Sunday, April 28, 2013

Monday Menu Plan

This week's meal plan has Mama out of town for three days, so meals are being kept super simple to allow Daddy time to work rather than cook all day.  I am going to wait to see what is at the market before I fill in my fruit choices... hopefully they will have something other than organic apples and pears!  I'm salivating at the thought of the summer fruits that are just around the corner.  I adore the variety of fresh organic produce available in the summer.

Breakfast: Alexia saute sweets and protein smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly sandwich
Dinner: Chili bake casserole, green beans

Breakfast: pumpkin muffins and green smoothie
Lunch: beef hot dogs
Dinner: Creamy turkey and mushroom casserole, peas

Breakfast: Turkey sausage, sauteed veggies
Lunch: turkey mushroom casserole
Dinner: salmon and scallops, crock pot beets, sliced pears

Breakfast: sunbutter coffee cake
Lunch: salmon salad
Dinner: grilled italian sausage with onions and peppers, honey glazed carrots

Breakfast: sausage and sauteed veggies
Lunch: ham roll ups OR brats
Dinner: 2 bean chili, salad

Breakfast: on your own
Lunch: Cincinnati style chili spaghetti
Dinner: Hamburgers, fries, broccoli

Breakfast: waffles with lemon curd and fresh berries
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: sloppy joe, roasted cauliflower

Friday, April 26, 2013

No Drama Mama

Dear Parents,
The fourth grade is having a pizza party to celebrate the completion of the OAA testing.  Please bring in a snack to share with the class for our party.  Remember, due to allergies we can not have any nut containing snacks.  Please consult for ideas of safe snacks you can send.
                                                                                 Thank you, Fourth Grade Teachers

That was the gist of the note sent home to every fourth grade student.  *Sigh*  I do detest food parties, but I accept that they are part of our culture and I try not to get too grumpy about them.  In the last school the room moms always sent a specific list of snacks to bring.  (ie: We need a volunteer to bring 100% juice Juice boxes, grapes, plain potato chips, plates and napkins)  It's also helpful for a food allergy mama to know ahead of time what will be served!  And?  Usually the snacks were safe.

With a general call to bring snacks, I have to stop in and check ingredients before the party (which I do anyway).  But, they were given a list of safe(er) options.  You see, with my daughter's many allergies, I don't ask that the children avoid all of her allergens, just the one that is most likely to kill her.  My only requirement is that there are no nuts in the classroom.  Ever.

Imagine my surprise to find this: two tables full of baked goods.  I separated them into two groups, nut free and contaminated.  One full table marked with 'may contain' warnings.  Yep.  When the teacher came out into the hallway to ask how everything looked, I was honest.
The table on the left contains treats with a 'may contain' warning.

I clearly stated that the may contain products were not safe for classroom consumption because studies show that the majority of products with a may contain warning do actually contain traces of nuts.  I was quickly driven to the edge of insanity by the teacher asking ME to decide if they should be served. Um.

Her suggestion: How about if the students in her classroom chose from the safe table, and the other classes can chose whatever they would like and eat in their respective classrooms, then clean well at the end of the day?

Except that her 504 clearly says no nuts in any of her classrooms, so the other children can't have it there either.

If the warning said: "May contain traces of anthrax." Would it even be a debate?

But it said no such thing, so it was a debate.  Should I allow these treats to be served?  They were only 'may contain', not actually products with nut ingredients. My choice: Ask the school to step up and follow the policy we put in place with my daughter's 504, keeping her learning environment safe but causing her to be singled out as the reason that the many treats brought in would not be eaten (and the kids walked by them all, so they knew what was there.) or allow the treats to be eaten so that there would be no hard feelings from other parents and students, and no embarrassment for my daughter.

And?  I'm the heavy.  Either way someone is upset.

This is the reason the 504 was drawn up in advance, the reason that a plan was devised and a note sent home to the parents to explain.  So there would be no game time decisions.  I finally asked the school to step and not serve the items in question.  I was ready to be the heavy, and I was incredibly angry about being put in the position that it was my job to do it.  I was ready to have moms angry that their treat was not served, and children mad at my daughter because they didn't get to eat the treat they brought.  Why? Because anger fades.  Dead doesn't.

