Archive for February, 2013

Gluten-Free Friday 2/22/13

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Phew we did it! We survived 6 days of gluten elimination for our 23 month old son Evan. All in all not too difficult. At this time we are not eliminating gluten for the whole family so there were some challenges along the way! Now we have arrived back here at Gluten-Free Friday to discuss what I’ve learned and to share lunch ideas! Gluten-Free Friday began at the request of my good friend Katie over at House-54. I happily obliged even though no member of my family was actually gluten-free. Go check out Katie’s site for more gluten-free recipe ideas and tips! These posts have since evolved as my youngest son Evan is now gluten-free. For the beginning of Evan’s GF journey refer back to last week’s post!

As I began this elimination diet for Evan I had some good background knowledge to start with. Writing my Gluten-Free Friday posts over the past couple of months has really helped me get a leg up on this change. I have a base knowledge of things to look out for and questions to ask. I do however, consider it just a start. You see, with Gluten-Free Friday I originally set out to come up with one suggested lunch idea each week. Each week I might learn one new tip, one new food, one new product or one new source of hidden gluten. Essentially I learned what I needed to write that one post. That is hardly the same as a lifestyle change. Now that we are making that lifestyle change for my son I am really thrown into the fire with so much to learn! Lucky for me I have had a lot of great friends both in real life and online who have really stepped up and given me some great advice and encouragement. I am so thankful to all of them!

Here are some of the things I learned this week: 

Hidden gluten is everywhere. You really have to stop and consider everything you put in your mouth. In time I will come to know what is OK and what isn’t without thinking but for now everything requires thought! Every label must be read! If the label isn’t marked gluten-free and contains no wheat in the ingredient list you still cannot consider it safe. You must do further research. These are some of the things I discovered this week that may have hidden gluten: spices, seasonings, and packaged cheeses (anti-caking agents). I am happy to report though that many of the Badia Spices I had in my cabinet were clearly marked gluten-free. Thank you Badia!

Off the shelf gluten-free products (products marketed specific to GF people) are EXPENSIVE so trial and error can be costly. The issue is you cannot rely on the product being a tasty and reliable substitute for a non gluten-free product. In all fairness what one person likes another may not I suppose. As I dug right in and made a GF American Chop Suey for my family I learned this the hard way. The dinner tasted fine but the $4.00 box of pasta turned out to be quite mushy in texture so we didn’t eat very much. The leftovers were then tossed and I had my first GF failure! Then I got some tips! My friend Katie at House-54 mentioned that I should try Tinkyada pasta and my friend Keeley at Keeley McGuire Blog mentioned that I should cook the pasta more al dente. Thank you to both because my second batch of pasta was a success and I now know I can invest in that particular expensive pasta! Go check out my friends at Stockpiling Moms for current gluten-free coupon suggestions to help save you some money!

Make and freeze your own convenience products. This is another way to save yourself some money and assure that you have a supply of easy foods to eat. Through unfortunate costly trial and error I discovered that Evan does not like the packaged gluten-free frozen waffles. Considering frozen waffles is a staple in the breakfast of a working mom’s toddler this was a tragic discovery! So I made my own. My non-gluten free friend, Karen at Our Lunch Bags, who had tried a gluten-free diet for her son suggested I start with GF Bisquick. This seemed a reasonable start for a GF newbie. I can rarely leave well enough alone when baking so to the packaged waffle instructions I added one mashed banana and a handful of Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips. These waffles (pictured below) were a huge success and the whole family actually loves them. I froze the batch and I toast them just like a traditional frozen waffle to serve. I then decided to make gluten-free egg muffins so I would have an easy breakfast alternative since the waffles seemed so decadent!

