What we eat: Gluten-Free

When I first eliminated gluten from my diet, I felt deprived. Like utterly and totally deprived of all *good* food in the world. Oh how I loved that soft and fluffy french bread dipped in olive oil w/balsamic vinaigrette... Fly me to Italy and you may see me shed a tear (or 500!) as my husband and I pretty much survived on bread and cheese (and wine, oh my!) when we were there in 2009 (aka before going gluten-free).

Oh the memories...

When others find out that we are a gluten-free household, I'm often met with the response, "What on earth do you eat?!"

I felt the same way in the beginning.

The transition to a gluten-free lifestyle was not easy. It was a journey and it was a journey that I didn't enjoy {like, at all}. I would look at food in the grocery store and say, "I can't have this, I can't have that..." as I stumbled my way through the aisles.

Now, having been gluten-free for over 2 years, I have a totally different perspective! Now I eat real food, and for the most part, I don't find myself questioning the possibility that something I ate had gluten in it {unless I'm eating outside of my own kitchen}.

I'm going to give you a quick run down of what we eat, on a regular basis.

The usual breakfast options:

  • oatmeal (Trader Joe's GF) - I like to use unsweetened coconut milk (also from TJ's) or almond milk instead of milk or water. I also add cinnamon and raisins, the kids love it.

  • eggs (scrambled, omelettes, hard-boiled) - I like to throw in some peppers, mushrooms, spinach, and cheese when I do scrambled eggs or omelettes. I cut the vegetables up nice and small so the kids don't complain too much. ;)

  • protein shake - currently using SFH's chocolate whey protein powder. I use Zico coconut water as a base, add a frozen banana, lots of spinach and sometimes almond butter. There are a gazillion ways to spice up the vanilla or chocolate powders, I like to experiment.

  • pancakes or waffles (The Cravings Place All Purpose Pancake & Waffle Mix) - we only do pancakes/waffles if we're having eggs and the kids only get the pancakes if they eat their eggs. ;) I like this GF mix because it's so simple to make, and the pancakes taste great! I usually add some unsweetened apple sauce to the mix with water, unsweetened coconut milk, or almond milk. I don't measure, I just add liquid until I get the right consistency. Sometimes I add a little vanilla and cinnamon. The pancakes/waffles have the perfect texture - just like those gluten filled ones we used to enjoy.

The typical lunch (note: we usually have fruit and vegetables paired with one of the following items at lunch time):

  • Quinoa - we eat a lot of quinoa. I usually make a quinoa salad with black beans, garbanzo beans, red/orange/yellow peppers and artichokes all mixed in. Our girls love it.

  • Salmon patties (purchased from Costco - WARNING: read the packages, some salmon patties have gluten in them!) - I use my cast iron pan to quickly grill up salmon patties for my kids. Dip a bite of  salmon patty in mayonnaise, and it's even more delicious. We usually pair the salmon with a green vegi (typically steamed broccoli)

  • Sandwiches (Udi's bread is THE best store bought bread) - on days I need to make something quick, my fall back is a good old fashioned PB&J, grilled cheese sandwich or a meat n'cheese sandwich (sometimes I sub hummus for mayonnaise - yum). I love panini's so I usually grill our sandwiches (I have a Cuisinart Griddler - absolutely LOVE it!).
The last-minute dinner:

  • Meat and vegi's. Seriously. We eat a lot of meat and vegetables for dinner. Whether it's shrimp, steak, fish or chicken (my least favorite), we eat it with a vegetable (the usual stuff in our refrigerator: asparagus, broccoli, sweet potatoes, beets, rutabaga, turnips, zucchini, peppers, and whatever else is in season).

This is a quick last-minute kind of meal at our house. I simply cut up a steak or two (or chicken), mix it with a ton of cut up vegi's, drop some olive oil in the bowl, sprinkle on some of Trader Joe's every day seasoning (great way to spice things up!), mix it up, then spread everything on a rimmed baking tray. Bake for ~15 minutes with the temp somewhere around 400-425 degrees (stirring once), and enjoy! SO SIMPLE! 

When I'm being a planner, I like to use meal planning services (my go-to GF menu planning site is gfreecuisine.com). I love that they provide menus that follow seasonally available produce. They also have monthly freezer meals which are quick and easy to prepare, and taste great!

So there you have it. A quick look into a typical day of eating in our gluten-free household.

I will be including more recipes and a deeper look into our food choices in future posts. Also, I will provide a list of our favorite gluten-free snacks {isn't it CrAzY how often kids want snacks???}. And if you want some tips for getting your kids to eat their food (including vegetables!), stay tuned. Dinner time doesn't have to be a war...

How to clean crayon off a chalkboard

My kids had the lovely idea to use their crayons on the chalkboard one day. Has that ever happened to you?

I tried to clean the crayon off by using a variety of household cleaners, including vinegar, all to no avail. So I did what any modern mom would do, I googled it.

The top 2 suggestions I came across, were to use either WD-40 or Simple Green. I was pretty sure I had tried to clean the crayon off with Simple Green in the past, and I didn't recall that working, but since my memory was a bit cloudy, I couldn't rule it out. It was, after all,  recommended as a way to get crayon marks off a chalkboard.

So I decided to do a side-by-side test with the top two chalkboard crayon removal recommendations - and to set the record straight!
The contenders: WD-40 and Simple Green

I spritzed some of each solution on the chalkboard where the crayon marks were prominent, then I used a paper towel to wipe away the crayon - or so I thought! The WD-40 removed the crayon from the board with ease, while the Simple Green ended up on the paper towel, leaving the crayon wax (and chalk residue) on the board. *scratches head*

Notice that you can barely see the area I scrubbed with Simple Green in the pic below (the spot on the right). Why was this solution recommended as a crayon remover for chalkboard, anyway??

