onions, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups tomatoes, diced or crushed
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups (or more) low-sodium chicken broth


  • 1½ cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1½ cups finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp. (¼ stick) unsalted butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • ¾ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary


Place lamb on a large rimmed baking sheet; season generously all over with salt and pepper. Chop rosemary, fennel seeds, and 2 cloves of garlic in food processor or spice grinder (fennel should be coarse nd rosemary almost minced); massage into lamb. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or, preferably, chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8–10 minutes.

Mince remaining garlic and add with flour, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Stir vigorously to distribute flour. Cook, stirring often, until mixture becomes dry, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and wine. Simmer briskly, stirring often, until juices thicken and tomatoes begin to break down, about 10 minutes.

Gradually stir in 4 cups broth. Simmer until flavors meld, 3–4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lamb shanks to pot in a single layer, pushing them down into sauce (add additional broth if needed so that shanks are about ¾ submerged).

Roast, uncovered, until tops of shanks have browned, about 30 minutes. Using tongs, turn shanks over and roast for 30 minutes longer.

Cover and cook, turning shanks occasionally, until meat is fork-tender and almost falling off the bone, 45 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes (time will depend on size of shanks). Remove from oven and skim off fat from surface of sauce. Let shanks rest in liquid for at least 30 minutes.

Do Ahead: Lamb shanks can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

Preheat oven to 350°. Stir polenta, oil, salt, and 7½ cups water in a 13x9x2” baking dish to blend. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour 15 minutes. Stir in cheese and butter and season with pepper. Smooth top and continue baking until polenta is set and jiggles like custard, 25–30 minutes.

Meanwhile, discard any fat from surface of lamb shank mixture and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently, occasionally turning shanks and stirring sauce, until heated through, about 20 minutes. If using large shanks, remove from pot; let cool slightly, then coarsely shred meat from bones. Return meat to sauce. (If you have 8 small shanks, you can serve them whole, setting them directly atop polenta.)

Preheat broiler. Broil polenta, watching very closely to prevent burning, until surface is light golden, 5–7 minutes. Serve immediately for a softer polenta; for a firmer texture, let rest for up to 30 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, mince parsley (make sure it’s dry). Mix parsley with remaining ingredients in a small bowl; toss to evenly incorporate.

Divide polenta among large wide bowls. Spoon meat with juices over. Sprinkle meat generously with gremolata.

Apple  Pie

Desserts, Pies and Tarts, Tested and Approved!, Thanksgiving
difficulty Easy ∙ source Mom


  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • dash salt
  • 3/4-1 cups sugar , depending on the sweetness of the apples
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 cups apples , Jonathan or other baking apples; peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 pie crust


Mix dry ingredients together, then add apples. Pour into bottom shell of crust and dot with butter. Lightly sprinkle top crust with sugar. Bake at 400℉ for 40-50 minutes.

Pie Crust (double)

Pies and Tarts, Tested and Approved!

difficulty Easy ∙ source Mom


  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup water , ice-cold
  • 2/3 cup crisco , + 1 Tbsp.


Mix flour and salt together. Add crisco and mix with light touch until crumbly. Add water until dough comes together nicely in a ball.