It's hard to believe that I had so much angst about whether to allow children to indulge in sugar so my daughter would not be singled out.  Anyone with a child that is approaching teen years knows that fitting it is becoming a much more important part of their life, and decisions they make are designed to help them fit in.  This is why anaphylaxis risk peaks in teen years.

I pride myself in being the low maintenance allergy mama.  I do.  I roll with a lot, and I try to teach my daughter to roll with a lot too.  Life is always going to be full of food, we need to learn to handle it with grace.  Today?  I felt like a drama mama.  I was upfront with the teacher about how conflicted I felt, and how upset it made me.  I marched myself into the principal's office with the same concerns, again being honest at all levels.  (Including apologizing for being emotional.)

In the end?  The drama was solved by taking it outside as a picnic.  Thank heavens for lovely weather, as I'm not sure we would have had such a peaceable ending if there had been rain.  This mama was ready to stand firm and confiscate the contraband myself if need be.  I'm still angry it was even a source of debate.  The other parents clearly were not in line with the instructions sent home, and the snacks should not be served because they are a safety hazard.

Because dead can't change it's mind, be embarrassed, admit it made a mistake, or hold a grudge.  I don't negotiate with terrorists, and dead?  Nothing has more terror than that.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chicago GF Expo 2013

I went to my first GF Expo in Dallas in 2011, and loved it.  It was much like Christmas, discovering an entire convention center full of gluten free products that were also allergy friendly to varying degrees.  I had the opportunity to speak with many of the vendors and assess their ability to handle food allergy concerns, and I got to sample every single one of those amazing new products.  I loved every magical minute. (Insert mental picture of me twirling in the midst of a large crowded convention center, outstretched arms holding safe cookies and cupcakes while angels sing.)

In 2012 I stayed a bit closer to home and experienced the Chicago GF expo.  Again, an enormous room of allergy friendly products!  I had heard of many of them, but there were still so many new products for me to be excited about.  And? A plethora of gluten free classes to take during the day, helping guide attendees on subjects related to  gluten free baking.  The positive vibe was palpable and energizing.  I enjoyed being in an environment so saturated with people who get it, and who want to support each other in their quest toward a better life.  Support for eating well, for growing a blog or a business, for anything that your dreams were holding.  I left feeling uplifted.

I was lucky enough to attend the 2013 GF expo in Chicago.  I admit, I came with pretty high expectations.  It’s easy to see how I could be disappointed in my findings.  The vendor fair was packed with people offering products and samples of friendly foods, but I knew almost all of them from years past.  It was a bit disappointing that there were not as many new companies and products to excite me.  The class offerings this year seemed more commercial and lackluster than in years past.  Nothing spoke to me as a must see.  I began to think that maybe the expense this year was not justified.

Then the evening came about.  I had the privilege of dining with Colette Martin, author of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, and a friend whom I only get to see at such conferences.  I so enjoyed catching up and visiting, sharing perspectives and ideas.  What a wonderful dinner!  We then moved on to join a group of incredible ladies that are active in the blogosphere, sharing their wisdom on how to live with special diets.  THIS is the energy I came for, the support, understanding, and unity of purpose that I was looking to experience! Drinks and fabulous conversation with Lauren, Claudine, Kelly, Pam, Colette, Cindy, and Keeley left me feeling like this was, indeed, an event worth the time and expense of coming to Chicago.

It also served to further fuel the fire of excitement about the Food Allergy Blogger convention coming in November.  I can not adequately describe the feeling of being surrounded by bloggers that are on the same mission as you, who want to create a web of support to catch people they have never met and buoy them through the tough days of living with dietary restrictions in this food centric culture we live in. They get it.  They understand the challenges of everyday living.  They know why you are driven to share your life on a blog.  The camaraderie was the energizing boost this weary mama needed.  And a shimmering strand of the web tying us all together in this quest to help ease the challenges of living with dietary restrictions.  I can not wait to be engulfed in this sea of positive energy and understanding again in November.

Join us.

*Now, my goal is nurture those new relationships, shimmering like shooting stars through my weekend.  I am terrible at keeping in touch, with creating a bond that extends through time and space to stay strongly real rather than allowing such glimmering moments to create acquaintances that I treasure but lack the depth that true friendship brings.

(Please stay tuned for a few product reviews from the expo.  I'll share what my impressions were, good bad and otherwise.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Meal Plan

Here we are at Monday again.  My how the weeks just fly by!