Once I determined the winner (this wasn't hard!), I used WD-40 on the whole board and got it super clean in no time.

WD-40 left a thin shiny film on the board, so just for good measure, I sprayed some vinegar on a paper towel and did a once over on the board - just to get the grease off.

Through this trial, I also learned a lesson about using chalk. If you want to leave long-lasting, hard to erase marks on a chalkboard, write on the board when it's still damp (or use wet chalk). I was being hasty when I was documenting the crayon removal process and wrote on the board when it was still a bit damp. Then I tried to erase it...

See what I mean? I ended up cleaning the board with vinegar. And then, I let it dry before we used it again.

NOTE: Using vinegar is the 'teacher recommended' way to clean a chalkboard - it just doesn't remove crayon wax, so if you need extra cleaning power, trust the WD-40!

My girls woke from their nap and quickly discovered their newly cleaned chalkboard. They promptly created a ton of chalk dust in our living room (and some cute little drawings, too). 

Thankfully, I'd hidden the crayons. ;)

How To...Transform Your Pantry

Going Gluten-Free (GF) was a difficult task in the beginning. I had NO idea where to start and I felt totally overwhelmed at times. I already had an aversion to the idea of cooking, so I was sure this whole GF thing was not going to help.

Having been there, and done that, I can now provide you some tips which may help you if you are going through the GF transition.

I hope these tips help your switch to Gluten-Free a little less painful.

  • Pull all the gluten filled items out of your pantry. Glance at the labels. If it says: wheat, malt, barley, or  flour - set it aside. For a more comprehensive list of what should be avoided, visit this list at celiac.com. Put all of the gluten containing items in boxes or bags. If you have some people in your house who are not committed to going GF, have them pick out their favorite items and then clear a shelf in the pantry just for the gluten items they can't part with (and make sure the GF person in your house stays away from this shelf!). Give the rest of the food to friends and family (or donate it to a local food bank). Do the same in your refrigerator and freezer.  My husband and oldest daughter are not strictly GF, so I made a shelf in the pantry/fridge and freezer so they could work on consuming those foods.

  •  Always check the labels of your food before using. As you will see in the list of unsafe foods over at celiac.com, there are tons of ingredients to avoid (might want to print that list and keep it on your fridge until you are confident in your GF lifestyle). The initial pantry/fridge/freezer clean-out should allow you to find the biggest offenders, but no doubt you will find something later on that contains an unsafe ingredient - so always check labels - on everything!

  • Transform your whole kitchen. Don't buy any more gluten filled items - it's too hard to have around. If you are eliminating gluten for only one person in a house of 4, it will be frustrating for that person to have adjust to eating GF with all of the wonderful gluten filled treats around. Make GF a lifestyle change for the house, not just a pantry change for the effected - it will be an easier transition on everyone.

  • Find ways to save money on GF food. Shop in bulk size at Amazon's Gluten-Free Store. Use the Subscribe and Save option (a recurring order which you can set at different monthly intervals). This often times will allow you to save up to 30%. We order cereal, crackers, pancake mix and snacks using the subscribe and save option. The greatest part about subscribe and save is that you can cancel your recurring order if you don't want it again. You get free shipping too, so why not try it?

  • When dining out - DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK how food has been prepared and make sure to mention your gluten intolerance! Many restaurants are now catering to the GF lifestyle, but that doesn't mean they really know what they're doing (not all corn tortillas are wheat-free for example - you need to clarify). Servers also don't always know what 'Gluten-Free' means. If this is the case, order a salad and make sure there are no croutons! It's important to your health - don't be ashamed to ask how food has been prepared. You know the consequences, so don't be afraid to ask.

  •  If you are going a dinner event and you don't want to mention your food restrictions, or it's a preset menu, eat a little something before you go. I made the mistake of not eating prior to going to a church event a few weeks back...and I should have known the menu would be spaghetti and bread! Bonus tip: Always carry some GF snacks in your bag - Lara bars are a great thing to have on hand!

  • Menu planning - do it (at least for a little while). I was absolutely lost in my kitchen until I found eMeals and  gfreecuisine.com. eMeals is a meal planning website with a Gluten-Free option. gFreeCuisine is a meal planning website specifically for Gluten-Free. A weekly menu using their recipes is less than $100/week in groceries. You can set the number of servings you want to make and the recipes adjust automatically! I make my meals for 4 people and I always have leftovers for a couple lunches the next day. It's perfect. The recipes are all delicious and the ingredients used are always planned based on what's in season. Did I mention the handy shopping list these sites generate for you based on what meals you selected for the week?? I pick out and print my weekly menu plan each week and the shopping list provided makes it so easy to quickly get what I need to make everything. gFreeCuisine also provides easy snack ideas, drink suggestions, bread recipes, and my favorite - monthly freezer meals, all on the website! I LOVE having a gluten-free meal planning helper. It's well worth the price of the subscription. The meals are all pretty easy to make - GF meal planning websites are my favorite kitchen tool!

And there you have it.

Are you gluten-free? What was the hardest part of going GF for you?

How To...Enjoy Christmas

Today I want to send you over to our Pastor's blog (click the image to go there). He posted a really great list of ways to enjoy Christmas and I think everything on his list is so important, everyone should read it!

I'm all for simplifying my life and Pastor Troy's list serves as an excellent reminder to simplify and keep focused on the right things this season.

Go ahead, click the image to go to his post!

What are you waiting for? Go check it out! :)