Friday, December 31, 2010

Don't Do It

It's New Year's Eve and everyone is ready with their champagne and lists of things they want to change, accomplish or work toward next year. It's exciting thinking about all the great things that the new year will bring. It's a fresh start. Another chance to make things great instead of so-so.

Let's talk about your list. Is it a detailed outline of specific goals, i.e. 'loose 20 lbs.', 'get a promotion', 'pay off your credit card'? Or is it more vague and open ended, like 'spend more time with the kids', 'eat healthier', 'do some soul searching'?  Either way you're setting yourself up for failure, and you know it.

I don't want to take the wind out of your sails, but don't do it. I'm not being pessimistic, we all know I am a Freakin' Eureakan by nature. But the fact is, most people are not actually able to accomplish the resolutions they undertake, putting themselves into a 'victim of circumstance' position, which is nothing less than depressing.

So I'm telling you to stop making lists of things to change. That's going to be your 'newness' for each year. That's what you are going to do for 2011. You are going to NOT make a list of things to change about yourself, your life, your situation.

Instead, make this commitment: Live in a way that doesn't make you want to change a thing. Complex, I know. But try it. For 2011 live in a way that won't make you want to change something for 2012. Still worried about that 20 lbs.? Live in a way that doesn't make that an issue for 2012. Change the way you LIVE and all those things fall into place.

If you were to consciously make the choice to love the way you live everyday - every hour - you would be content. Contentment leads to joy. Joy eases the discomfort of discipline which, in turn, leads to an instinctive ability to make good decisions that nourish the joy.

Stop being a victim of circumstance and choose to change. You say you want to lose 20 lbs? Choose salmon instead of a burger every now and then. It won't kill you - it's just a choice. You want to spend more time with the kids? Turn off the TV. The computer. The phone. Play tag, ride bikes, dance. Want to pay off the credit card? Take it out of your wallet. Make the choice to take control of the situation. Want to eat healthier? Don't buy junk. It's a decision you make every time you go to the store. Not just on New Year's.

After changing the way you choose to live, there's a good chance you'll actually accomplish all those unresolved goals. Playing with the kids more and paring down the grocery bill by cutting out the junk will make you loose 20 lbs. AND charge less on the credit card. Who knows, enjoying life might even land you that promotion. Happy employees are more productive after all......


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Food Frenzy: Part 2 Survival

Going to a party, holiday or otherwise, that is not providing 'safe' foods for a food sensitive person is challenging, but do-able. Navigating the holidays with food allergies requires only forethought for survival.

Prior to the event, ask the host(ess) what will be served and what time eating is to commence. Many events start with food which allows you to eat beforehand and be purposely late to avoid watching everyone else eat. 

Based on the menu, decide if you want to bring your own foods or eat before you go. Offer to bring something to share so you know you'll be able to eat at least one thing at the event. If you opt not to create a complete separate meal for yourself to eat, bring handy inconspicuous snacks like nuts, that can be consumed while mingling instead of sitting at a dinner table.

Food issues or not, it's always a good idea to eat something healthy and high in protein at home before joining a food laden party. Having a full stomach will lead you to eat less of the junky fattening indulgences typically served at holiday gatherings.

Once you've planned accordingly, you will be able to relax and enjoy the season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Food Frenzy: Part 1 Safety

I'll be honest, I have ALWAYS loved the holidays. The weather, the family time, the shopping, and of course the food. However, when celiac disease became a part of my life, I began to dread it all. It became a nightmare. All that food became a risk and the daunting task of trying to make a replica of everything in a gluten free version was overwhelming and exhausting.

Even the shopping was no longer enjoyable because it meant frantically running to several different stores trying to piece together enough gluten free items to make a mock [insert occasion here] meal. This frustration fed the dread.

But each year things have gotten a little easier. Each year I've learned new ways to stay safe and tricks to make food replication easier and quicker.

When I started this post I set out to share my Thanksgiving recipes tempted to skip the details on the safety concerns, because they are stressful. But it's important for all gluten sensitive people to know what to be aware of during the food frenzy. The following principles can be applied to all food sensitivities, and all food centered events.

1. If someone offers to make you something gluten free, make sure they are not using any colanders or wooden cutting boards that have previously been used with wheat. These two surfaces retain gluten residue and will contaminate even the best of intentions.

2.  As annoying as it is, you have to request that any utensils, cookware or serving ware to be used during the making and serving of the gluten free dish(es) are first washed (even if they were already 'clean'), with a brand new sponge that has not been exposed to wheat. A sponge is another porous surface that will spread gluten to seemingly clean dishes.

3. This brand new sponge, or a freshly laundered dish rag, should also be used to wipe down preparation and eating surfaces.

4. Double check the ingredients to be used. I know this seems tedious, especially if the generous person seems to have a handle on what gluten free means. Take for example, rice krispies treats. It is a common fallacy that this convenient little treat is gluten free if it's homemade, it is made with RICE krispies after all. However, Rice Krispies cereal (Kellog's brand) contains MALT FLAVORING, which is typically made from barley, which is GLUTEN.

5. Should this be a large gathering, remind the host beforehand that it is very important that the serving utensils not be interchanged between safe and unsafe foods by guests. The safe foods may be marked for clarification or placed in a separate location to reduce this risk. 

6. If the foods are setup buffet style, or even family style, ask your host to clarify which foods are gluten free (or have them marked ahead of time so you don't have to bother him/her during festivities).
It seems tactless to ask all of this of your host and I typically decline even the most generous offers because the effort that gluten free prep in an otherwise glutinous home demands seems just as faux pas. However some golden heart-ed people are relentlessly willing to jump through every possible hoop to prepare food that you can enjoy freely. Those people, my friends, are Angels; cherish them and reciprocate their great and diligent effort, for serving an Angel is blessing.

For tips and trick on joining a party where gluten free food is NOT being served, check out The Food Frenzy: Part 2.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taco Well

Tonight, I planned on making tacos, and coincidentally so did Stephanie Barone of Mommy Doesn't Cook On Friday. Now, call me sheltered, but I had never heard of wrapping a hard taco with a soft tortilla, but I was anxious to try Stephanie's suggestion.

Many people like Stephanie "try to limit [taco nights] to once a month because it's not the healthiest meal but it really makes everyone happy." So, I thought I'd share my prudent spin on taco's. Don't give up taco night, just taco well.

1. Use organic ground beef/turkey or shredded beef/chicken.

2. Make your own seasoning. It requires little effort and allows you to skip all the preservatives and other chemicals in the pre-packaged taco kits.
For 1lb of meet use:
1 T chili pwdr
2 tsp. onion (powder or dry minced)
1 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt

3. Use organic, whole grain corn tortillas and/or hard shells.

4. Warm organic re-fried black beans, spread on the tortilla and wrap around hard shell taco.

5. Load taco with seasoned meat, cheese, fresh spinach leaves, diced tomato and fresh cilantro.

6. Devour.

7. Repeat.

8. Poor leftover meat on pasta and sprinkle with cheese in thermos for to-go lunch or over broken tortilla chips with black beans, corn, fresh spinach leaves, and tomato for a quick taco salad.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Booty Prude

Happy Halloween! This can be quite a frightening time of year for food prudes, parents and those with food allergies and/or intolerances.

How do you do Halloween healthy? Here's my two cents:

1. Most obvious, don't eat or allow your children to eat anything before examining it at home under good lighting.

2. Set up a buy back program for your kids. I give $.10/piece and my kids love it. They usually sell more than half their candy to me, which I then donate or trash.

3. Donate, donate, donate. There are several places that offer to buy your candy for $1/lb, like doctors' and dentists' offices. You can also look for places to donate it, like nursing homes, homeless shelters etc.

4. Check these references to find out which candies are gluten free:  Gluten Free Candy List from Celiac CentralGluten Free Candy list from Alison of Sure Foods Living.

5. Establish a rule for the kids (and you!) defining how much candy consumption per day is acceptable and pick a date that the candy will 'expire', and stick to it. For example, I allow my kids to have 2 pieces of their unsold candy per day for two weeks. Exactly two weeks after Halloween, all the candy goes in the trash.

