DIY Disney: Disney Recipes for Your Summer Picnic

I’m thrilled to announce the first, official Disney Food Blog column — Chef BigFatPanda’s DIY Disney Recipes! Every month, our resident Chef BigFatPanda will put together his amazing step-by-step, photo-filled posts where he and Chef Mickey show you their adventures in the kitchen cooking up Disney goodies! Today, we launch the column with three great recipes that you can pack up and take on a Disney-inspired picnic (perfect for 4th of July!). Enjoy…

Hello! Chef BigFatPanda here! How are you? Don’t answer cause I can’t hear you, but I’ll assume you’re reading this with peachy vigor. I like that. Peachy Vigor! I’m going to use that from now on.

So, did you hear? I am so excited to get my own column here on the Disney Food Blog. No longer am I a guest, but a cast member (or whatever AJ wishes to call it). Thanks so much to everyone!

I wanted to do something a bit different for this post, so I chose some fairly simple yet overlooked Disney recipes that can truly be incorporated into a delicious summer meal. I am going to make the Barbecue Sauce from the Flame Tree Barbecue in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, grilled Asparagus just as they make it in Disney’s Grand Californian Resort’s Storyteller Café, and Coquina cookies, originally from the Cinnamon Bay Bakery at Disney World’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Add these Disney recipes to a rice, pasta, or potato side and you have a complete and colorful summer meal just in time for Summer Nightastic!

Flame Tree Barbecue Sauce

As usual, the recipe’s instructions will be bolded for easy reference should you wish to print this out and skip my banter.

Ingredients for Flame Tree Barbecue Sauce

You will need:
1 cup Ketchup
¼ cup Rice Wine Vinegar
¼ cup Water
¼ cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Molasses
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Mild Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Paprika
2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ Teaspoon Ground Cloves

I’ve mentioned this before and it’s worth mentioning again: don’t be scared of any ingredients. Don’t abandon a recipe because you can’t find Rice Wine Vinegar but have generic vinegar; or you have Dark Brown Sugar instead of Light. It’s okay; go with what you have. It’s better to make the recipe than not, when you can get “similar” ingredients.

While this looks like a long list, you may be surprised with what you already have in your pantry. And a lot of the items are right in the spice aisle of the grocery store. I did have trouble finding Rice Wine Vinegar, but found Rice Vinegar, which I used without worrying why “wine” was not in the name. I got home and Googled “Is Rice Vinegar the same as Rice Wine?” and got everything from “absolutely not” to “exactly the same.” The sauce tasted exactly like what I get at the Flame Tree so I’m inclined to believe it is the same thing.

1. In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients.

It looks a little funky at first with the powdery spices within the mixture.

Starting the Barbecue Sauce

2. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, reduce the heat to low and cook at a low simmer, stirring frequently, for 35 minutes or until thickened.

I got it to a low boil and then set it to a low simmer while mixing every 30 seconds at first and then every minute. After about 10 minutes, I did see the mixture starting to thicken and the kitchen smelled like I was back in the Animal Kingdom.

Barbecue Sauce Thickening

Before long, it transformed into barbecue sauce and I thought “I just created this stuff I have bought in a plastic bottle all my life,” and it felt good. I gave it a taste and it was fantastic. It simply WAS the Flametree BBQ sauce. There was no mistaking that sweet and slightly tangy flavor.

Use immediately or store, covered and chilled, for up to 2 weeks.

I wasn’t going to use mine until the next day. I put it into the fridge in some quality Tupperware with a tight fitting lid. I also thought this would give the sauce a chance to marry all the flavors together. Ever notice how sometimes a leftover meal actually tastes better the next day? This was my goal!

Barbecue Sauce Ready for Fridge

This could easily be used pre or post any grilled meat — you could brush it on while cooking, or use it as a dip at the table. The best idea would be to use it as both! I simply threw some cleaned chicken breasts onto my George Foreman grill, brushed on some sauce, and added some when they were grilled to perfection. I am hungry again now just typing this out.

I can’t imagine buying Kraft Bullseye or anything again after having this fresh delicious BBQ glaze. Stay tuned for the full reveal after the Asparagus recipe below!

Storyteller Cafe Grilled Asparagus

Now let’s make some Asparagus!

Asparagus Ingredients

You will need:
1 Pound of fresh Asparagus (tough bottoms trimmed off)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Coarse Salt & Pepper

Chop off the bottoms of the stalks — up to 1/3 of the actual Asparagus. If you break them with your hand, the Asparagus will snap where it goes from tough to tender. There is no need to peel the Asparagus as I have seen some chefs do.

