Even the “animals” are gluten-free!

Eating boxed gluten-freeΒ  “convenience foods” just are crazy expensive for our family. I would open a box of crackers and they would be gone in one sitting. For some reason, gluten-free boxed foods are smaller in size/quantity,Β  BUT higher in price! Go figure!

My boys go to preschool twice a week, and during that time they have a snack provided for them by the school. It is usually pretzels, animal crackers, or something of that nature. I pack their snack for them to bring to school, so they can have a gluten-free snack.

I realize they are only 3, but there is quite a bit of peer-pressure that goes on at that age! I understand the need for the kids to be similar to their peers and not have that feeling of “being weird.” So I graciously try to find things to help them fit in with what the others are eating.

Jacob (age 3): “Sam brings butter-peanutΒ  sandwiches (a.k.a. peanut butter sandwiches) to school, can I be like Sam?”

I made some gluten-free bread using some Pamela’s Bread Mix, and packed him and Logan and sandwich on that day. Both of their teachers commented on how they “couldn’t wait for lunch,” and that “they savored their sandwich.” Having a PB&J everyday would get old and loose it’s appeal, but for every once in a while, it’s special.

Okay, back to their snacks….. at first, I would take the time to pack a snack similar to if we were to have one at home:

  • cut up apples
  • almonds
  • carrots

I realized very quickly that they teachers didn’t have time to wait for the kid to eat all that. It had to be a quick snack. One of their teachers mentioned to me that another kid with a gluten allergy had the gluten-free version of animal crackers.

So, I gave them a try, and golly, they’re pretty good! AND “Jacob and Logan approved.” They enjoy their animal crackers at snack time, and they come in a few different flavors. Yes, they still cost me (an arm and a leg!) ton. But it’s half of my kids eating a serving two times a week. So I justify it. It is also only a snack for preschool.

This is my most favorite brand, K-Kritters. It’s base is rice flour.

IMG_8043

Until next time, *GRRRRRRROWLLLLLL!!!!!* (like the noise you make when you eat an animal cracker…..)

Kelly

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Recipe: Granola Bars

Today, I decided to catch up on some baking. The kids were happily eating lunch, so it was my quick 5 minute “window of opportunity.” (If your a mom of young kids, you know exactly what I’m talking about!)

I had checked out from the library “Happy Herbivore” by Lindsay Nixon. I found several recipes in the book that were easy to whip up and were quite tasty. However, sadly, the book had to be returned after 3 weeks.

A few months later, Amazon came up with a suggestion for me to buy (isn’t that convenient for them?) “Everyday Happy Herbivore: On the table in 30 minutes or less!” by Lindsay Nixon. Well, Amazon won that day, and I purchased the book.

I’ve tried several things from her book so far. Tonight I’m making the Veggie Lo Mein. But by far, my most favorite thing from her book has been the granola bars. I cannot say enough of how EASY these were to put together, stay together, healthy, tasty, yummy, fast…..should I go on? I would really have to challenge these bars against Chewy brand on taste. (They are similar in texture and taste to the brand.)

Today, I made three different flavors in about 15 minutes (plus, baking time). I’m not about spending all day on recipes unless it’s in a crock pot. πŸ˜‰

The recipe calls for “instant oats.” If you don’t have instant oats or want to use rolled-oats, the chefs notes on the page say “you can send rolled oats through your food processor [or blender] to grind them down into instant-oat consistency.”

Another item I used in my granola bars was the Enjoy Life chocolate chips. They are soy, nut and dairy free. (If you go to their website you can download a coupon for $0.55 off one of their products.) I like using the chocolate chips for a number of reasons, but one is that they don’t melt as much when baking as regular chocolate chips. The taste pretty much the same, but I think because they are lacking dairy, they don’t melt like regular ones. Anyways, they hold up really well in the granola bars so they don’t make a gooey mess.