Gluten-Free Egg Muffins (makes 1 dozen)

  • 10 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Gourmet Garden Chunky Garlic Paste
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Mix-ins  I used chopped spinach and red pepper but use your favorites (consider tomato with basil or caramelized onions with gluten-free sausage)
  • Gluten-free shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine by whisking together all your ingredients except your mix-ins and cheese. Use silicone or paper liners in your muffin tin otherwise spray with cooking spray (Pam original is gluten-free). Place a small amount of mix-ins in each muffin cup. Then fill each cup 3/4 full with the egg mixture. Top with additional mix-ins and shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until the muffins smell done and are firm to the touch. Muffins will rise when baking and then fall while cooling (will look like the picture below). Allow to cool completely before freezing or serve right away.



Lunches this week (pictured at the top of this post and below) were all served for Evan so are cut into toddler sized finger servings. The ideas however can be adapted for any age.

Lunch #1 (at top) – served in a Nibble Tray by Zak Designs, this lunch contains hard boiled egg, cheese stick, cooked and cooled carrots, kiwis and oranges mixed and Envirokidz Gorilla Much Cereal.

Lunch #2 (below) – served in a Lunchbots Duo, this lunch contains an egg muffin (recipe above), blueberries, raspberries, cheese stick, cucumbers and Snyder’s Eatsmart Veggie Crisps

Lunch #3 (below) – served in a Rubbermaid Lunchblox, this lunch contains gluten-free pasta with sauce, Perdue shortcuts chicken, red pepper strips, cheese stick, blueberries and Envirokidz Gorilla Much Cereal.


Tune in next Friday for more gluten-free fun!


Lunchbots products used in this post available here:

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Lunch 4 “the ages” {Pre-K}

Thursday, February 21st, 2013




Many of the questions I receive through this blog are around packing appropriate lunches for different age groups. My children after all are uniquely spaced in age. My oldest is a high school student and my second child is in 5th grade. Then my two youngest are both in preschool. This is certainly not your typical house make up but we make it work! Most days on this blog I feature just one or two lunch photos simply because taking photos, editing them and blogging is time consuming! As a working Momma of 4, I have to keep it simple.


I do however feel inspired to focus on these questions around age appropriate lunches! I have decided in response that I would break this topic down into three segments spread over the period of three weeks. Each week I will focus on a different age group. This week I am kicking off with lunches for preschoolers (Pre-K). Next Thursday I will focus on Kindergarten through Fifth grade (K-5) and the week thereafter will be Grade 6 and beyond. If you are a blogger or have a URL which lunch photos related to each age group please feel free to join the link up at the bottom of this post.


Lunch 4 “the ages”


Packing lunch for preschoolers can be so much fun! Preschoolers rarely get embarrassed and you have a lot of artistic leeway for creativity. Yet, at the same time, preschoolers can be very picky and for the youngest group (under age 3) food may have to be cut into bite sized pieces. I have 2 sons in this preschool age bracket. Trevor is 3 ½ and Evan is just shy of age 2. Both of my boys attend a preschool while I work. I must therefore consider the nutrition guidelines set by our state and recommended by the preschool as well as my boys’ own unique needs or preferences. I always try to follow a basic formula when packing lunches and include portions from each of these groups: fruits & veggies, whole grains (gluten-free for Evan) and a protein. When I miss the mark in one area I attempt to make this up in another meal period during the day.


Here are some of my own personal tips for packing preschool lunches:


CONTAINERS – Choose a container that is appropriate for your child. You may have to consider the size of the lunch bag, the size of the preschool cubby, whether lunch will be stored flat or on its side and whether your child will have assistance opening his/her container. Does your preschool allow heatup lunches? That could be another factor in choosing a container. Although I own and use many lunch containers I tend to lean towards products by Lunchbots and Easylunchboxes. These products have proven to me their reliability, durability and ease of use. I strongly prefer using containers instead of food in individual disposable packaging. I believe in reducing lunch waste into our landfills and saving money by buying larger portions. Also consider that food served in a container will make it easier for your young child. There will be less packages to open therefore requiring less care giver assistance allowing your preschooler to feel more independent.

