Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Allergy-Free Eating on a Budget: Tip 3 and Quick and Easy Buffalo Chicken Wraps/Quesadillas

     Tip #3 is to know your prices. I frequent my local health food stores and the Nature's Marketplace section of Wegman's often enough to know where to buy different things. I pay attention to the prices in the co-op catalog each month. I occasionally check my local WalMart Superstore to see if they have added any GF or DF (dairy-free) products. I know that the Rice Dream rice milk is cheapest at WalMart. I have searched and cannot find it cheaper anywhere else. (I know Rice Dream says it's GF, and other people say it's not. Nathan doesn't seem to react to it, so I use it when I'm not making my own rice milk or nut milks, though I feel a little nauseous if I drink too much (usually just have it on cereal a couple times a week). I know that it's cheapest to make my own rice milk and nut milks, so I try to do that when I'm not too rushed for time. Our favorite DF milk is cashew milk, and it's the easiest to make. Raw nuts and seeds are definitely cheapest through the co-op for me, but some of you might have a Trader Joe's nearby where you may find it cheaper.  Homemade nut milk is more nutritious than homemade rice milk, too.
     Keep a record in your planner, purse, or wallet of prices from different stores and mail order companies (or co-ops) where you buy things.  Compare prices.  After awhile you will have a pretty good idea where you want to purchase which foods.  Some places might be kind of out of the way for me to go to in order to get the best price.  I might handle that by going there once in awhile and buying the 1 or 2 things I get from that store in bulk, decreasing the amount of times I will have to go there.  Or, I might take a loss and purchase what I need at whatever store I am at if I really need to and don't have time to go to the other store.  In that situation, I have to weigh which is more important to me, time or money, and whether or not the price of the extra gas to get there would make up for the savings I would be getting.  For instance, we buy a large amount of sweet rice flour from an Asian store that is about 1/2 hour away from us, in an area where we rarely ever go.  It's not worth going there if it's just for 1 small bag, so we buy at least 5-10 lbs. at a time which lasts me quite awhile.
     One thing I noticed is that Betty Crocker has come out with a line of cake, brownie, and cookie mixes that are GF.  Our local grocery stores have finally started carrying this line of boxed mixes, which excited me tremendously when they first brought them out.  However, I started comparing prices as I noticed all the stores starting to carry them.  I found

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Allergy-Free Eating on a Budget: Tip 2 and Cereal and Snack Ideas

     My second tip for allergy-free eating on a budget is to buy your ingredients and/or foods in bulk.  It is always cheaper in the long run to make your food from scratch.  I choose to do this for the most part, however there are certain things that I buy already made, knowing it would be cheaper to make them from scratch.  I just don't always have the time or equipment to make literally everything myself.  For instance, I buy GF pasta.  Sure it would be cheaper to make noodles from scratch, but if I am making spaghetti for dinner, chances are it's been a busy day for me and I am making pasta because it's easy and fast, not just because it tastes good, although it is delicious.  I also do not own a pasta maker, which makes it more difficult and time consuming for me to make pasta.  I also buy rice tortillas.  I am aware that I can make my own tortillas and freeze them for future use, which would be much cheaper than buying them.  I just haven't tried it yet.  I don't have the right size frying pan at this time, and it hasn't been a priority of mine.  At some point, I may try to make my own tortillas.  I have heard it is very easy.  I will need to buy a new frying pan, first. 
     So, you know that I am not perfect.  I don't make everything from scratch.  I do buy some GF foods that are already made and are more expensive than making my own.  I have every intention of trying to make pasta noodles and tortillas from scratch someday but not just right now.  In order to save some money, though, I do buy my ingredients, a few mixes, tortillas, pasta, dry beans, canned tomato products, etc. in bulk.  There are several ways that I do this:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Allergy-Free Eating on a Budget: Tip 1 and Stir Fry idea

     Today's tip on allergy-free eating on a budget is to eat foods that are naturally gluten free:  fruits, vegetables, meat, legumes, and whole-grain brown rice.  You can use white rice, however there are no nutrients in white rice.  White rice is mostly starch and simple carbohydrates.  It is not nutrient dense.  People who battle food intolerances really need to eat nutrient-rich foods.  I highly recommend that you try to adjust your tastes to start eating whole-grain brown rice instead of white rice.  I have heard that if you soak your rice overnight, rinse, and then cook it, the texture of the brown rice will be closer to white.  I haven't tried it since my family likes brown rice, but you could give it a try.  I save money by buying my brown rice in bulk 25 lb. bags through my local food co-op.   I try to buy organic rice, but if I don't have the money I figure it's better to buy nonorganic brown rice than buying any white rice or not buying any at all.  It's filling and nutritious, and it provides fiber to our diets.