1. Parboil Asparagus for 1 minute, then cool in ice water.

Parboiling, like Blanching is simply cooking something “partially.” After one minute of boiling in water, place your asparagus into some ice water to stop the cooking process and retain the color and crispness of the vegetable.

Parboiling Asparagus

Icing the Asparagus

2. Drain and Pat Dry. Brush with Olive Oil and season with Salt and Pepper to taste.

Draining the Asparagus

I put plenty of salt and pepper on my Asparagus because it will lose some in the grilling process.

Asparagus Brushed with Olive Oil and Seasoned

3. Grill 3 to 4 minutes and then drizzle with more Olive Oil.

I grilled them for 4 minutes and then tasted one. Now, I realize asparagus is not for everyone, but I thought they were delicious. This was simple, looked beautiful, tasted great, and was a healthy side dish. Using this recipe as a frame, I would experiment in the future with adding onion or garlic. I would try a cheese or Hollandaise sauce with it as well. I just realized how easy it is to take a healthy vegetable and screw it up after that last sentence. :)

Cooking the Asparagus

I made a bit of garlic and oil pasta on the side, added the side of Asparagus to my grilled chicken with the Flame Tree Barbecue sauce and the dinner was complete. It was also completely delicious.

Asparagus, Chicken with Barbecue Sauce, and Pasta Picnic

Coquina Cookies from Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

Oh, I almost forgot Dessert! How could I make a special summer dinner without a dessert?

Coquina cookies are simple and perfectly light and airy for a summer night. If you’re not the type to bake, forget what you know and consider trying this recipe. It’s actually a meringue of sorts.

Coquina Cookie Ingredients

Coquina cookies were originally made at the Cinnamon Bay Bakery of the Caribbean Beach Resort in Walt Disney World. Although they contain sugar and chocolate, they’re a healthier cookie as the base is made of egg whites with no yolks, oil, butter, or flour.

Here’s what you’ll need:
3 Egg Whites
1 Teaspoon Cider Vinegar
½ Teaspoon salt
1 cup of Sugar (possibly a bit more depending upon consistency)
1 cup of Ground Almonds
1 cup of Mini Chocolate Chips

As usual, don’t let the ingredients scare you. I did not have Cider Vinegar in my cupboard, so used the Rice Vinegar I had leftover from the BBQ sauce. I also could not find Ground Almonds at my grocery store. I found Slivered Almonds and pummeled those nuts with my fists. In retrospect, sitting on them would have been more efficient.

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, whip egg whites, vinegar, and salt until foamy.

This 1st step is very simple and you should see a foam, as pictured, very quickly. It is important to get this foam before adding any sugar for proper aeration.

Whipping Egg Whites

3. Add sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form.

#3 on our list is written very generically. I suggest mixing at medium to high speed while adding the sugar about a tablespoon at a time. Basically, you will see marshmallow begin to form. It will get thicker and thicker as the sugar is incorporated. This could take anywhere from 2 to 8 minutes to achieve.

The reason I wrote that you may need more than 1 cup of sugar is because I used Jumbo eggs (whites), and I needed about a quarter cup more sugar to attain stiff peaks. By stiff peaks, you will want your mixture to be able to stand up on its own as you create a swirl and peak with a utensil. Another rule of thumb is taking a spoonful and turning it upside down. If the mixture does not fall off, you are good to go.

Adding Sugar to Thicken Mixture

4. With a spoon or spatula, fold in almonds and chips.

Folding, as you may already be aware, is mixing without disturbing. Don’t use the mixer for this. You want to gradually fold in the ingredients so that you don’t lose the wonderful fluffiness you have achieved. If you stir or mix it, the air will be lost. Just put in some almonds and chips, and put a blanket of white fluff over them. Poor babies are chilly. :) Keep doing this until all the almonds and chips have been incorporated.

Folding Almonds and Chips into Egg White Mixture

5. Drop cookies onto a pan or cookie sheet.

The recipe says to use an ungreased cookie sheet and I just had a feeling NOT to listen. Yeah, sometimes I am a rebel. I sprayed a pan with cooking spray but also tested what they recommended. As I surmised, the ungreased cookie sheet cookies were a disaster with the middle of the cookie stuck like crazy glue. So, yes, I was right. There, I said it! (Toot Toot) –- Hear that? That was my own horn! :)

Coquina Cookies Ready for the Oven

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. When cool, cookies can be frosted with melted chocolate and pistachio nuts.