Anyways, long intro, but here is the recipe! Enjoy. πŸ™‚

Granola Bars (taken from “Everyday Happy Herbivore” by Lindsay Nixon p. 23)

  • 1 c. instant oats
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp chocolate chips
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp raw sugar (optional: I didn’t use it…it was plenty sweet enough)

1. Stir all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. They will appear too dry at first, by they’re not—keep stroking

2. Once combined, let the batter rest while the oven preheats to 325F

3. Grease a bread pan [or use parchment paper] and pack mixture down firmly and tightly

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden, firm, and light brown around the edges

5. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before cutting

Variations:

1. Peanut Butter Granola Bars: substitute 1 tablespoon of peanut butter for 1 tablespoon of applesauce. Combine peanut butter with applesauce and heat in microwave for 10 seconds so peanut butter softens. Whisk together and use as directed.

2. Use dried fruit instead of chocolate chips. Today I used dried cranberries.

Makes 5

Break the Fast

“Breakfast is the most imp0rtant meal of the day!”

Yeah, we’ve all heard that. But truly, IT IS the most important meal of the day. It is the meal where you literally break your fast from the night. It kick starts your metabolism.

I’ve never had a problem eating breakfast. I usually starving within an hour of waking up. But I know for quite a few people, it is a problem. Many people actually make lunch their first meal of the day. This is not good for many reasons; you are not giving your body energy (calories) to start your day off right. Your body was designed to eat.

I’ll never forget what my trainer said to me: “Eat breakfast! Something, ANYTHING, just eat something!”

Our mornings, probably much like yours, are a little crazy. We are trying to get the day started and well, it’s nuts. Here are some quick breakfast ideas for you that will give you a healthy start to your day:

1. Oatmeal: Yup, good old fashioned oatmeal. We eat this most mornings. It cooks up fast and I’ve heard from my AWESOME readers that there are a huge variety of stuff you can use to flavor it up. Cranberries, almonds, maple syrup, peanut butter, dates, or fruit. I loved all the feed back on Facebook on this fun topic! My personal favorite is 1/2 cup oats, (water), blueberries, and walnuts. YUM!

2. Powered up cereal: I’m not a big fan of cold cereal as it’s usually loaded with junk and sugar. I found some brown rice cereal at Sprouts that is only just that: puffed brown rice. Nothing more is added! Anyways, we do this sometimes for a quick breakfast. I always add in some “extra power,” by loading up the cereal with tons of fresh or dried fruit. Today was bananas and cranberries. (Yeah, yeah, I need to go to the store….) Usually I add in strawberries and peaches too. It’s a huge breakfast for these little guys, but a good start to the day. And for the “sprinkles” (thank you, Holly at My Plant Based Family, for the idea!) I added chia seeds over the top.

3. Smoothies: We love smoothies. (You can check out this link to see what kind of smoothies we make.) We don’t just eat them for breakfast either. Sometimes it’s a snack….or dinner, depending on the day. πŸ˜‰ We add in different things too. But I always try to include some greens. Spinach is the most “blendable” as far as the flavor goes. You can sneak it into your drink and you’ll never know it’s there. We have a cheap Ninja blender. It was $80 at the store. It’s nothing fancy, but it does the job. We also always use almond or coconut milk (never water). The “milk” helps make it thicker and in my opinion, taste a little creamier. Then add in your favorite fruits or whatever your heart desires πŸ™‚

Anyways, there is a million ideas for breakfast!

What’s your favorite meal to break your fast??

Kelly

Salty and Sweet Roasted Nuts

I picked up a new magazine a few days ago called “Natural Home and Garden.” Most of the magazine was pretty good, and I did find a recipe I wanted to try in it for honey-roasted peanuts.

Hannah LOVES peanuts, peanut butter, honey-roasted peanuts, Reeses, peanut butter straight for the jar….you get the picture. The girl loves peanuts. Before our big diet change a year or so ago, she lived on a daily diet of peanut butter (yup, the regular old Jif kind too!) and Smuckers Jelly sandwiches.

We were at Sprouts this past weekend and they were having a bulk sale. I usually only make it to Sprouts about once a month or so for bulk items. Hannah usually begs for honey-roasted peanuts, (nicely!) to which I usually give in. But for some reason, on this particular trip, I decided to take a look at the ingredient list posted above the bulk bin. To my surprise, I was shocked on how much sugar was on the peanuts….no wonder she loved them so much!….and they were coated in “vegetable oil.” I really wish she loved eating raw almonds as much as sugar-coated peanuts, but she’s just not there yet.