6. Grab your pillow cases and go get some booty!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Black Bean 'n Pico Quesadilla

I love to make quesadillas with corn tortillas, they are quick, versatile and gluten free, and I've posted a couple of those recipes in the past. At the risk of looking like a one trick pony, I have to share my most recent creation. This ones a bit spicy, not for the sensitive foodie.

Mix following ingredients in bowl to create filler:
1 Can black beans drained and rinsed
1 Can corn drained
1/4 c pico de gallo salsa (or any salsa will work)

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Layer on preheated griddle:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
corn tortilla
1/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup Black Bean 'n Pico filler
Fresh spinach leaves
1/4 shredded pepper jack cheese
corn tortilla

Cook for 5-7 minutes on med. to high heat then carefully flip. Cook other side for 5 minutes, move to plate, and let cool for a 2 minutes. Cut with pizza cutter and serve with sour cream.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beef Asparagus Casserole

You look at your calendar and you see it coming. You dread the thought, but there it is. A busy weeknight. School functions, sporting events, after hours meetings. We've all been there. So what are you going to do for dinner? You know you have to plan in advance. Your committed to steering clear of the local drive through on such occasions. The crock pot comes to mind. You give it a good once over, incapable of remembering one single good slow cooker meal that you haven't overused, or that sounds remotely appealing. You fret. Maybe you should just pack sandwiches, it won't hurt if everyone eats lunch twice in one day. Or.....maybe you will have to hit a fast food joint, they all offer salad bowls and fruit cups and those are healthy......

OK, so maybe that's just me. I feel like I've cooked every good crock pot meal one too many times and I'm just burnt out on it. Too many busy weeknights I guess. So here is my solution for this weeks craziness called life. 

I'll be honest, this is not as quick and easy as some of my recipes. But it is convenient when prepared in advance (say the night before, or in the morning), kept in the fridge, and put in the oven close to supper time. It also makes great leftovers, so you could make it on a slow night, and reheat on the crazy one.

Formerly known as Hamburger pie, and made with tomato soup and canned green beans, I've changed this recipe up a bit to make it healthier.

Here's what you need:

1 lb. Ground Beef (or Turkey)
Portabello Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce
1 Clove Garlic
1 Bunch Fresh Asparagus
4 Potatoes
1 Egg
2 Tbsp Rice milk
1 C Sour Cream
1/2 tsp Dried Dill Weed
2 1/2 Cups Shredded Italian Blend Cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350*
Brown beef, drain, rinse, drain, add spaghetti sauce, and garlic, stir, set aside.
Wash, peel, quarter potatoes, boil until tender. Add egg, sour cream, rice milk and Dill, blend with mixer.
Wash and cut asparagus into 2 inch pieces, leaving out the dried ends (about 1/2 inch of bottom of stalk).

Pour Beef sauce into deep casserole dish.
Line Asparagus on top of beef sauce.
Cover with 1/2-1 cup of cheese.
Add Potatoes to casserole and top with rest of cheese.
Bake at 350* for 1 hour.

Tomorrow, warm thermoses and fill with leftover beef asparagus casserole for lunches. Two birds, one stone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top 50 Gluten Free Blogs

Click to follow Food Prude on Facebook
Food Prude is listed in the Top 50 Blogs in: Gluten Free on Networked Blogs.  I want to say a big "THANK YOU" to all my fellow Food Prudes out there for reading, commenting on, and sharing my posts.  I am inspired by all the great feedback and interest in gluten free and healthy living, and I vow to continue to try to post valuable information and delicious recipes.

Please join me and other Food Prude's on my Facebook Fan Page for open discussions, and share your stories and recipes!

The Food Prude

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Asian Glazed Chicken - G Free

Break out your chopsticks. This recipe is better than your local take out and completely gluten free....

Today, I was super excited to log on and discover that one of my friends has started her own recipe and meal planning blog. She too is a busy working mom and has lots of creative quick and easy weeknight meal ideas. Tonight, I dove headfirst into her first recipe, converting it as I went along, and the result was a delicious Asian inspired gluten free meal.

I must clarify that her recipe called for Salmon, which I'm sure tastes even better with this sauce, but  I needed to cook the fresh organic chicken in my fridge, so I am presenting Asian Chicken to you.

For reference, here is Mommy Doesn't Cook On Friday's blog site with the original recipe.

Here is how I made it suitable for my gluten free family:

Preheat grill
Steam Basmati or Wild rice

Rinse and pat dry 4 boneless skinless organic chicken breasts

zest & juice two organic oranges - put half aside for rice

To the remaining zest/juice add:
2 TB dark brown sugar
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp grapeseed oil
1 TB Tamari (wheat free soy sauce)

Create aluminum foil 'boat' for chicken breasts and pour sauce over them, turn and make sure chicken is well covered. Grill, turning once, until done.

Steam Basmati or Wild rice. Add saved orange juice and zest and teaspoon of sesame or olive oil, stir and set aside for about 5 min.

Create second aluminum foil 'boat'. Pour 2 TB olive oil on and crush 2 cloves of garlic onto the oil. Add 4 c
ups fresh organic spinach and toss, coating spinach with oil and garlic. Place on grill over burner on low and grill until JUST wilted. (this can also be done in pan on stove, I just used the grill because the weather was nice)

This meal is not only delicous, it's full of vital nutrients and makes great leftovers too! Enjoy it, and make sure you follow Mommy Doesn't Cook On Friday for the full weeks menu!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Precious Pretzels

Eating 'gluten free' foods can be very intimidating. There's always the chance that the food in question isn't safe and illness will insue, or the more likely chance that it is completely gluten free and your taste buds will shrivel in despair.

Despite aforementioned anxiety, I was fortunate to have a great first experience with pre-packaged gluten free food, which fostered high expectations and led to several disappointments over the course of my gluten free years.

The first designated gluten free product I bought was Glutino's pretzels, which surprisingly, are better tasting than 'real' pretzels. Unfortunately, as with most processed gluten free foods, they are expensive and poorly packaged causing quick, and disheartening spoiling if not consumed quickly.

Because we so enjoy Glutino's pretzels, but must maintain a tight grocery budget, my children and I began looking for creative ways to use up stale and/or broken pretzel leftovers.

Recently, we used our pretzel crumbs in a dish my 9 year old was concocting, called Gooey Greatness, where she mixed crushed cashews with almond butter and honey. The pretzels made a nice addition, but we were still looking for more ideas.

Much to my delight, I found this little blip about pretzels in Family Circle magazine and I can't wait to convert these recipes into delectable gluten free dishes.

1. Brush each side of 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with 1 tsp spicy brown mustard. Roll in finely crushed pretzels; bake at 400* for about 15 minutes.
2. For pie crust, mix 2 cups finely crushed pretzels, 6 tbsp melted butter and 3 tbsp sugar. Press into a pie plate and bake at 350* for 10 minutes.
3.  Make a simple sweet dessert by melting 12 ounces semisweet chocolate baking chips, then stir in 1 cup coarsely crushed pretzels and 1/2 cup chopped nuts. Spread out onto a waked paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 1 hour and break into pieces.

Have an idea for pretzel leftovers? Share them on Food Prude's facebook fan page.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hot Cocoa You Can Feel Good About

It's officially fall, and that means it's time to re-vamp your hot cocoa and make it something you're proud to share.

Here's my recipe:
  1. Warm milk of choice (cow's, goat's, rice, soy, or almond, always organic)
  2. 2 Tbsp. Powdered chocolate / cocoa (Ghiradelli Sweet Chocolate is our favorite)
  3. 1-2 drops Agave Nectar (low glycemic sweetener - a staple in a Food Prude's pantry- found near honey at almost all grocery stores)
  4. Dash of Cinnamon
Food Prude Facts:
Drinking pure cocoa, rather than eating processed forms of it (i.e. chocolate candy), is the best way to reap the many benefits, like high antioxidants without the saturated fat. Cocoa also has a positive effect on blood pressure due to the flavanols that allow vascular tissue to relax. Further, cocoa aids in glucose metabolism, and reduces your risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes by 10%.