Okay, so at this point, I also used the toothpick test. I poked the center of a few cookies with a toothpick and when it came up dry, I removed the cookies from the oven. It had been 40 minutes.

I hate to sound like a know-it-all because believe me –- you don’t see the recipes that end up in the garbage. I found the last sentence a bit uninspiring “…cookies can be frosted with melted chocolate and pistachio nuts.” I mean –- that’s great as a suggestion, but I wish they would encourage creativity. Cookies can be frosted with ANYTHING and decorated with ANYTHING from nuts to Rice Krispies! This is one of those recipes that you really can get creative with. I would love to hear ideas from anyone that tries them.

I do confess that apart from the almonds and chocolate, I didn’t see “flavor” in the recipe. I mean, the egg whites and sugar is actually a Meringue. It’s the start of all Meringue as in a Lemon Meringue pie. So, I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract to perk up the flavor profile.

The resulting cookies are different than what most people have tried. They are very light, airy and refreshing.
Note to Moms and Dads: They can be messy and very crumbly.

Finished Coquina Cookies

I really hope you enjoyed all that was presented here and I thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me into your kitchen. Mickey and I love to hear your feedback — What did you use the BBQ sauce on? Did you enjoy it? What would you do differently? Did you try the Asparagus? What did you top your cookies with?

Keep wishing on those stars and keep the comments coming. I wish you continued peachy vigor :) (sorry, I had to).


Thanks again, John! Remember, all, you can watch for Chef BigFatPanda’s column posts right here! Who knows what he’ll make for us next month!


  1. says

    Oh yum!! Nothing beats home-made barbecue sauce – and I’ll definitely have to try making some of those cookies.

  2. Renee says

    Oh that all looks good! I’m going to have to try all these recipes as soon as I get the chance

  3. says

    Becca — I was so excited about the barbecue sauce, too! I can’t wait to try it — looks so easy!!

    Renee — Looks great, doesn’t it? Chef BigFatPanda is a talented guy.

    Matt — Thanks for the comment; I think this will be a fun column :-)

  4. says

    GREAT job John!!!!!! This all looks yummy and easy!!!! Next you need to do schol bread :p just like we talked about!!!!! ;)

  5. says

    Wow, what a terrific column!

    Do you have recipies or other inside information, or are these a product of your sluething out the flavors and techniques?

  6. says

    I love the Flame Tree BBQ sauce. I’ve made the recipe several times and am always asked about it. People are shocked to hear that it’s from Disney!

  7. says

    Brad — I didn’t even think about that — the calorie count on this stuff probably isn’t all that high! Talk about healthy Disney dining!

    Aurora — Ooh! School Bread! That’s a great idea!

    John — Thanks for the kudos! Chef BigFatPanda uses recipes out of Disney Cookbooks, but the talent and “tweaks” are all his own!

    Molly — So cool! Thanks for the feedback. Sounds like this is a really versatile recipe.

  8. says

    What a fun new column- I can’t wait for more installments! Those cookies look yummy and I love that Chef Mickey is there to help out :)

  9. says

    I will respond more tonight when I’m home. Mom is visiting from NY and I just saw the Column is up! Whoo Hoo! Thanks everyone for the well wishes and comments. They are all read and appreciated. Big Hugs!

  10. maryvh says

    Oh! Thank you so much, Chef BigFatPanda! I love this new column. Looks like I’ll be planning a picnic this 4th of July! Thanks for the recipes & I’ll be looking forward to more!

  11. says

    Heather – I’m sure that Chef Mickey is a huge help in the kitchen!

    Maryvh — Stay tuned! I’m looking forward to more Disney recipes from the Chef!

  12. says

    Chef Mickey is a huge help in the kitchen except when I’m cooking with cheese. I always have less than I began with :)
    If anyone has a suggestion for the next recipe, please let me know. I have one up my sleeve I’ve been dying to try because it truly was one of Walts favorites according to the book. He would ask his chefs for it weekly while at Disneyland. Can you guess?

  13. Tonya says

    We just left Disney World a couple of weeks ago and I still can’t get the Hoop Dee Doo Revue’s fried chicken and strawberry shortcake off my mind. Please show us how to make those two delicious dishes. Thank you!

  14. Another Girl says

    Hey everyone! Jest an insider tidbit- the days they use at Flametree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom is Ken’s Cannonball BBQ sauce. I work at Animal kingdom and have seen the empty gallon containers behind the scenes. Just thought you guys would like to know! I do agree though that homemade always wins!


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