Thankfully, the recipe from my magazine popped into my mind and I told Hannah I was going to make her “homemade honey-roasted peanuts.” She was excited and jumped up with a “goody!” I went over to the raw peanut bin and started scooping.

Today I decided to try the honey-roasted peanuts. The recipe called for things like butter and sugar, so I modified the recipe, and here’s what I came up with:

Honey-Roasted Peanuts

(adapted from Natural Home and Garden recipe)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Real Salt)
  • 1 pound shelled raw peanuts (which is appx. 2 cups)
  • 1-2 tablespoons coconut/palm sugar

1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and then grease. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (note: do not forget the parchment paper! I am still soaking my pans from the mess it left me because I didn’t use the paper!)

2. In a medium saucepan, heat honey, coconut oil, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon salt over medium-low heat.

3. Stir in peanuts, then pour them out into a single layer in the baking dish.

4. Roast peanuts for 15-20 minutes, or until golden, shaking the pan a few times to stir nuts. Remove from oven, stir to break up clumps, and let cool slightly.

5. Sprinkle on remaining salt and coconut sugar and toss to coat, then serve warm.

 

The peanuts turned out so great and yummy, I decided to try raw cashews. I think the cashews are my favorite! But Hannah still likes the peanuts the best. πŸ˜‰

Enjoy,

Kelly

Double Chocolate Nut Butter Oaties

If this title isn’t enough to draw you in, I am lost at marketing.

Anytime I hear the words “chocolate” and “nut butter” in the same title, my mouth starts drooling. I love chocolate and peanut butter. This heavenly combination is one of the many reasons why, a mere 18 months ago, I was at my heaviest of almost 200 pounds. (AH!)

I have a sweet tooth….really bad. I think that’s why I’ve been drawn to alternative baking. My sweet tooth has changed over the past year and a half. I now crave the sweetness of fresh fruit and enjoy lightly sweetened treats. Refined sugar is now too sweet for my taste buds. But, I think, that is the way nature intended it to be.

Yesterday, Shirley (from glutenfreeeasily.com) posted an excellent recipe that I had to print off right away and try. Super simple, quick cookies that got 5 stars from everyone in my family.

The recipe calls for “nut butter,” (which can mean your favorite butter) and I would probably put in peanut butter as my first choice, if Julia didn’t have an allergy. I substituted “nut butter” for Sunbutter, which is sunflower seed ground up to make a butter. To me, it tastes very similar to peanut butter, but without oil and obviously, peanuts.

I also substituted Stevia/Cane sugar for the sugar in the recipe. The recipe calls for 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar, but trying to be as sugar-free as possible, I opted for 1/4 cup of Stevia/Cane sugar. I found this to be the perfect amount of sweetness. It took the bitterness of the cocoa powder away, and added a touch of sweet. Perfect!

Another item on the recipe list was “oat flour.” I didn’t have any pre-made oat flour. You can purchase some at the grocery store for some crazy price. I chose to not purchase it and just make my own.

Making your own flours is very cost effective. Unfortunately, I do not have a food processor, so making almond flour, for example, is out of the question for me…..until I get a food processor, *wink*! Today was my first attempt at making my own oat flour. I have a so-so quality blender. It’s nothing fancy but today it did a great job on making some homemade oat flour. (yay!)

To make oat flour: pour old fashioned oats in the blender, put the lid on, and press the “on” button. Blend for a few minutes, and then *TA-DA*: oat flour.

Popped the cookies in the oven, and the finished product was: TOTALLY AWESOME! πŸ™‚

You can get the recipe here at Gluten Free Easily: Double Chocolate Nut Butter Oaties.

Enjoy!!

