Friday, January 29, 2010

Bursting Ella's bubble cont'd.

We started our Early Learning program on Wednesday. The day started off with a phone call from the teacher asking about Play-doh. "Was it safe for Ella?" Luckily, I'd read on someone's blog somewhere along the lines that no, play-doh is NOT safe for children with wheat allergies. Otherwise, I'm just not sure that it would have occurred to me to think about that. I mean, DUH. Play-doh is made from flour and flour = wheat. I feel like I'm still figuring out this allergy stuff and I'm learning new things every day but I'm just not sure that it would have occurred to me to think about things she's just playing with and not eating. I feel dumb typing even typing that out but I remember reading that blog post and going "oh yahhh.... huh."

Anywho. The teacher said she wouldn't put it out for the kids to play with and that we could work together to find a safe alternative for the rest of the semester. Could this teacher make my life any easier?!? I could just kiss her!

Coincidentally, a few weeks ago, my mom & I were shopping at a local natural baby boutique that was going out of business (RIP Papay Patch) and they had some Gluten Free Eco-Dough on the shelf. I thought we were getting a great deal at 30% off so my mom got it for Ella. It's made from food-grade materials & smells delicious! BUT at full price, it's $30. I know I can't ask her teacher to spend that kind of money on play-doh. So I did some googling and found Aroma-Dough. It DOES NOT contain nuts, nut oils, perfumes, soy, dairy products or wheat. And it comes in a convenient classroom size bucket for the same price that we got the Eco-Dough for. So that's what I'll recommend her teacher get and I'm looking forward to seeing the difference between the two brands.

And I need to remember to buy Mrs. K a nice big gift when the semester is over. She is truly bending over backwards for us.

Avocado "mayonnaise" and tuna salad

I've really been struggling with lunch ideas lately. I usually have leftovers from the night before but if we happened to finish everything, I'm left scrounging. And it usually winds up being something like a piece of fruit and a handful of walnuts or something unsubtantial. I started making gluten free vegan flatbread every week and I realized one day while I was making Ella some grilled goat cheese, that DUH!! I can eat that too! So then I was having grilled goat cheese on gluten free vegan flatbread everyday. While she's got no problem eating the same day after day, I start to get bored. Quickly. I couldn't think of anything else I could put on the flatbread -- deli meats are out. Even though there are several brands which are specifically gluten free and casein free, I noticed I was feeling headache-y and sluggish after eating them so there's got to be something in them I shouldn't be eating. PBJ is out for obvious reasons. (Oh how I miss thee, peanut butter!!) I found some tuna fish that didn't contain soy but realized I couldn't mix it with mayonnaise and who really wants to eat a dry tuna fish sandwich? Ugh. But then... then I found this recipe on (have I mentioned how much I love this website?!?) for "mayonnaise" made from avocado. It was simple to whip together & was soo soo yummy!

The original recipe's measurements are more broad (1-3 Tbsp, etc.) but I started with the smallest suggested amounts & it came out perfectly.

Avocado Mayonnaise

1 small avocados
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp water
sea salt, to taste

The original recipe suggests using an immersion blender but I don't have one. Yet. **Hubby, if you're reading this, Valentines Day is coming and I'd LOVE an immersion blender!! Nothing says "I love you" like a finely blended cup of avocado mayonnaise!** So place all ingredients into a bowl or large mug and blend with an immersion blender. Or if you're like me and don't have one, you can also use a blender or food processor.

Then comes the best part... making the tuna salad! The original recipe calls for salmon and I tried that first but I liked it better with tuna. It also called for celery (can't have it), capers (didn't have any on hand) and garlic (mehh just wasn't feelin' it).

canned tuna
avocado mayonnaise
grated carrot
sea salt, to taste

Throw in a bowl & mix. Slap it on the bread and VOILA... LUNCH!