Agave Nectar is the most beneficial and lowest glycemic sweetener on the market. Low glycemic means it won't cause a sharp rise and fall of blood sugar levels when consumed. Agave has anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties as well as antibacterial properties. It can be effective in weight loss, reducing appetite, lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of certain cancers, and increasing absorption of vital nutrients such as isoflavones, calcium and magnesium. Agave Nectar is a very flexible sweetener and can replace sugar in most recipes.

Cinnamon is rich in phytonutrients which act like insulin and may help regulate blood sugar levels - especially good for people with diabetes. It also lowers bad cholesterol, and can remedy medication resistant yeast infections. It's a great source of maganese, fiber, iron, and calcium, which the agave will help you absorb in this recipe!

It has also been shown that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory - a perfect start to a busy school or work day. So next time you want a warm cup of hot cocoa, make it an advantageous cup, and have two!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gluten Freedom....

For one day at least. Paruse, eat, enjoy......without asking a gazillion's ALL GLUTEN FREE!  Today from 4-8 at The Glass Cactus on Grapevine Lake.

Come one, come all. Sample great foods, learn about gluten free diets and health benefits and have fun. If I survive the Jailbreak run, I'll see you there!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finding Celiac

Because recognizing and diagnosing Celiac disease can be much like the wild and seemingly endless quest to Finding Nemo, this post is titled after the very popular Pixar film. Similarly, the beginning scenes of this post are a little unsettling, leading into a dangerous but comical adventure with beautiful and fulfilling results.

Inspired by questioning, I will share our family diagnosis story here. For privacy reasons, I will not be using my family's real names.

Our story begins with Lane, our first daughter, who was a 'text book' baby, meaning that she had a perfectly normal and uneventful fetal experience and delivery, and was developing right on track.  Until 18 months of age when she began vomiting every time she ate wheat. That seemed simple enough, she must be just like me, allergic to wheat. So I took her off wheat (not gluten). While she stopped vomiting, the problems moved south. By age 3 she was having severe, uncontrollable diarrhea (she was potty trained but began having explosive accidents). As sad as it was to see her tummy ache, the blood in her stool was my biggest concern. Still, my first instinct was food allergies so I took her to a pediatric allergist in Dallas, who, after listening to her symptoms, very precisely and arrogantly refused to test her for food allergies and referred me to a pediatric GI down the hall.  Being young and new to mothering in general, as well as sleep deprived (because I also had a 6 month old at the time) I didn't question his blatancy and just followed his recommendation.

I took Lane to the Pediatric GI who insisted on a colonoscopy before speculation as to what could be causing this inexplicable diarrhea.  After a very traumatic procedure (which details will remain untold) the doctor diagnosed her with ulcerative colitis, prescribed an arm load of steroids and other drugs, told me that she would have colon cancer by age 25, and dismissed us. Refusing to put her on all those drugs I took her to my holistic nutritionist who had helped me with all my food allergies. She informed me that colitis just means inflammation of the colon and that I needed to figure out what was causing the inflammation, and that no matter what, Lane would benefit from a gluten free diet because gluten is hard the gut. Immediately, Lane was put on a gluten free diet and her symptoms improved to a tolerable amount of infrequent tummy aches. Unfortunately, her symptoms worsened again when she was 5 years old. After keeping a detailed food diary for her, I was sure it was food allergies and I proceeded to take her to a local (Flower Mound) allergist to have her tested. The results were conclusive, she was allergic to corn. Of all things,  CORN! I poured over the Internet, researching everything corn tainted and wearily wrote down the handful of things that did NOT have the allergen in them because it was simpler than trying to compile a list of the thousands of products that DID have corn.  Lane was now gluten free and corn free and eating a lot of rice and salad, and still having the occasional bout with diarrhea. 

Just after adjusting to our new corn free diet, we began having problems with our middle daughter, Drew, who was 3, and another 'text book' baby.  Drew suddenly began breaking out in hives every time she ate....anything. I promptly called up our friendly local allergist and took her in, only to discover that she has no food allergies. None. What was I to do now? I fed her Benedryl with every meal. Let me note here that I am not paranoid, there were two factors that led me to use small amounts of benedryl with Drew, 1) I myself have had anaphylactic reactions from allergies and they are very serious, 2) I am well versed in the quick progression of food allergies, and know that what starts out as a rash upon one encounter can turn to blocked airways upon the third. I vowed to be cautious until I got answers, which was in the very near future fortunately.

Dumbfounded, I took her to our family doctor who is a nice cross between a homeopath and a mainstream medical physician. She was open minded enough to do a blood test to look for IgA antibodies to gluten on Drew. Sure enough, she had them. That was the first indication of celiac in our family, aside from Lane's undiagnosed aversion to all things wheat. I had read about Celiac, and the diagnosis process, and I was leery of what was to come next. Typically, the Celiac diagnosis process follows this standard: blood work, colonoscopy, gluten free diet, follow up colonoscopy, diagnosis. I was not interested in traumatizing another one of my children and fortunately, neither was our family doctor.  She recommended we put Drew on a GF diet and follow up with her in a month. In the mean time, she suggested that we all get tested for IgA because celiac is genetic and everyone in our family is at risk. 

Lane had been GF for too long for the blood test to be accurate, so we tried putting her back on gluten before the blood test, but it made her so incredibly sick to her stomach after one encounter that we couldn't go through with it. Lane still does not have a firm diagnosis, all we know is that she cannot, in any way, tolerate gluten.

The rest of us were all regular wheat eaters and got blood tested. Much to my surprise, I was not the carrier. I have several food allergies, including wheat which led me to believe I would be the one with Celiac disease, but much to our surprise, it was my husband, Alan.

I'll digress here and tell you a little about his history. Alan's problems started when he was about 3 also. His mother, an enlightened RN at the time, took him to the doctor for stomach problems and diarrhea and demanded he be tested for celiac (imagine back then, they probably didn't even know what it was!) Alan's test, if they even did it correctly, was negative. So they went the dairy free - it must be lactose - direction and he grew up with continued bowel problems, thinking he was lactose intolerant. **SIDE NOTE- damage caused by undiagnosed celiac disease often causes lactose intolerance.** When I met him, he was 23 and very thin, like the malnourished product of a third world country, with the distended belly and all. He was also a picky eater. Alan never ate pasta, pizza, or anything with bread on it. He would order a sandwich and then take the bread off and just eat the meat. I thought it was very strange, he always said he just didn't like breads and things of that nature. As in many cases, his instincts were protecting him. He went gluten free when he found out he had celiac and has never felt better. He has since filled out and doesn't have the stomach problems that he has always had in the past.

My third daughter Avery, also tested positive for gluten antibodies. Meaning she did have or was going to have full blown celiac. At the time of her diagnosis, she was 16 months old and we thought she was asymptomatic, she didn't seem to have any food related issues.  So we thought. After her test results, she too went gluten free, and the Angels descended from the Heavens and blessed us with peace. Avery slept through the night. Something she had never done until now, at 16 months of age.  She was a colicky baby and never slept more than an hour at a time, even at night, but I never attributed that to GLUTEN. Until she became a 'normal' baby almost overnight after she went gluten free. Needless to say, she, too, will be GF forever.

As I learned more and more about the gluten free diet and glutinous foods, I discovered that I had inadvertently be feeding Lane a few things that I shouldn't have. Like Oats. There is a huge learning curve with the celiac disease, the gluten free diet is very complex and hard to implement. Prepare yourself for this and be patient. 

What should you do if you suspect gluten is an issue?

1) Start by keeping a food diary. Write down what you eat, when you eat it, and how you feel later. After a few weeks you should be able to go back and see a pattern.

2) Try a GF diet for a month and see if your problems go away. There are flaws with this option, of course. First, a gf diet is tricky and it would be hard for you to make sure you are completely GF. Second, once you've been gf for a while (long enough to notice improvement) you cannot be tested for celiac unless you ingest gluten regularly for about a month or so. Which sounds easy, but you must know that the longer you've been off of gluten, the sicker you'll get when/if you go back on it.

3) See a holistic doctor, a nutritionist, or a GI that specializes in Celiac, and ask for the IgA blood test for celiac. That is the first in a series of steps to getting (or ruling out) a diagnosis. Note, that if you go to a GI, they are going to require a colonoscopy for diagnosis.

4) Get allergy tested, even if you've been tested before, food allergies can develop at any time just like seasonal allergies.