Kelly

 

Eating Clean on a Choo-Choo Train

Sorry, cheezy rhyme, but I couldn’t resist. I’m a Mom of four with two preschoolers πŸ˜‰

Anyways, we headed out for the day and started it off like we have everyday: packing the cooler. Yes, this may seem like a pain, bringing a cooler, but #1 it saves us a lot of money bringing our own food and #2 it’s healthier. The cooler sits in the car all day (with a several cold packs…) and whenever we’re hungry, we just pop open the back of the car and chow down.

Here’s some of our snacks we packed for the day:

(Sorry for the picture quality…)

  • dried fruit and nuts
  • baby carrots
  • LOTS of fruit! πŸ™‚
  • Larabars
  • My trusty vegan protein powder
  • fruit strips
  • applesauce
  • gluten-free bread

We try to eat as much from our cooler but do go out for one meal. When we started planning our trip to Colorado, Shawn, who is from here, said we hadΒ to go to the famous BeauJo’s Pizza. It would be our “cheat” meal for the week. So we decided to go for lunch. Well, as luck would have it, they had an ENTIRE gluten-free menu!

Whoohoo! They even had an option for Daiya for cheese (which is dairy and soy free). We decided to go with the dairy cheese this time, but try out the gluten-free crust. YUM!! πŸ™‚

Honestly, I am very surprised how accommodating Colorado has been to alternative eating. TONS of fresh options, and lots of gluten-free options at restaurants and grocery stores.

Julia enjoying some gluten-free pizza

Train time up into the beautiful Rocky Mountains!

Kelly

Idea! Mix Bags!

First of all, I have to thank my dear sister-in-law (Lynn) for this idea. She graciously came down for 10 days after my twins were born to help out. She originally gave me this idea, but I think in my “baby-brain-fog” it didn’t really sink in, until now. Thank you, Lynn!

I know this idea isn’t new. In fact, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury have been making a living off of this idea. So, I’m just coping it. I know there are pre-made boxed mixes that could fit our dietary needs. But to be honest, they are incredibly expensive for a family of 6, and well, honestly, they just taste plain tasty….at least all the ones I’ve tried. I love to bake and experiment in the kitchen, so I haven’t really minded making homemade muffins, breads, and cookies for my family. It has never been a chore to me. Most of the time, my four kids line up at the counter to help out.

The other day, I was making granola bars for like the 100th time. Every time I make them, I have to unload about 15 different ingredients from the pantry. As I was tossing the ingredients into my mixer, the wise words from my sister-in-law came into my head (mind you, she suggested this 3 years ago…) “why don’t you make mix bags of the dry ingredients for future use, and then all you have to do is just mix in the wet ingredients when you go to make them.”

Duh! Why haven’t I been following her advice?!?

I could completely simplify my baking by making up mix bags of certain recipes I know I’m going to make, store them in ziplock bags, and then mix in the wet ingredients when I want to make them.

Anyways, I have followed her advice now and made up some bags for later use! (Hannah wrote the wet ingredients on a sticky note, to be added later.)

Wow, now I just feel so smart! πŸ˜‰

Kelly

What’s for lunch?: Work Day!

Simple. Clean meals.

I don’t have time for a complicated mess, nor do I settle for packaged, processed foods. Fresh ingredients doesn’t mean that is takes long to prepare.

Here is an example of one of our snack/lunch-type meals. Hannah, age 8, made this quick lunch for Daddy, who was working in the office. (I helped her slice the peach and cucumber…)

  • Cucumber, carrots, and celery with hummus dip
  • Homemade granola with almond milk and a fresh peach chopped over the top

Here is Hannah stirring the glaze for the homemade granola. I will share this recipe soon. I really thought it was ready for sharing, but got discouraged today after I burned a batch. UGH! I guess one burnt granola out of the many batches I’ve made, isn’t too bad. Oh well! More to come on that granola!
Kelly

Kraft Mac and Cheese: What’s in it?

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese used to be a staple in our house. I loved it, my kids and husband loved it and I have no idea why. It is super processed. Open the box with the package of mix to make the cheese “sauce” and you’ll wonder what is wrong with this picture. Cheese is supposed to be a solid, not a powder! Anyways, tasty as it is, I decided to take a look at the ingredients and see what all the buzz was about.