I served it for dinner one night last week too and Hubby was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. I could see the hesitation on his face as he sat down at the table. He paced around the kitchen for a few minutes first, probably psyching himself up and simultaneously trying to decide if he could grab the fruity pebbles and pour himself a bowl without me noticing. But once he finally bit into it, he ate the whole thing and said "Mmmm" (which I took to mean "WOW! This is the best tuna sandwich I've ever had!!") **Thank you, Hubby, for being so brave**

Monday, January 25, 2010

Steak and Goat Cheese Salad

When I did my menu planning for the week, I did not account for the fact that we'd have torrential downpours and gail force winds all day & I would really really really want comfort food. Ah well. I've already loaded all the other meats for the rest of the week into the freezer. Looks like a nice healthy salad it is. This one came from the Whole Foods app on my iPhone so I can't link it.

The hardest part of this recipe was finding a balsamic vinaigrette that did not contain soy or red wine (grapes). The closest I was able to come was Walden Farms' Sugar Free, Fat Free, Gluten Free, Calorie Free Balsamic Vinaigrette. It wasn't until I got home that I looked it up and discovered that balsamic vinegar is made from grapes and white vinegar (also on the list of ingredients) is made from corn... DOH! While I could very easily forego the salad dressing (blah!) or get creative and make my own, I'm feeling lazy and will justify this by the fact that I've been on this elimination diet for over five months and have cheated exactly once. The small amounts of grape & corn that are in the salad dressing won't kill me and I'll go light on the dressing on my portion. So there.

Obviously, the recipe is for one person so double, etc. for multiple servings.

Steak and Goat Cheese Salad

1 3-oz piece beef sirloin flap steak
2 ½ Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
3 cups roughly chopped romain lettuce
1 carrot, shaved with a vegetable peeler into thin strips
1 oz crumbled goat cheese

Heat a grill pan or large skillet over medium heat. Brush steak all over with ½ Tbsp vinaigrette. Cook steak, flipping once, to desired doneness, about 4 to 5 minutes total. Remove to cutting board to rest 5 minutes. Toss together lettuce, carrots and remaining dressing in a large bowl then transfer to a dinner plate. Thinly slice steak against the grain and arrange on top of lettuce. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Getting Ella out of her bubble

Last winter, when Ella was an infant, I had a pretty rough time. I can admit that now, but at the time I think I was trying very hard to convince myself that I wasn't depressed and everything was a-ok. But when you have a newborn during cold & flu season and the weather is crappy, it's very easy to stay home all day, every day. I'm ashamed to admit this but I know there are moms out there who have been there -- I would go days without showering & changing out of my pajamas. My shirts all reaked of sour breastmilk & I had spit up in my hair. I was lonely and sad a lot.

This winter, now that she's more mobile and has lots of energy to burn, I am determined to get out more, both for my own sanity as well as for developmental, educational & social stimulation for our daughter. I've got her signed up for a tumbling class, story time at the library, a music class and an Early Learning program through our local elementary school.

One of the things I bring up whenever I sign up for anything is what their policy is regarding snacks. Every one of our current activities has a strict no peanuts rule -- which is such a relief and since most of the classes are short so there's no opportunity to eat anyways. Last week, when I was enrolling in the Early Learning program, the teacher let me know that there would be a snack time so I should bring something for Ella to eat. *Cue the heart palpitations* I immediately asked how they handle the toddlers eating. Do they eat while they're playing with the toys? Do they have an opportunity to possibly share their food? She had already told me they don't allow peanuts and reassured me that the toys are put away prior to food being taken out & that there was no sharing of food allowed. I felt a little better but still went home feeling a little uneasy. Hubby told me that I was overreacting but I didn't think I was... This being our first child & not having any experience in this kind of a setting, I just don't know what to expect. As her parents, it's our job to keep her safe and make sure that we make the proper people aware of her allergies so that they can help us keep her safe. I don't think that having an open discussion about it with her teacher is overreacting. If I had decided to not enroll her in the program because there would be possible allergens in the room, THAT would be overreacting.

Last night, the teacher called me to ask for more information on her allergies and asked if I would be OK with her e-mailing the currently enrolled parents to let them know that there would be a child with some food allergies coming to class and to re-iterate the no-peanut policy. She went on to say that she was going to start asking parents to use hand wipes on their little ones before class starts and then after they've eaten, before the toys come back out. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thanked her profusely. I'm still not comfortable approaching parents on my own to ask them to do things like that but if the program director will do it for me?! I am all for it! It's nice to know that I can relax a little and let her just be a curious toddler without constantly hovering to make sure there's no forbidden foods passing through her little lips.