As always, I hope that this information helps you. Please share it with others who may be suffering from undiagnosed celiac disease. The wide range of symptoms is too long to list here, but is available at and several other places. 1 in 90 people have Celiac disease today, and if ignored, it can lead to severe and irreversible health problems.

If you remember the opening to this post, you are probably wondering where the beauty and fulfillment is in all of this. Let me tell you. The fulfillment is in the answers. Knowing there is something wrong, but not knowing what can be frightening, even for the strongest faith.  The beauty is in the divine complexity of our bodies. We have been empowered with the responsibility of maintaining these intricate 'machines,' and this story reminds us to listen to them.

Friday, September 3, 2010

S'mores And Smushes Please

Labor Day weekend is highly anticipated in my home, as it brings many reasons to celebrate and reminisce. My first child was born on Labor Day weekend 2001. She, in particular, cherishes this time of year because she is the center of attention, which is hard to accomplish in a bustling household of five. Labor Day also marks the unofficial end of summer and demands one last hurrah, which gives me two good excuses to make sure this holiday weekend is special every year.

As if those reasons were not enough, I also take advantage of this family time to remember the events of  9/11/01, as dreadful as it sounds, to be mindful of those who die, and serve for our freedom, re-iterate those freedoms to my children, and to model a sincere gratitude for such liberty. In my opinion, this historical September date is as significant as Independence day and deserves reflection.

This trifecta calls for a special menu, regardless of the location of our celebration, and when treat requests are opened up to the panel, otherwise known as the three short people in my home, the results are unanimous, "S'mores and Smooshes please!"

As with everything else, gluten free s'mores present a challenge, but where there is a will, there is a way.

Because we were gluten free when gluten free wasn't cool, our first hankering for s'mores called for graham crackers made from scratch. If you've paid attention, you know that 5 years ago, I was knee deep in a 'new' diet, had three kids ages 4 and under, ran a business with a workaholic husband, and would never risk my last shred of sanity attempting to make homemade gf graham crackers. I would have to get creative.

I remembered that I was quite the pro at making gluten free chocolate chip cookies from scratch, or so my little taste testers led me to believe, and while I whipped up a batch I convinced myself that I was being resourceful instead of lazy, and once cooled, we happily proceeded to smush roasted marshmallows between them. They went over without a hitch and were deemed 'Smushes' by my girls. Unbeknownst to me, this little treat was already created by the Pennsylvanian Amish in 1917, and are still known as Whoopie Pies to Mainers. These cute little treats are not s'mores, but just as fun and somewhat more appealing to the one who cleans the faces of the consumers.

Fortunately, times have changed, and the geniuses behind Kinnikinnick Foods created gluten free graham crackers. All we have to do is pick them up at the store! (I'm easily amused, I know.) These cherished crackers are called S'moreables and are also dairy free and nut free to boot. Because they are made with whole grain flours and natural sugars like honey and molasses, they have become a summertime staple in our prudent home. Find stores that carry this brand at

If you'd like to make your own, here is a GF Graham Cracker Recipe  from Living Without. Martha Stewart also has a whole wheat recipe on her site and claims they are easy to make.

So this Labor Day, in the thick of the tall Texas Pines, we will be fireside with our Hershey's bars, GF Graham Crackers, Marshmallows, and chocolate chip cookies, delighting in s'mores AND smushes just for kicks.

Please share your favorite Gluten Free Labor Day tradition with us!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Quinoa Meatloaf

I am not a red meat lover, but my husband is, so I occasionally make some juicy dish that he can sink his teeth into, simply to satisfy this deep seeded and somewhat barbaric need.

Last night I pulled organic ground beef from the fridge, (it's not as random as it sounds, I bought it so I could make sure we had red meat at least once during the week), and stared at it for a few moments waiting for it to tell me exactly what it wanted to be made into. Nothing came of it so I decided to let the grill decide.

Sadly, our grill is only 3 years old and has had the starters replaced twice. Two of them have gone out again, requiring the use of a flame thrower to obtain desired flamage, leaving me to risk the safety of the skin on my right arm to make use of this pertinent cooking appliance. After a few moments of fearfully forcing my hand down into the grill, with no success, I decided the grill didn't want to cook, and I would go back and ask the beef again.

This time, the beef had an answer, it was meatloaf. Sigh. Three quarters of the way through an ever increasing exhausting day comes a challenge requiring thought.

Gluten free, mouth worthy meatloaf can be difficult. Most recipes call for bread crumbs (wheat!), or oats (gluten!), and while these two key ingredients can be purchased in 'certified gluten free' form, they are both expensive and don't always provide the desired taste or consistency that their glutinous predecessors do. (And I don't have either of them and I'm not going to the store at this point in the day).

So I stood in the pantry doorway and physically assaulted every remotely grain-like food product available, trying to determine it's meatloaf potential. While crushed Kix cereal would have worked, Quinoa was given a rose....I mean chosen. (Yes, that was a reference to The Bachelorette, I couldn't resist).

How exactly do I make quinoa meatloaf? I digress.

I start by keeping an Internet ready computer in my kitchen, and, as I do on many too-tired-to-be-creative-nights, I go to and type in Quinoa Meatloaf. Poof, there's a recipe for me to tweak....I mean try.

Quinoa Meatloaf (this one calls for turkey, I used beef but either will work. I skipped the hot pepper sauce, and used onion and garlic powder to simplify. Typically I like a ketchupy sauce on top, but thought I'd give this one a shot, and it wasn't revolting!)


  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 (20 ounce) package ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon water


  1. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute; remove from heat to cool.
  4. Stir the turkey, cooked quinoa, onions, tomato paste, hot sauce, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire, egg, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until well combined. The mixture will be very moist. Shape into a loaf on a foil lined baking sheet. Combine the brown sugar, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire, and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Rub the paste over the top of the meatloaf.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center, about 50 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Let the meatloaf cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Serve with something organic and green (like peas, spinach, broccoli) and a starch like a baked sweet potato, and ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Keep the Peppermints

The Food Prude cleaned out her purse a few days ago, and among all the important, nameless things, I found these random indicators of my daily story:

A Christmas pencil, Biofreeze, 5 screws, a dozen coffee beans, 3 sea shells, 4 marbles, 15 pens, an over sized key that unlocks nothing, 7 pony tail holders, the stick to a candy formerly known as "Dum Dum," 2 crayons, a quarter, a penny, a peso, a Lowe's gift card, a children's consignment shop club card, a miniature Sharpie, bobby pins, red sequins, 2 Hannah Montana stickers, a paper clip, two peppermints, a game token, a melted Hershey kiss, expired Justice coupons, a pink hair bow, 2 silly bandz, movie ticket stubs, inedible gum, and a Mercedes Benz key chain....just in case.

Of course, I did not put these things back into my purse. However, I will likely replenish with a similar collection of insignificant items, as I do have 3 young daughters after all.

What is the point of all this? The peppermints. As a hypoglycemic mock celiac often caught in situations where low blood sugar is inevitable but food options are limited or completely unavailable, (like 2 hour parent orientations, rush hour traffic, back to back soccer games, etc.), I rely heavily on my stash of instant sugar, otherwise known as peppermints, to keep my sugar level steady until I can get a good source of protein.

Why peppermints specifically? Aside from the quick sugar fix when I can feel myself fading, I like the taste and while I don't believe that eating candy is really going to make a contribution to my health, there are several desirable characteristics of peppermint that, if the sugar content doesn't over power the oil, can be beneficial.

Foremost, peppermint soothes the human digestive tract which in turn limits indigestion. Peppermint also helps alleviate stomach conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and has been found useful in treating stomach cancer and gallbladder disease. Peppermint has also been shown to stunt the growth of many different types of bacteria and fungi. This in turn has been found to help relieve symptoms of allergies and asthma. Finally, while many of you are probably not going to go around rubbing candy all over yourselves, peppermint oil has been found to help relieve tension headaches. And the mere smell of peppermint has been known to relieve stress.

Because I don't like the corn syrup and artificial colors in store bought mints, I am going to make this recipe for my mint stash:

1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. powdered sugar
4 Tbsp. water
a drop or two of peppermint oil (more concentrated than extract, but extract can be used)

Combine granulated sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Add flavoring, and powdered sugar. Drop on wax paper quickly. (The first mints will be round, but as the mixture cools, the mints become lumpier.)