My weekend was spent at the GF Expo while my husband was on daddy duty with the kiddos, one of them recovering from a tonsilectomy.  So today was cuddling the sick one, cleaning the kitchen, and planning for the upcoming week.  I know, you can barely control your envy.

Breakfast: pumpkin muffins
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: City Barbeque

Breakfast: pork sausage, sauteed veggies
Lunch: pepperoni sticks OR brats
Dinner: potato leek soup, dinner rolls, salad, strawberries

Breakfast: Alexia Saute Sweets, green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly sandwiches
Dinner: beef stew, quinoa, peas

Breakfast: zucchini muffins, protein smoothie
Lunch: beef stew
Dinner: meatballs, roasted potatoes, broccoli

Breakfast: turkey sausage, sauteed veggies
Lunch: meatballs
Dinner: fish tacos, corn cake, blueberries

Breakfast: waffles with fruit
Lunch: fish sticks
Dinner: Italian sausage soup

Breakfast: bacon, hash browns, sauteed veggies
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Z Pizza

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Does it count that the menu plan was actually done on Monday?  Even if I don't share it with you until later?

Seems like I frequently let life get in the way, and this may be why I drop the ball so often. Everywhere my dears, not just in blogging.  My middle daughter had her tonsils out at bright and shiny early this morning, so most of yesterday was spent in preparation mode, knowing that I would have a girly in need of extra snuggle time and plenty of soft food.  Gotta stock up, clean up, and get ready for low productivity!

Without further ado, here is what we are eating this week.  (If life goes as planned.  But don't fear, there are plenty of things in the freezer for backup use when life does not go according to plan!)

Breakfast: Cream of Buckwheat
Lunch: beef burgers
Dinner: creamy turkey quinoa casserole, mixed veggies, mandarin oranges

Breakfast: turkey sausage and zucchini muffins
Lunch:  turkey dogs
Dinner: crispy baked lemon cod, roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, honeyed mixed berries

Breakfast: pineapple coffee cake
Lunch: lentil sniffle soup
Dinner: sausage balls, raspberry applesauce, mashed potatoes

Breakfast: pork sausage and sauteed veggies
Lunch: sausage balls
Dinner: lentil dahl, quinoa pasta, peas, cardamom spiced cherries

Breakfast: Alexia sauté sweets and green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: ChiliMac, steamed broccoli

Breakfast: pancakes
Lunch:sloppy joe
Dinner: turkey enchiladas, corn cake, honey glazed carrots

Breakfast: on your own
Lunch: turkey roll ups
Dinner: fish tacos, peas

Have a great week, and be well!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A flour by any other name...

I am a huge fan of nutritional diversity.  Sure, I fall into dinner ruts where the same foods make frequent appearances on my menu plan.  I think we all do that.  For me it is one part ease, one part comfort, and one part trying to nourish children (who like repetition).

I am forever playing with recipes to pump up the nutritional content.  Or to shake up the nutrients in a familiar dish.  I often make a muffin recipe using slightly different flour combinations to alter the nutrition it holds.  And I love trying new gluten free flours. I do!

When I came across a mention of using sprouted gluten free flours, I was enthusiastically ready to jump on board.  Why?  Because I have come across so many articles lately on the benefits of sprouting seeds and grains prior to consumption.  So, of course I turned to Amazon to see if they had something to offer.  They do!

I ordered sprouted buckwheat flour and sprouted millet flour, the two available sprouted organic gluten free flours currently available.  And?

I love them.

I love the difference they have made in the texture of my baked goods.  Really.  I did not expect such a notable difference in the performance of sprouted flour.  I feel like the texture more closely resembles gluten containing recipes.

And the flavor? Awesome.  I've always used buckwheat flour sparingly because it has a strong flavor that comes across as somewhat spicy to me.  I always reduce the cinnamon in recipes using buckwheat flour because of this.  Is that weird?  The sprouted buckwheat flour has a lighter color and a much milder flavor.  I love it.  The flavor of the millet does not seem to change with sprouting though.

One more difference?  I tried Authentic Foods superfine sorghum flour.  Again, the texture of baked goods was impacted far more than I anticipated.  I won't go back to regular sorghum now.

