Thursday, July 31, 2014

GF Back to School Week: What's for lunch?!

For a while Eli went through a phase where he wanted to eat lunch at school. Now he complains if he has to do so - even on a day where it is easier to eat gluten-free. I have to admit that it makes this mama feel good.

I'm not going too in-depth with this post on specific recipes (although I will share some later as we get into school), but I wanted to share with you what things we have found work well for us.

Hot lunches for our Foogos thermos:

1. Annie's Gluten-free Mac-n-Cheese. A few minutes in the microwave, then mix in the cheese pack and put it straight into the thermos. Eli loves it. I usually put in some fruit and veggie snacks, chips or crackers, and a juice box.

2. Homemade spaghetti works well. Microwave it in a bowl until piping hot before putting it in your thermos.

3. Lasagna - same as spaghetti. Don't forget the plastic fork.

4. Bean soups - or any soup your kid likes!

Cold lunches

1. Pasta salads using Tinkyada noodles (other noodles get hard to quickly when cooled) - I'll have to post our BLT Pasta Salad recipe soon!

2.  Eli loves a lunchables-type meal with gluten-free crackers,  meat, cheese, veggie sticks, and grapes. Sometimes I add avocado as well.

3. A sandwich with gluten-free bread works well and is a staple for most people, but we like to make PB&J (although we use Sunbutter, not peanut butter) sandwiches using pancakes. Pancakewiches, anyone?

4. Lighter eaters may like a veggie salad with chicken. Eli is NOT a light eater. I think it is all the sports.

Favorite sides

1. Eli really likes Cliff's fruit twists

2. He also likes these Walmart bars, which are quite a bit cheaper than other brands.
Be careful! Some types contain peanuts.

3. I don't love for him to eat a lot of chips, but sometimes it's easy to throw in a pack of lays potato chips - and it's what the other kids eat. I also try to pack plenty of fruits and veggies, so I don't feel too guilty.

4. Eli loves a good dessert, and this one particularly tickles his fancy. But who doesn't love little cookies?5. I also do a lot of homemade goodies that don't cost nearly as much. USE THOSE LEFTOVERS!!School Snack - we have that every day to prepare for as well, and we usually stick to fruit and cheese... But... Click here for a snack mix that your kids will beg for (and you'll have to hide from yourself).I know there are many foods that we send for school lunches that I am just not thinking about right now, but I plan to share a lot more about that as the school year moves on. What are your/your kids' favorite gluten-free packed lunches?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GF Back-to-school Week: The Big Freeze

I'm not talking about the weather. I'm not talking about hiring (or the lack thereof), and I'm not talking about the price of certain goods.

What I am talking about is having the misfortune of being a "not-morning" person. I mean, I can rock 11:30 AM like no body's business, but when I had a mom tell me that she got up at 5:30 in the morning to make her kids' gluten-free breakfasts and lunches... Well, I didn't have an answer for her (and, ask my friends - I always have an answer). Actually the very thought of it made me want to fall asleep right then and there at little league practice.

The Big Freeze is what I do to keep myself from getting up at 0-dark-thirty to make breakfast muffins for my kids. I don't buy the expensive pre-made stuff, so I take a few minutes every day the week before school to freeze the stuff my kids will actually eat when they are in that pseudo-catatonic state that occurs before going to school. Namely, muffins, pancakes, and waffles.

(Always turn those muffins on their sides to cool. It keeps them from getting all wet on the bottom).

When I run out, I have to spend some time on weekends doing a little more of this, but muffins and pancakes are quite good heated a bit in the microwave before serving. Did I mention you didn't have to get up any earlier for this than you do cereal? Because that's important.

Last night I made my accidentally improved banana oat muffin recipe (don't worry, I'll share it soon), let them cool, and put them in a baggie in the freezer. The benefit of putting them quickly into the freezer is that they have that fresh-made texture even having to be warmed in the microwave.

The great thing about muffins is you can put them in one or two baggies - they won't stick together when frozen.

Today I made a double portion of pancakes and will freeze most of them two to a baggie (because they are impossible to get apart once frozen, unlike the muffins). The great thing about pancakes is that they also make great PB and J sandwiches (or Sunbutter and Jelly Sandwiches like we have due to Noah's peanut allergy) for lunches. Actually, all the other kids are jealous when your kids sits there eating a sandwich made from pancakes - not that we aim for jealousy. If it gives you some secret satisfaction to see jealous kids that typically turn their noses up at your kids because they have to eat differently, well, I won't say a word.

Like my "new"griddle. YARD SALE!! WOOHOO! That might be another post soon.