What's in your purse?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Grilled Sirloin

On a recent trip to my favorite grocery store, one of those well positioned end cap sales caught my eye. You know, the ones that self proclaimed savvy shoppers typically tune out. It was a nice display of assorted sauces,  which is one of those products, much to my dismay, that usually contains gluten. I decided to stop and check it out, hoping to find a surprise on the off chance that this manufacturer had wised up to the demand for minimally processed and gluten free products.

It just so happens that the items on display were part of 'Bronco Bob's' All Natural Sauce Collection, and not only were they discounted, but they were GLUTEN FREE! With home made looking packaging, and a wide range of colors, several of the delectable flavors tickled my fancy; Smoked Bacon Chipotle, Tangy Apricot Chipotle, Orange Ginger Grilling was hard to choose. Without a particular recipe in mind, I had a hard time figuring out what I was going to do with this sauce when I got home.

I decided on the Roasted Raspberry Chipotle because I was sure that no matter what I put it on, it was going to sound, and taste, delicious. Sure enough, I scored and marinated a Tri Tip Sirloin steak in the sauce. I proceeded to grill the steak and am happy to report that the enticing name didn't disappoint. This is now one of my favorite marinades, and it's extremely simple!

Of course, you can make a similar sauce, or rub, yourself, which I also have done, but some nights call for something a little less time consuming.

While this isn't really a recipe, per se, it is encouragement to experiment with your cooking. It's not hard at all. Pay attention to the end cap sales, and if it's a healthy item that's being promoted, grab one. Then get creative and find a way to use it.

Next time you're at the store or farmer's market, buy something different, (with food prude standards in mind of course), and get creative!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Meet Satan.....

 .....uh, Seitan.....that is. Pronounced the same, and equally evil to wheat allergic and gluten intolerant foodies worldwide, this substance is descriptive of foods made from the gluten portion of wheat. Coincidence?

Wheat and gluten, also known in my house as contraband and kryptonite respectively, are detrimental to those who've met their tolerance threshold.

Seitan specifically is typically found in meat substitute food products, like veggie burgers, meatless nuggets, etc. It is the glutinous 'elastic mass' as wikipedia explains, that has a more chewy meat like texture than other vegetarian substitutes.

Word to the wise: Look for gluten (wheat, barley, oats, rye) in all things that stick together. Dough, Play-Doh, meatballs, meatloaf, hot dogs, veggie burgers, soups, dressings, condiments, sauces, beer, root beer, cookies, cakes, crackers, pastas, casseroles, etc.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss....

....until it kills you. The old cliche "what you don't know can't hurt you," doesn't apply to nutrition. Purposely turning a blind eye to unhealthy food choices is terminally naive. Trust me, being a 'Freakin' Eurekan,' I am all for bliss, but not if it's going to cost me my health.

I'll admit, there is something refreshing about the sweet taste and fizzy feeling of a soda embracing your taste buds on the heels of a meal. Or is there? We all know it's bad for us. And those of us that are conscious consumers feel guilty if/when we do enjoy the occasional soda.  Would it help us stop drinking it if we stopped pretending we don't know it's harmful?

Here is a visual for you to use every time you crave a soda. Picture the acidic chemical laden beverage effecting each of part of your body as it goes down. Soda makes a lasting impression on our innards, and it's not something to be proud of.

Harmful Soda
Via: Term Life Insurance

Drink Responsibly!

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Double Dose of Gluttony.....

You've heard it. Obesity is an epidemic in America. I'm not going to beat a dead horse, (in this post anyway), I'm going to tell you a funny story.

On a recent trip to my sister's nursing home, the topic of over zealous eating and drinking came up and my brother, his girlfriend, my sister and I, discussed the shocking amounts of soda and other junk that many people, especially teens, are consuming everyday.

You are probably wondering what sparked this random conversation amidst the many subjects the four of us have to cover.

There was a giant travel mug with a popular soda brand label on it, sitting on a table in the lobby, where we sat, waiting for loose ends to be tied before we could take my sister out on a road trip. Everyone had glanced at it, wandering who it belonged to first, and what possessed someone to drink that much soda second, but no one said anything about it. It quickly became the elephant in the room, figuratively speaking.

So I decided to break the ice, and take a picture of it, for Food Prude's facebook fan page, of course, and the conversation that ensued led to a word of the day declaration. The word being 'gluttony.'

Shortly after receiving permission to leave the grounds, our quartet was happily on it's way to my sister's favorite restaurant, Red Lobster, which, unbeknownst to me, is a very un-allergy-friendly place to eat. 

Upon entering, we were promptly seated at a handicap accessible table which soon became the setting for our next experience with our new word of the day.

Soon our waiter addressed us and took our drink order, which is typically the best time to mention food allergies and ask for a specialty menu. Since I had never eaten at Red Lobster, and didn't have the opportunity to research the place before visiting, I didn't know if they were enlightened to the demand for gluten free menu items.

I asked if they had a gluten free menu by chance, and received the all to familiar puzzled look and stammered response, as the young, obviously new waiter said with a question in his voice "we have the Lighthouse Menu, for dieters?"

With understanding that I was now completely on my own, I politely responded with a chuckle and clarified that I was referring to allergens, and that he would know if they had a gluten free menu. He laughed, and simultaneously turned 3 shades of red as he said, "OH! I thought you were trying to say GLUTTON FREE!"

Friday, August 13, 2010

Focus On The Trees

Today I wrote while I ran. This post has nothing to do with food, but everything to do with discipline. Everyone has to go through hardships, some emotional, some physical. Meditation has helped me through many tough endeavors, including drug free child birth, while exercise helps me cope with stress, and both require commitment.

This article from the Mayo Clinic refers to exercise as meditation in motion, and briefly discusses the benefits of both.

Below is my running meditation.

The sun's up. Shoes on. Ipod shuffled. Muscles warm. Run. Inhale. Exhale. Keep running. Focus on the trees ahead. The air is stagnant. Their leaves drooping. Breathe. Inhale deep. Exhale. Run. One foot. Then the other. Meditate on the trees. Your breath blows through the branches dusting off their leaves. Think past your throbbing joints. Push through the fatigue. Quiet your screaming thoughts. Keep running. One foot. Then the other. Inhale. Exhale. Focus on the trees ahead. Their leaves need dusting.....

What's your coping mechanism? Is it working for you? Does it benefit you in the long run? If you can't answer these questions with confidence, it may be time to change things up.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Living Without

Recognize the title? If you frequent health food stores such as Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Market Street, you've probably seen this magazine at the checkout stand.

It is a great resource for gluten free, food allergic, and otherwise discerning eaters. Be prepared though, it's not cheap. At $5.95 an issue, or a subscription of 6 issues/year for $23, it can deter you from committing.

However, it is a good investment. The recipes are simple enough for rookies, but enticing enough to keep even the veterans interested.

Further, the articles are very eduactional, and supportive of special diets of all kinds.

If you need a little reassurance that you are not the only person on the planet with a food intolerance, or prudent diet, you might want to give it a read.

Check out the website at and sign up for the email recipes for some new ideas to refresh your menu.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No Coincidence

I  apologize in advance for the cliche, but this is food for thought: An individual's scope of wellness cannot be limited to the ingredients ingested. With a more holistic approach, I'd like to focus on another component of general health in this post and that is mental nourishment.

Below is a short story I wrote about a desire for mind candy turned on it's head by pre-ordained details. What I learned from this experience is pertinent to the goal of this blog. Our brains are just as absorbent as our gut, what we put in will have an effect on the surface it touches, regardless of how harmless we think it is, or how hard we try to convince ourselves that it won't.
Let me preface this by saying, I'm not an extremist, I'm not self righteous, and I don't run a cult. With that said, take alcohol for example. We all know that large amounts of alcohol, over a period of time will result in serious damage to the liver. With such common knowledge, how can anyone expect that repetitive exposure to dramatic, gory, negative, or Gothic themed information wouldn't wreak havoc on our thoughts, and eventually our spirits?
No Coincidence
A few weeks ago, while visiting my sister in hospice, I was fortunate enough to experience one of those moments. The kind we long for. When we can feel God's presence, when His guidance comes across in tangible and literal means that we can understand, and even *feel.*

After another emotional conversation, where we consoled each other about her impending yet all too early death, my sister was sleepy and informed me of her need to nap. I kissed her on the forehead and quietly left her room, not sure of where I was headed, but desperate for a distraction from the thoughts and emotions coursing through my mind and body.