My husband, who is my biggest baked goods critic, has offered up praise on several occasions since switching.  The kids have exclaimed that the muffins are especially good today and asked what flour I used.  (Can you tell they are used to me playing with flours?)

If you haven't tried straying from your familiar gluten free flours, I encourage you to play a little.  You might be happy you did.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

I'm not sure how it can possibly be Monday again already.  Some weeks really are gone in a blink.  Here is the plan for this week.  I'm hoping the weather stays nice, because I've got lots of grilling in mind!

Breakfast: pork sausage, Alexia Harvest Saute
Lunch: pork brats
Dinner: quinoa basil burgers on gf buns, roasted sweet potatoes, pineapple

Breakfast: Alexia Saute Sweets, protein smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly on gf bread
Dinner: steak, carrot salad, steamed broccoli, strawberries

Breakfast: cream of buckwheat
Lunch: beef hot dogs
Dinner: turkey meatballs, gf pasta with marinara sauce, peas

Breakfast: turkey sausage, sauteed veggies
Lunch: meatballs
Dinner: grilled salmon and scallops, grilled romaine salad, orange slices, california veggies

Breakfast: apricot lime quinoa with maple drizzle, green smoothie
Lunch: salmon
Dinner: pulled pork, roasted brussels sprouts, sliced pear

Breakfast: Bacon, cranberry orange muffins
Lunch: ham and cheese rollups
Dinner: pizza with cauliflower crust (this makes the menu often, but I still haven't actually MADE it!)

Breakfast: gf multigrain waffles, spiced peach syrup
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: beef burgers, french fries, grapes, sauteed green beans

Enjoy the week!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Meal Plan Monday. On a Wednesday.

Spring break was a glorious chance to get the family together in the middle of backwoods nowhere.  A few days in a cabin with lazy mornings followed by hiking and horseback riding in the afternoons.  Bonfires and toasted marshmallows in the evenings.  I love when you tuck the kids into bed at night knowing they've had a day packed with family fun, sunshine, and exercise.

The part where mama woke up on the last day with the kind of foggy headache the tells of an oncoming cold? Not my favorite.  My husband and oldest daughter woke up the same.  By noon we were sliding down a high speed slide into the land of snot and sinuses.  Instead of Sunday being a day of rest and recovery from a great vacation, we each commandeered a box of tissues, a hot tea,  and a spot on the couch. Cue the whining.

The good news is that it was fast moving, and by Tuesday I was back to (mostly) normal.  So here I am on Wednesday, finally passing along the menu plan.  Which took much longer than normal to come up with due to my foggy cold laden brain.  But a girl can't grocery shop until she knows what to buy, so menu plan I did.  Shopping on Tuesday.  Sharing the results? Today.  You're welcome.

This week's menu seems to feature a lot of comfort foods. I guess my cold influenced my planning quite a bit!  Also included are low effort crock pot meals, as I will be out of the house a lot this week, so need something that is quick and easy to get on the table in the evening.  As always, I fill in sides both based on sales at the market, and on my mood for the day.  All entries are subject to change based on mama's mood and market availability. ;)

Breakfast: Alexia Saute Sweets and green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly on gf bread
Dinner: White bean turkey chili and corn cake

Breakfast: Turkey sausage and Alexia Harvest Sautee
Lunch: leftover chili OR sunbutter and apples
Dinner: Hard Cider Pork Roast, roasted cauliflower, mixed berries

Breakfast: Pork sausage and blueberry muffins
Lunch: Pepperoni sticks OR leftover pork roast
Dinner: Beef Stew (new recipe), pasta, green beans

Breakfast: Baked apples with quinoa granola topping
Lunch: leftover beef stew OR beef hot dogs
Dinner: Dal Palak, quinoa, peas, sliced oranges, cornbread

Breakfast: GF poptarts and protein smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and apples
Dinner: Rustic Shrimp Stew, flatbread

Breakfast:  Waffles with berry syrup
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Irish Cottage Pie, strawberries

Breakfast: Bacon, hash browns, sauteed veggies
Lunch: turkey burgers
Dinner: Italian sausage, sauteed peppers and onions, southern fried cabbage

As always, links provided are to the original recipe for your reference only.  I live by food bloggers, but do modify most recipes to suit the dietary restrictions and personal tastes of our family.