A double recipe of my "Wow" Pancakes makes about 40, which I freeze into 20 individual portions. Of course that dwindled by several portions when my kids decided to eat them plain for a snack.

Anyway, this is another thing we do to have back-to-school, gluten-free success.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Gluten-free Back to School Week!

Can you believe it is that time again?! Vacations and visits with family and friends have come and gone; another summer has flown by - another return to bedtimes and structure.

And we only have one week left to prepare!!! AHHHH!!!

The first day's prep? Dust off the lunch "equipment". It involves getting down on my hands and knees and digging through the plastics cabinet to find things I haven't even thought about for the better part of two months.

Here are the tools I use to make those gluten-free lunches that much easier to put together.
This container makes easy work of a sandwich or pasta salad (or whatever) with closed off portions for the added fruit and veggies. Another great thing about it is that it is not impossible to open like some containers. Great for kids and adults alike.

These little containers, also by Easy Lunch Boxes, are great for salad dressing or veggie dip. They don't leak, and they don't accidentally pop open, especially if you put it inside a larger container.

And for those days we want to send in something warm (I have a great irritation for Eli's school's lack of a microwave - they obviously have no understanding for what it is like to be gluten-free), I love this Foogo thermos (sold on A great way to send in leftover spaghetti or mac-n-cheese is to heat it thoroughly in the morning before school and put it straight into this container. It stays nice and warm through lunch time.

Gluten-free lunch was a much more difficult venture before I found these products. Do you have products that have helped make your or your kid's gluten-free lunches a snap?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Take-along chocolate cupcakes

Fudgy and gluten-free chocolate cupcakes are generally a hit with everyone but while we were on vacation, we really, really loved these break-apart ones.

We had baked the cupcakes and started our trip with them frozen and placed in a pan, covered with foil. We just stuck them on top of everything else in the cooler. After the five hour drive, they were still pretty much frozen but we decided to go ahead and add the frosting anyway. After all, it was vacation and we all wanted a treat!

I had already mixed the dry ingredients for the frosting in a gallon baggie. It contained just powdered sugar and cocoa powder--enough to frost our 24 cupcakes. We purchased the milk and butter, and brought along vanilla flavoring. We just did a quick mix by just softening the butter and mixing in the milk and vanilla and whipping until the frosting was creamy. The next step was just pushing all the cupcakes together and topping them liberally with the delicious cocoa frosting. To serve we just broke them apart or used a butter knife to separate them. We didn't even remove them from the original pan. We just covered the cupcakes over with foil and they lasted for about five days, until they were all gone.

And, everyone thought they were yummy. I will admit they could get messy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Xanthan Gum

Ever wanted to give xanthan gum a try without breaking your grocery budget? Yes, one package of xanthan gum lasts forever, but it still is costly for a single item - so try this instead:

If you are only the occasional gluten-free baker, this package would be perfect for you. It contains 4 teaspoons of the gluten replacer and costs just 47 cents at Walmart (though not all stores carry this item). Just to let you know how long this would last, it would make eight recipes of the birthday cake from our cookbook.

Now, if you make a cake every week, then you might find the larger package more cost efficient in the long run, but on those days you want to try a recipe without breaking the bank you can give this little package a try.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Vacation chicken tacos / chicken salads

One of the tastiest meals we have while vacationing is chicken tacos. It is so easy. The only hard part is chopping up the tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro. But that is really not so very hard, especially if you do it together.

But first, the chicken filling. Here are the ingredients:

4 chicken breasts, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 package dry McCormick taco seasoning (which is gluten-free)

We drizzled the dish with olive oil, put in all the ingredients and tossed them with the taco seasoning. We popped them in the oven and baked on 350 degrees for approximately 35 minutes or until chicken is done.

Then we chopped up fresh cilantro, lettuce, jalapeƱo peppers, tomatoes, and avocado. We purchased a small package of Mexican blend cheese, then opened and warmed a can of refried beans.

We found boxes of extra large corn taco shells and loaded them up and we pour on taco sauce. They were quite yummy! And, on paper plates, of course.

This mixture was also used for taco salads. We just loaded our plates with all the chopped up veggies, topped with meat and beans, added cheese and taco sauce and had the perfect vacation meal. It is even better if eaten on the patio overlooking the beach.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Quick mixes save time on vacation

There is nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread. On vacation it is glorious. 

We looked at the local supermarket and could not find any fresh baked gf bread. ANY. It's a good thing that we kind of expected that. Resort towns don't always carry specialty items since the tourist leave when the weather turns cool.