I found myself at a nearby used bookstore, and I was looking forward to the challenge that awaited me. Much to my delight, I noticed that this cute little second hand 'reader's Heaven' was busting at the seems, and the '50% OFF ALL BOOKS' sign, which was merely a desperate attempt to remedy their surplus predicament, was to my benefit. I was sure to find a treasure here, so I eagerly proceeded to scour the place. From floor to ceiling I gave each book a once over, determined to find the perfect book to take my mind off of my aching heart.

As I drew closer and closer to the check out counter, at the end of the well planned and slightly over analyzed circle and zigzag pattern I had made throughout the store, my confidence waned, and I became anxious about my treasure-less destiny. A sense of urgency rushed over me when I realized I had been in the store for more than an hour, many customers had come and gone, yet I was still there, searching, hoping to find a decent, yet self indulgent excuse to avoid the feelings I was choking on.

Amidst my racing thoughts, I said a quick prayer that went something like this, "Lord, please show me the way, guide me, help me find a book to get me through this, give me the book that YOU want me to read."

The very next book I grabbed was 'Learning to Breathe Again' by Tammy Trent. The description reads, "Choosing Life and Finding Hope After A Shattering Loss." Really? I thought. Really, God? I was hoping it would be something that would make me happy, take my mind OFF of my personal 'tragedy,' not something that would make me deal with it.

I put the book back on the shelf and continued down the bookcase just in case the answer to my prayer was a little delayed and there was a different book waiting for me. Within seconds my phone rang. Embarrassed by how loud it was in this quiet, empty, bookstore, I scrambled to answer it quickly, and in a whisper I said "Hi Mom, are you there? OK, I'll be there," and hung up.

My mother was meeting me, and she was only 5 minutes away from our destination. Disappointed, and unwilling to leave without a book, I reached for that sad one I had so quickly dismissed. I looked at it long and hard, Tammy's face on the cover staring back at me, and I said, as if I were speaking to Tammy herself, "I guess you're it." And headed for the checkout.

Unable to make chit chat without losing control of the lump in my throat, I hastily paid the store owner his $3.27 and left as fast as I could. Still disappointed that I didn't find anything lighthearted, and anxious to receive a hug from my mother, I tossed the book into my passenger seat and drove down the road to our meeting place.

Much later that night, when I finally arrived at my parent's house, after a physically and emotionally exhausting day with my cancer riddled, paraplegic sister, I managed to stumble into bed with Tammy's book in my hand. I had conceded. If this is what God wanted me to read, then I was going to read it. It didn't mean I was going to like it, it just meant that I was going to play along.

It is no coincidence that this book found it's way into my life. I have struggled with grief, and loneliness, and an inability to imagine how I will continue to live without my big sister guiding me, celebrating every blessing with me and comforting me through every hardship.

God knew this, and encouraged me through Tammy's story of heartbreak and healing. Tammy closes her book with this final testimonial:
"No matter what, God's still here, and at the end of the day, God is enough. Always has been, always will be. He can handle whatever we dish out. He laughs with us in the good times, he carries us through the pain, and when tragedy knocks the wind out of us, he helps us learn to breathe again."

I am humbled by, and eternally grateful for these 'non-coincidences'. They serve as tangible reminders to us, that we are not aimlessly wandering mortals with a sometimes painful, and otherwise meaningless existence. We are predestined children of God, and guidance is there for the asking.

*As a food prude, be aware of your input on all levels, and fill your life with information that is valuable.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Competition Within

As a college student, at the tender age of 19, I was on the fast track to success. I had graduated high school a semester early with honors, and began college immediately, with the intent to continue my streak, I suppose.  Suddenly, I fell ill. Not sick enough that I couldn't go to school, but sick enough that I knew something wasn't right. After a battery of tests, and consultations, I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia and several severe food allergies.

It seemed that no matter what I ate, it made me sick in one form or another. For example, bananas. I'm actually NOT allergic to them, but the natural sugar content is too much for me, as a hypoglycemic, to tolerate on an empty stomach. It seemed as though there was a competition within my body, amongst the hundreds of important and controlling components, the winner being the most fickle of all, commanding the most severe illness.

I received an immense amount of paperwork detailing exactly what I could NOT eat. I took it all in, I was at peace with this information because it gave me answers. I was willing to do whatever it took to feel better and get on with life, which soon became a challenge in itself. It seemed that no matter what I ate, it made me sick in one form or another.

With no one else to turn to, I consulted a practitioner that soon became a staple in my life, a holistic nutritionist. At the time, I was merely thankful for her wise insight, and determination to find things I could eat and enjoy.

In hindsight however, I am thankful for many of the other divine influences surrounding this particular relationship. Being young, I was impressionable, which was a great time for me to learn from an experienced, educated, Godly professional, how to properly fuel my body, and appreciate it for all it's worth.

In addition, this diagnosis and preparation's well planned timing by the powers that be became even more evident just two short years later, when, as a recent college grad and newlywed, I discovered that we had managed to create a human being, and that my new diet was even more important because I was now responsible for the wellness of two individuals.

A mere 27 months later, it became apparent that our amazingly perfect miniature human had her own internal battle. Sadly, her illness was much more complex and difficult to diagnose. Three years later, when our second and third daughters began having similar issues, we were informed of celiac disease. A week later, we got answers. Clear cut, black and white answers. All three of our children have celiac disease, and food allergies.

Fast forward thirteen years to 2010.  My literal battle with food shaped my lifestyle, my choices, and my interests. Through a more recent personal tragedy, I learned who I am, what I am capable of, and what I am passionate about. Food Prude was born.

It is my goal to take this internal competition to a new level, one where I'm in control. I want to use this accumulated knowledge to have a positive influence on others. I am going to challenge myself to write 31 posts by the 31st of August.  It is noon on August 10. I will need to write an average of 1.5 100 word posts per day.  Think I can do it?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Crazy Good Quesadillas

Unfortunately, there are many evenings when my husband is unable to be present for dinner. On such occasions, it is unlikely that I will have the energy to take on the work involved in preparing a complex dinner menu, only to be the sole server, dish washer, and parent afterward. Nights like this call for something light and healthy with little clean up. 

While I will take the 'easier' way out of these partner-less situations, I never skimp on quality. Valuable ingredients coupled with creativity make quick, nutritious, last minute meals simple.

My favorite stand-by quick meal is quesadillas. Typically, my children request spinach and cheese quesadillas. I actually keep the 4 ingredients required for this simple meal on hand at all times; whole grain tortillas (corn in our house), extra virgin olive oil, fresh organic spinach, and a block of cheddar or mozzarella cheese.

Served with a bowl of berries, spinach quesadillas are kid friendly and well rounded. However, such a simple meal lacks a certain adult appeal. Serving myself this dish alongside my children's, left me feeling a little.....childish. So I decided to add a few grown up elements to the mix, leading to 'Crazy Good Quesadillas.'

Here's what you need:
Whole Grain Tortillas
Olive Oil
Pepper Jack Cheese
Organic Tomato
Re fried BLACK beans (Amy's Organic are my favorite because they're already seasoned.)
If your black beans are unseasoned, add some garlic, onion, and basil.

Oil the griddle, layer tortilla, cheese, tomato (diced works best), cheese, spread beans on the inside of top tortilla. Cook for about 5 mins. on high, flip and cook for another 5 mins.  Move to cutting board and cut into halves or quarters (a pizza cutter works well here).

Serve with a simple veggie like a whole baked sweet potato topped with apple butter, honey, or sea salt and paprika.Or fresh organic spinach with this homemade honey balsamic vinaigrette: 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Keep in mind that this Mexican inspired dish is not for weak taste buds. It is hearty, and packs a powerful flavor. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Purpose Driven Pantry

Being a Food Prude involves deliberate wellness, and requires forethought and determination. These qualities I have. But I also have a dirty secret….