List of Ingredients (in the sauce):

  • Milk
  • Milkfat
  • Cheese culture
  • Salt
  • Sodium Tripolyphosphate
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • Calcium Phosphate
  • Yellow 5
  • Yellow 6
  • Citric Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Enzymes

I did some research on the list of ingredients and they were so-so. I’m not sure about the quality of whey, milk protein concentrate, milk, milkfat, and cheese culture Kraft is using, but that is not what I want to focus on.

Here is the bad part of Kraft Mac and Cheese, of course I’m not including the stick of butter you have to put in it to actually make the product; it is the Yellow 5 . I am only recently aware of the power of dyes in foods, and I am shocked that a little coloring can do as much as it does! Here’s the break down (taken from livestrong.com):

Yellow 5:

Yellow 5 is also known as tartrazine or E102. Yellow 5 is widely used in the making of potato chips, jams, candy, drinks and even pet food. It is also added to shampoo and other cosmetic products, as well as vitamins and certain medications. Yellow 5 is banned in Austria and Norway, and other European countries have issued warnings about their possible side effects. It is still freely and extensively used in the US, however.

Allergies

Tartrazine can cause a variety of allergic reactions that vary from mild itching and skin rashes to serious allergy-like hypersensitivity. People who are allergic to aspirin have the strongest responses to Yellow 5. An early European study, published in 1998, showed that people who are allergic to aspirin are more likely to experience adverse reactions to yellow 5. This can include asthma attacks and bronchoconstriction or difficulty breathing.

Hyperactivity

Yellow 5 seems to cause hyperactivity in some children. The Food Standards Agency, FSA, which is UK’s equivalent to the FDA, issued a warning in 2008 about certain food colorings. The warning said that certain colorings, including tartrazine, can cause behavioral changes in children that included loss of concentration and impulsive, hard-to-control activity. The recommendation is to avoid or limit consumption of products that contain yellow 5. If a child develops hyperactive behavior, try eliminating this coloring from the diet and pay attention to the changes that follow.

Other Risks

Yellow 5 has been linked to a number of health problems, including blurred vision, migraines, fatigue and anxiety. It might also cause chromosomal damage, although this hasn’t been properly studied or documented

WHOA! Crazy, some little coloring can do this much! We have eliminated dyes in our house, not on purpose or intentionally, but bananas already come in a natural yellow color, and so do mangos. πŸ˜‰ No need for dyes here!

Here is some more information on dyes:

CNN: Group urges band of 3 common dyes

CSPI Urges FDA to Ban Artificial Food dyes

FDA Probes Link Between Food dyes, Kids behavior

(Source: Livestrong.com)

Kelly

Chocolate Earth Balls

I found this recipe on wholefoods.com back in 2006. When I printed it, I thought “oh wow, I need to make these.” Well, it only took me six years….and I didn’t actually make them. I gave the job to Miss Hannah Grace (age 8). The recipe was simple and she enjoyed gathering and mixing all the ingredients. Perfect summer snack; no baking required!

Hannah Grace mixin’ up some Chocolate Earth Balls

We made ours with peanut butter, but Julia is allergic to peanuts so she was not able to try them. The next time around, I’m going to try it with almond butter (which she can eat). I think they will taste just as yummy! If your looking for a “nut-free” version, try Sunbutter.

Chocolate Earth Balls (taken from wholefoods.com)

  • 1 cup organic peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tsp carob powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (we used Nestle Mini Chocolate Chips)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped organic nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.)

Mix the peanut butter, honey, and carob or cocoa powder until well combined. Stir in the raisins and only 1/8 cup of the coconut. Stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Place the remaining coconut, sesame seeds, and nuts into 3 separate bowls. Using a spoon, scoop small heaps of the peanut butter mixture from the bowl, roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Rolling is easier if you form a rough ball, roll in the coconut, and then continue rolling into a more perfect shape. Roll each finished ball in more coconut, sesame seeds and chopped nuts. Arrange balls on a plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

“Ta-Da! Earth Balls Mommy!”

They are SUPER yummy! Kind of like a less fancy version of grown-up truffles.Β  πŸ™‚

Enjoy,

Kelly