Weekly Menu

So, here it is, Sunday again -- I realize I didn't do very well posting recipes & reviews of this past week's meals. I promise I'll go back & do that ASAP. In the meantime, here's what we'll be eating this week...

Monday: steak & goat cheese salad
Tuesday: broiled salmon with rosemary, crash hot potatoes, roasted asparagus
Wednesday: turkey burgers served on a bed of lettuce, baked sweet potato fries, roasted broccoli
Thursday: kale & potato soup with turkey sausage
Friday: pork chops with maple apple acorn squash, garden salad
Saturday: GIRLS' NIGHT OUT!!! Ella & Hubby will have build-your-own pizzas
Sunday: turkey sweet potato shepherd's pie

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What we're having for dinner this week

A few friends have recently recommended the Skinny Weight Watchers Recipe Blog and for some strange reason, it took me a few days to click on the link and check it out. I'm not sure what I was expecting but suffices to say, I was blown away. There are so many amazingly delicious looking recipes, many of which require very little-to-no modification for them to be safe for us to eat. I've worked a few new things into our menu this week and I'm very excited to try them out. Probably a little too excited. I was practically giddy in the grocery store this afternoon! It's easy to forget that you don't have to sacrifice flavor when your diet is so limited.

Tonight: beef stew
Monday: baked garlic lemon tilapia*, rosemary roasted potatoes & roasted broccoli
Tuesday: sofrito-marinated steak, sweet potatoes & sauteed brussels sprouts*
Wednesday: salmon on a bed of lentils
Thursday: garlic lime marinated pork chops*, cilantro lime quinoa*, sauteed zucchini julienne*
Friday: white bean turkey chili*, garden salad
Saturday: leftover turkey chili since we'll be at a bday party most of the day
Sunday: tuna salad sandwiches with avocado "mayonnaise" on GF vegan flatbread and some kind of variation on the escarole soup with turkey meatballs*. I'll have to tweak it quite a bit.

I'll try to post the recipes with my variations & reviews as I go along.

*new recipes from the WW Recipe Blog

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Keeping myself organized

I started off the New Year, like so many millions of other people, vowing to get more organized. Because so much of my life revolves around planning, preparing and shopping for meals these days, I realized that I need to get it down to a science. I'm busy chasing after an active toddler now and can't just go to the freezer at 5:30pm and try to pull something together. By that time, Ella's busy trying to climb the shelves of the pantry, ready to fend for herself. I found this cute meal planner/shopping list but couldn't justify spending the $8.99 + shipping to get 50 sheets of paper. So, instead, I used it as my inspiration and created my own in Excel.

I bought a memo-sized clipboard from Staples for $1.99; used some Mod Podge (that I had laying around from a previous project) and some fun paper that I got at the craft store for $0.41, to cover the boring brown clipboard; slapped some magnetic tape (also laying around from a previous project) on the back, hung it on my fridge & clipped on my menu planning/shopping list. The end result is almost as cute as my inspiration but much MUCH cheaper.

We're in the middle of the second week of having every dinner planned out & shopped for ahead of time. I'm breathing easier already!

Gluten Free Quinoa Meatloaf

I've modified this recipe to work for us. I took out the egg, changed up the spices a bit & took out the onions, 'cuz Hubby's tummy seems to do better when I leave them out. The original recipe includes ingredients for a yummy sounding sauce but it includes things I can't have so I just 86'd the sauce in the interest of keeping it simple. Hubby puts ketchup on it but Ella and I like it just fine with no sauce.

1/2 cup Quinoa
1 cup water (you can also use vegetable stock, if you prefer)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 lb ground turkey
2 tsp minced garlic (two cloves)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried basil

Place quinoa, water (or broth) and vinegar in medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer until water is absorbed (15ish minutes). Set aside and allow cooked quinoa to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, combine ground turkey, apple sauce, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and basil and cooled quinoa. With hands, mix thoroughly. Place mixture evenly in a glass baking dish and bake for 45-50 minutes. (The original recipe says 1 1/2 hrs but I have never seen it take nearly this long -- keep an eye on it & when the top starts to brown, it's ready.)