I have a hefty set of organizational skills paralleled with a conundrum of perfectionist tendencies which have led me straight into a shame worthy situation. It's embarrassing. Sad, really. A significant part of my kitchen is in complete disarray. I won’t make excuses, although there are plenty, but I will share with you my journey to reclaim this space. It is……the pantry.

While the pantry inventory is really somewhat sparse in a dedicated Food Prude's home (because most super foods are fresh and require refrigeration), it is still a major component in food prep and can either make or break your prudent spirit. It is important to maintain a well planned pantry as an investment in your time management, peace in the kitchen, and commitment to this somewhat demanding way of life.

In addition to being a source of nourishment, with quality staples on hand, your pantry is a great resource for unexpected meals and can reduce trips to the supermarket. It is the perfect place to stock up frugal finds, and house non perishable sundries to protect your family against weather emergencies or financial dislocation.

Some people may not have a specific pantry in their home, or may have a very small one. Take this piece of advice from 'Organized Home's' Cynthia Ewer, "Think of the pantry as a reservoir of consumable goods which may be stored in any area of the home."

My before and after's are included, {{cringe}}. Don't judge.

Before shot:

I'm hesitating.......

Alright, alright......

So here she is, like a deer in the headlights. Completely exposed, quivering with fear, shocked and confused as she determines what to do next. I believe that if she could, my pantry would run away, far into the thicket, searching for bliss, hoping never to be assaulted by one large, and three small food prude's again.

To my credit. The pantry door dawns a clever system which has been maintained, despite it's abandoned appearance. Some may queary, so I digress. The top half of the door sports two cork bulletin boards, stacked, and dressed in school notices, class rosters, soccer schedules, snack rotations, zip lock bags for box tops, chore and behavior charts (yes, sheets full of stickers). The middle section of the door hosts two wall files, filled with stickers (for the behavior charts), pens, and 3 folders with pertinent school information. Finally, although unpictured, the door knob does not go undressed, conveniently, it supports the equivalent of a wristful of rubberbands for sealing random opened bags of things.

Aside from the tall kitchen trash can designated for recyclables, the floor of the pantry, also unpictured, houses a slew of displaced objects. An unused electric griddle, extra racks for the oven, some parts to the grill, a huge brown paper bag full of nothing other than more brown paper bags, a box of boxed soup, bulk napkins, a half used 50 lb. bag of rice, and a gallon of canola oil. Yes, this is the result of a family that buys in bulk.

The rest of the pantry is, well, chaotic for lack of a better word.  So I've done some research on pantry organization, and below you will find the fruits of my labor: My humble opinion of the best tips online, and a few of my own additions.

  1. Purge. Grab two trash bags, one for trash and one for recycling. Throw out all items that are old and expired or food that you will never eat. If you haven't touched in the past year, it's probably old and you are more than likely not going to eat it soon.
  2. Move all like items together, for example, all dressings & condiments together, all baking items together, all packaged goods together, all canned goods together, etc.
  3. Stating the obvious, if you have the most room on the top shelf, place larger items there.
  4. The floor seems to be the best place to store bulk items, but it can make the pantry feel cluttered if you can't see the floor. If you do decide to store large items here, keep it to a minimum.
  5. If you need more storage space, get a container on wheels that will fit below the lowest shelf so that you can wheel it out easily and clean underneath without any hassle. 
  6. Keep cans of vegetables together in rows and columns on a shelf at eye-level.
  7. On that same shelf, create a section for each category of canned goods.
  8. Remember to add newly-purchased items to the back of the stack or row; use the front items first. 
  9. Use tall plastic or glass sealed containers to store things like dry cereal, pasta, sugar and flower.  Your food will look much more uniform and organized, and will fit better on the shelf.
  10. Store pasta in clear plastic bin(s) that fit on shelf. 
  11. Store bags of beans and rice in another clear plastic bin on the same shelf. 
  12. Keep raw baking ingredients and baking mixes together in one section of the pantry.
  13. Use labels on the front of the shelves to identify the designated areas.
  14. Break the mold. If you are short on space, create several 'pantries' within your home, as long as temperature and moisture aren't an issue. For example, keep the package of extra napkins in the cupboard closest to your table. Store spices and oils in the cupboard nearest to the stove. Store paper towels and extra dishwashing detergent on the top shelf in the laundry room.
  15. If you have kids, keep them in mind when organizing. What you don't want them to reach should go up high, (glass bottles, junk food, etc.) What you DO want them to reach should go down low, (nuts, seeds, raisins, applesauce, etc.)
  16. Keep a little stool close by for your little helper(s).
  17. If you have room, a laundry basket for dirtied kitchen linens is helpful.
Show and tell time.......drum roll please..........

Yes, those are sweet potatoes next to my canned beans. We love sweet potatoes, but in our previous setup, they would disappear, only to be found when their sprouts had grown long enough to reach out and grab us when we stepped in. So in my new organized pantry, the yams won't need to yell, they are front and center, and ready to be noticed.

When you create a kids shelf, most likely the bottom shelf for kids under 10, be deliberate about it's contents. Stock it with things you want them to eat, and make them look appealing. Pictured below is my kid's go-to shelf in the pantry.

On the left is their gluten free pretzels, animal crackers, and raisins. On the right, a basket containing 'special' grab-and-go treats, like gluten free rice crispies, yogurt and cereal bars, and cookie buttons, for soccer games, or snack bags for school. In the middle is a basket of little toys or non food treats that our kids ask for, but have to earn, i.e. Silly Bandz. Referring back to my sticker chart, the kids earn and lose stickers according to our system and they can trade their stickers in for a treat out of the prize basket.  The bottom line is that they know that is their shelf, and they like having a designated space, after all, it's their house too.

Keep your goals in mind, and create a Purpose Driven Pantry.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lunch Well

Listen. Can you hear it? It's the chatter of little voices, sharing tales of road trips, sunburns and silly bandz, wearing well planned outfits with shoes that will never again be this clean, dawning shiny new stainless steel water bottles on backpacks brimming with supplies, gossiping about teachers and recess, while the smell of starched fabric, fresh paper and clean rubber fill the air. The bell rings. School is in. They're ready. Are you?

Packing lunches can be a daunting task, but when you want to pack healthy, and allergen free lunches that your kids will ACTUALLY eat, it can seem overwhelming. Don't fret. With a little planning, you will have several quick and easy options to throw together on hectic 'we're-still-on-summer-time-and-overslept' mornings.

First, invest in containers. A few good thermoses will go a long way, for hot and cold foods. You will use them often. Also, little tight seal containers, like Rubbermaid 1/2 cup food storage cups, are great for delicate items like berries, and tomatoes, as well as dipping sauces, like ranch, ketchup, maple syrup, almond butter, etc.

Second, make sure your children have insulated lunch boxes. Brown bag lunches are rare for the prude.

Third, plan dinner like you're feeding an army. Deliberately have leftovers when you cook, they make great lunches.

Finally, below are some tangible suggestions that will keep your little foodies happy, without requiring a full time chef.
  1. The classic sandwich. This one is a given. If you're going gluten free, I recommend Udi's Whole grain bread. For wheat eaters, look for the words 'whole grain' as the first ingredient, not enriched wheat flour, and I suggest sprouted grain products like Ezekiel bread. Layer with valuable ingredients such as organic or nitrate free deli meat, organic cheese, olive oil mayonnaise, or deli mustard, (no artificial colors), fresh spinach leaves, and a tomato for the liking. Or, a more classic take, organic or all natural peanut butter with banana slices, or honey. Serve with a side of organic carrots and ranch (buy quality ranch, no chemicals please).
  2. You can't go wrong with yogurt. But be careful if you buy the convenient little single serving containers. Many of them contain corn syrup, among other chemicals, and are LOADED with unnecessary sugar. Instead, buy one each of Organic Low Fat Plain, and Vanilla 32 oz. tubs of yogurt. Using a thermos, mix 1 part plain with 1 part vanilla yogurt. Include a side of fruit like berries or apples. Typically my children will mix the fruit into the yogurt or dip it. They love this fun little process and I love knowing that they are not eating a ton of empty calories. Serve with something crunchy, like pretzels, or crackers and Nutella.
  3. Whole Grain Pasta. Different shapes, different sauces, it's always fun. This one is handy to have cooked and ready in the fridge at all times. Warm and spoon into a warm thermos, drizzle with olive oil and a dash of basil, include diced tomatoes on the side for mixing just before eating. Serve with edemame or peas (warm or cold). Or layer the pasta with shredded cheese of choice, and diced organic turkey dog pieces. Serve with natural (no sugar or corn syrup) applesauce. Or use leftover taco meat and layer with pasta and cheese. Serve with whole grain organic tortilla chips and guacamole. The possibilities are endless.
  4. Brown rice. Another staple in your lunch menu. Use leftover rice, or make up a batch and keep it in the fridge. Brown is a much more valuable rice than white because it packs fiber and protein as well as minerals. Spoon into a warm thermos with veggie of choice, peas, corn, diced carrots, red peppers, cooked spinach, etc. Drizzle with olive oil and a dash of sea salt. Serve with string cheese.
  5. Pancakes. Protein laden pancakes. When you make them for Saturday morning breakfast, make extra and refrigerate. Warm and place into warm thermos. No butter necessary. Include a small container of pure maple syrup. Instruct your child to roll the pancake, dip and enjoy. Serve with strawberries, or fruit of choice.
  6. Quesadillas. Don't worry, they cook up quick and transfer from fridge to thermos well. Use whole grain tortillas (organic preferred, corn or rice if gluten free), drop oil on griddle, layer tortilla, re fried black beans, and shredded cheese, or spinach and cheese. Flip, cook, move to cutting board, use pizza cutter to quarter. Store in air tight container in fridge. In the morning, warm quarters (paper towel underneath to absorb moisture), and place into warm thermos. Serve with Tomato Salad.
  7. Tuna Salad. On whole grain bread, with crackers, or in a bowl with a spoon. Mayonnaise is the traditional way to make it, and you can get (or make) healthy versions of mayo, and/or use a very small amount of it in your tuna salad. Or you can try mixing the tuna with diced organic tomatoes marinated in olive oil (you can usually find a canned version of this to simplify), deli mustard, pickle relish, minced onion and celery. This also works as a spread. Serve with a vegetable, if doing a sandwich or crackers. Serve with a veggie (like carrots, or celery), or fresh spinach and Italian dressing for dipping; and a starch (like a cinnamon rice cake) if the tuna will be sans grains.
  8. Oatmeal. Yes, oatmeal. Plain, whole grain oats. For the glutino's, in your house, you can get gluten free oats. Don't get the little packets of quick cooking artificially flavored over sweetened wanna be oatmeal. You can make the old fashioned kind quickly too, and flavor and sweeten yourself. I love Overnight Oatmeal from "Super Baby Food": mix 1 c. rolled oats with 1.5 c. organic milk of choice, and 1/2 c. apple juice, and refrigerate overnight. Warm in saucepan in the morning and spoon into thermoses.  Or cook it overnight in the crock pot with 5 cups of water to every 2 cups of oats, chopped peeled apples, dried fruit, and a dash of cinnamon. Try cooking with craisins and a dash of brown sugar. Or raisins and cinnamon. There are tons of fun ways to make oatmeal. Too many for me to list. For some ideas, check out Mr. Breakfast.   Serve with a banana and Nutella graham cracker sandwiches.
  9. And there's always a quick turkey and cheese roll with fruit and a rice cake.
  10. Dinner left overs that work really well for kids: 
  • Burgers (turkey, or beef), they warm and hold well.
  • Taco meat, warm and place in thermos with pasta, or alone for use on a salad with tortilla chips, or with warm tortillas (warmed and rolled in foil and placed in thermos).
  • Chili, alone, with chips or salad.
  • Tortilla soup, sent with cold tortillas to be torn up and placed in soup, and a side of cheese to top it.
  • Spaghetti, (made with whole grain pasta and organic sauce, of course) with a side of lightly buttered whole grain bread, and broccoli.
Think dinner, but smaller and portable. That's your 'brown bag' lunch. Do the un-lunch-able, get creative, and don't forget to tell the rest of us. We could all use some new ideas!

For a few more ideas, Mommily Ever After has posted several links for school lunch ideas.
Bon Apetit!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Prudent Pancakes

While this post will focus on pancakes, sans gluten, many of the suggestions are applicable to traditional recipes as well.  If you eat gluten free, you have probably noticed that your diet may not be as filling as it previously was. You have probably noticed that baking is difficult and time consuming, and your grocery budget is screaming for relief from high priced specialty foods. In light of said realizations, I'll share with you my 'super-filling-quick-and-easy-not-too-expensive' pancake recipe(s).

First, I must point out that when I bake gluten free, I bake in bulk and freeze the excess. This is the ONLY way to have a life out side of the kitchen while maintaining this important diet.

Second, I will, unfortunately, discourage you from creating your own gluten free baking recipes from scratch if you are relatively new to this diet, and/or baking in general. It sounds fun to go buy all these new ingredients and stretch your kitchen skills with the challenge of whipping up something delicious and different that's completely gluten free, but realistically, you are setting yourself up for failure. Skip it for now, until you are very well versed in gluten freedom and the trials and tribulations of baking with foods that will never rise, fluff, sponge, look or taste anything remotely like glutinous foods do.

Third, I will reiterate the old adage that 'you get what you pay for'. Once you experience the more expensive specialty products from small independent companies like Namaste, Amy's and Pamela's, you will undoubtedly have a hard time swallowing (pun intended) the cheaper, easier to come by products from larger manufacturers. There IS a difference, and if you can learn to make your gluten free foods go farther, you CAN afford the higher quality, better tasting varieties.

On that note, I'll tell you the secret to making your pancakes, regardless of recipe, go farther. Add protein to the mix. There are several ways to do this, and the result is thicker, more filling, and healthier flapjacks. The higher the protein content of your pancakes, and any food for that matter, the sooner you will be satiated, causing you to eat less, and stay fuller longer.

I'll admit, I use a pre-made mix. I just do. It's simpler, and I have a deep, sincere appreciation for simplicity. Now that I have revealed my dark secret, I can tell you that my entire family prefers Pamela's Pancake mix. It is carried by most health food stores, enlightened mainstream grocers, and Amazon.

Food Prude's Favorite Pancakes:
1 Cup of Pamela's Pancake Mix
2 scoops of Arbonne's Chocolate Protein Shake Powder
3/4 cup of water
1 T olive oil
*(you will see that Pamela calls for eggs in the directions for her mix prep, however, I omit the eggs when protein powder is added)

Mix on medium with mixer. If the batter seems too thick, add a small amount of water and oil until it is just thin enough to barely drip out of the bowl onto the griddle. Make sure they are not too runny, b/c they will not fluff. Once it hits the griddle, what you see is what you get.  I double, sometimes triple the recipe and refrigerate or freeze the the extras.

These pancakes are so delicious, you can eat them plain. However, we do occasionally top them with a dab of butter (the real stuff, NOT margarine), and a tablespoon of pure maple syrup.

Along with a serving of fruit, my children will typically eat one of these power packed plate fillers for a meal, (and it's not always breakfast). Before I began adding protein, however, they would eat 3 or 4 pancakes.....EACH! Being the budget conscious shopper that I am, it was like I could hear the 'cha-ching' sound with every additional pancake that was consumed. To my defense, I feel it's important to note that Pamela's Pancake mix averages $6.59 a bag, and makes about 32 less than average sized pancakes, sans protein. So you understand the cash register in my head.

As I mentioned, there are several ways to make your flapjacks laden with protein. I have used other plain powders from health food stores, and added my own sweetener, (like Agave, or Honey), and flavoring, (like cocoa powder, or blueberries - note the OR). You can also use peanut butter and banana, or yogurt and the berries of your choice. I chose to feature this specific combination because it is the easiest, and happens to be the most requested in our household. I encourage you to play around with your pancakes and share your ideas and recipes here.

Two final notes, for a great scratch pancake recipe, among several other great recipes, check out The Nurture Diet by Shannon Mahoney.

To order Arbonne's delicious chocolate protein shake mix, check out my sister site,

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