ORGANIZE – Pack lunches tightly to keep food in place. Use smaller containers with lids inside your larger container to keep smaller food items together or for sauces that need to be water tight. Silicone baking cups (typically for muffins and cupcakes) or silicone bento baran can be used to help create additional divided compartments within your container. Cloth napkins can also help fill up space and provide a non-disposable alternative. Small food picks can help hold sandwiches together and larger food picks can be used to create kabobs. Do consider whether your child can safely manage food picks or other lunch box accessories and tools before use.

MAKE IT FUN – Add one small detail or attempt a bento masterpiece. Adding a small detail like a cookie cutter sandwich, a personal note (maybe a picture for non-readers) or a plastic cupcake ring makes the lunch like a hidden treasure for your preschooler. He/she will enjoy it and love showing their care givers and friends. Details could be based upon holidays, favorite characters, books, movies or your child’s favorite things. Silicone baking cups or baran can not only act as dividers but can add a fun shape or splash of color. Do keep lunchbox accessories age appropriate especially watch for choking hazards for kiddos under age 3.

VARIETY – If making shaped sandwiches and produce isn’t your thing then add fun with variety. Offer an array of produce and snacks for your preschooler to choose from. Young children tend to graze on a little bit of each thing when a variety is offered to them. Research also shows that meals with many colors offered tend to be more appealing to children. Finally consider mixing up your sandwich fillings or offering sandwich alternatives like a make your own lunchables, breakfast for lunch, kabobs, pizza or foods with a dip.

EATING AT HOME – Do you feed your preschooler lunch at home? Many of these same principles will apply to plated food. Consider serving food in muffin tins, ice cube trays, lunch trays or themed plates. There are many wonderful plates on the market to teach your child about healthy eating and proper portions. One of my favorites is the MyPLATE by Super Healthy Kids (one of my favorite blogs).

INSPIRATION – Do you need more inspiration? For more preschool lunches featured on this blog please check out this tag: Preschool. Also check out the other blogs participating in the link up at the bottom of this post. You can also follow my Kids Lunch Ideas board on Pinterest or check out the lunch gallery on the Easylunchboxes website.

Suggested Resource: Feeding the Picky Eater by Ask Dr Sears

Suggested Resource: The 20 Best Snacks for Kids by Parents Magazine

Suggested Resource: Ideal Meals® by Produce for Kids

Still have more questions? Feel free to contact me via email or by commenting on this post and I will attempt to help you work through them! Remember to check out the blogs linking up below for more preschool lunches!


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Set a Course…

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

I can’t help but have the theme for The Love Boat drifting through my head right now… “Set a course for adventure your mind on a new romance”.  Do you all remember that show? I remember sneaking back out to the living room when I was supposed to be in bed to try to watch it from the darkest corner while my parents watched. It didn’t come on until 10:00 pm after all, well after my bedtime! Of course this is just LUNCH. It has nothing to do with The Love Boat! Ha!

This past week has been sheer chaos. My youngest, Evan had pneumonia which resulted in a 5 day hospital stay. My oldest has been experiencing heart palpitations AGAIN so we are off to the pediatric cardiologist tomorrow (wish us luck). We started Evan on a gluten-free diet on Saturday and so much research has been necessary. My son Brendan made his first confession on Saturday and then I stood as a sponsor in support of a candidate from our church at the Rite of Election (I am an RCIA team member at my church). In between all of this, the usual struggle to stay on top of work, home and all the other things that go along with that! So really today’s “set a course” theme is a reminder! A reminder that I set a course to improve the way I feed my family!  This means that amongst the chaos when I drift off course for a time I must find my way back! So whether that is simplifying the details or prepping produce on the weekend, I need to do what it takes to stay on course! On the other hand maybe we just like boats! ;)


Lucky for me I had an extra day off from work this weekend for President”s Day! Pictured directly above is most of my week’s produce all prepped (not show Yukon Gold Potatoes, Mangos, Cara Cara oranges, sweet onion, lemons and baby spinach)!

Today’s featured lunch was served to Trevor in a Lunchbots Duo container and included:


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