We decided that since gluten-free yeast bread is really easier to make than wheat bread, we would bring bread mixes. You don't have to knead gf bread and it only needs to rise one time. We just brought the mix and a glass two-cup measuring cup.

We put the yeast and sugar in small baggies, and put the flours, salt and xanthan gum in a gallon baggie. We placed the smaller baggies into the large bag and packed it away.

The condo had mixing bowls and we poured the dry ingredients in and put warm water, yeast, and sugar in the measuring cup. We then added a half-teaspoon of vinegar and the EVO oil and waited until the yeast formed a layer of frothy bubbles.

We poured the wet mixture into the dry mixture and gave it a good mixing by hand. We then poured the dough into an oiled loaf pan. (Incidentally the loaf pan came with the condo.) When the bread rose to the top of the pan, we baked it.

The bread made incredible gf finger sandwiches on the beach for our hungry crew.

I can only say that the mixes you make yourself are an incredibly easy time-saver.

A Happy GF Beach Birthday

We always have a birthday party at the beach since my husband birthday falls smack in the middle of July.

It creates a unique problem because there are no gluten-free bakeries where we vacation. Also, I don't think a homemade cake could withstand the trip.

Last year we decided to bake the cake and frost it after getting here.

This year we made our own mix. We put all the dry ingredients in a baggie and on the day of the birthday, just mixed them together and put the cake in the oven. (Purchasing a mix would work, too.)

There were no serving platters at this condo so the cake was baked in a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. It turned out perfectly, needed less frosting, and was just all-around easier.

It would be better to premix the frosting, if possible. We used a white frosting we made here, and brought pre-made chocolate frosting to decorate.

Writing the birthday greeting and adding a border and candles were the only things we had to do. The cake was pretty and delicious, and it was nice to have only one cake for our whole crowd!

A couple of tips. Hand-mixing works but bringing a hand mixer is better. And, throwing in a decorater bag and tips also helps. It will make the cake look better and these items take up almost no room.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Beach Lasagna

One thing our family almost always does on vacation is stay in a place with a kitchen. We most often rent a house or condo on the beach and bring pre- cooked meals whenever possible. 

Our favorite pre-cooked vacation meal is lasagna. I make it the week before our trip with brown rice noodles (Tinkyada) in a disposable lasagna pan. I wrap it up with plenty of tin foil, freeze it, and then pack it in the cooler. When we arrive, it is still frozen solid. I just transfer it to the freezer and get it out in time to thaw it and bake it for dinner.

It is filled with cheese and spices from the garden but there is something about having it at the beach after a day in the water that makes it very special. After that, we usually have left overs and sometimes even a second meal.

We serve it with a salad (spring mix with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, topped with salad dressing.

Of course we use paper plates. We love to eat good food, but dishwashing IS something we try to avoid.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gluten-free vacation requires planning

Wherever you travel for vacation this year, it generally is quite a problem if you suffer because of celiac disease, or allergies of any kind. 

Our families have gluten intolerance and allergies to peanuts, soy, sesame, shellfish, oranges, olives, and a few others that I just can't think of right now.

Unless I have missed the news, I am not aware of any vacation spots that list gluten or allergy free as one of their benefits. That's why it takes careful planning where we vacation anywhere.

We plan the meals and pack things we think won't be available. Thankfully most of the grocery stores at destinations we are aware of have the normal gluten and allergy free staples we can now get at our local markets.

So for the majority of this week, we will be sharing tips for a great GF and Allergy-free vacation.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Immaculate Gluten-free Cookie Mixes

We are on vacation in the mountains this week enjoying the scenery, playing golf, and enjoying the scenery from the golf course (see below)
Noah in particular loves the golf carts!

When you vacation this remotely, you have to take your food with you, and in interest of not taking too many ingredients and too much equipment, I decided to brink along these mixes to make some treats.
I've had their prepared dough before we started all this gluten-free stuff, but I'd never even seen any mixes by this company. They have regular mixes as well, but when I saw their gluten-free line, I had to give it a try.

So I made these (and I have a regular chocolate chip box to try as well). They were easy to make requiring only eggs and oil. And they made my gluten-free gmail and non gluten-free family very happy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bob's Red Mill's New 1 to 1 Baking Flour

Have you heard about Bob's Red Mill's new baking flour? I've just heard about it, and I'm looking forward to trying. I'm not a huge fan of baking mixes because they are expensive, and they don't tend to work for everything (though I know some people who swear by their brand).

However, this looks like it has a decent blend of flours AND xantan gum. If you get a chance to try it, let me know what you think! If you try it for one of our recipes, I would love to hear how it turns out as well!

Oh, and if you want to enter for a chance to try it free, they are giving some away from their blog: