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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