Vegetable Stir Fry Idea
I love making my rice in a rice cooker.  I just throw my rice, water, a little oil, and some gluten-free seasonings (garlic, onion powder, Herbamare, dried parsley, etc.) in the covered rice cooker, push the button down, and wait for it to cook.  Sometimes I use

Allergy Free Eating on a Budget

     Over the last year, I have become more and more disillusioned concerning the safety of our food supply here in the USA.  Because capitalism seems to be at the heart of the American Dream (and thus the desire to make lots of money and own more things than we actually need), the food companies have experimented with fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, grains, etc in order to be able to make more profit.  Things are not as they appear, and the nutritional value of the foods we eat today is nothing compared to those same foods a hundred years ago because they are no longer the same foods--they just look the same.  You can find all kinds of information on the internet, in documentaries, in books, etc. about the growing concern over the safety of our foods and growing health epidemics that plague our society as a result of our diets, so I will not go into detail.  It would take up too much time and would be redundant.  I am just writing about my journey to provide safe and nutritious meals to my food-sensitive family.
     In an attempt to be the perfect mother, providing the perfect foods for my children, husband, and self, I have tried going the organic route.  I will still continue to buy some organic foods since I do not trust non-organic grains.  GMO's are too prevalent in our grains.  However, I have a family of 6 to provide meals for, and VERY limited funds.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bulk Cooking and Busy Testing Recipes

     Today I spent my entire day cooking and baking with Lord of the Rings playing on my little kitchen tv.  I made a bulk batch of spaghetti sauce, peanut butter cups, chocolate strawberry cups, a banana cake (look at my Revised Banana Cake post for the recipe), ziti (GF, of course), and hamburger buns.  Needless to say, between the cooking and clean-up I have been a very busy mama today!  My husband helped keep the kids on track with their school while I spent my day in the kitchen.  He also came out to help me with the peanut butter cups for awhile.  I always like it when he joins me in the kitchen.  It's so much fun!  (Thank you, honey.)
     Years ago, I used to do freezer cooking or bulk cooking.  I had 3 small children at the time.  It was such a help having healthy meals already made in the freezer.  All I had to do was thaw and bake or reheat.   Some of them could be taken right from the freezer to the oven.  Over the years, I just stopped doing it.  I had another baby.  I was homeschooling all my children, and they were getting involved in more and more extra-curricular activities.  Trying to remember to take something out of the freezer to thaw and reheat seemed like too much for me.  My mind was so foggy.  I would just forget about meals until my kids were hungry and wanting to eat.  It became so much easier, and much more unhealthy, for us to stop at a fast food restaurant on the way to scouts, sports, or youth group.  Though I felt guilty, I just couldn't fathom adding anything else to my plate;anything else to organize or think about. 
     We have been eating gluten free for 5 months, now, and my mind is clear.  I am no longer overwhelmed by the homeschooling and activities.  I no longer feel the need to lay on the couch or in bed during the times when we are at home.  I want to do things.  I am not sluggish anymore, and I want to be busy.  I have a lot of time to make up for! 
     I have been spending a ton of time on the internet researching gluten free cooking and ingredients.  I have studied about nutrition, learning so much fascinating information!  I have come to realize just how amazing God created our bodies and the foods He provided for us.  Our bodies can be completely healthy and repair damage largely by eating the right foods and staying away from the wrong ones.  I have been spending some time in my kitchen playing around with different recipes that I have found here and there, but it's time for me to be more serious about the food we are eating.  I also want my children to know and understand why we need to eat right and exercise. 
     Amidst all the knowledge I have been acquiring and my desire to create healthy and satisfying meals, I realize that I need to be realistic.  I cannot do everything.  I still homeschool, and my children are involved in A LOT right now.  I don't want to make them give up those things that they enjoy.  I am a strong believer in children having many experiences to help them decide what path they want to follow with their lives down the road.  I want to help them as much as I can, so they will be confident in what they are called to do.  So, I can't spend all my time in my kitchen. 
     I also can't stop at fast food restaurants.  We can't eat like that anymore--literally.  We can't.  We all have various food allergies/intolerances that prevent us from eating the way that we used to.  Actually, we have always had them.  We just didn't know why we were feeling bad.  Thus, my desire to go back to bulk cooking.
     Now, I know that we should eat a large amount of raw fruits and vegetables, and we do.  My children get plenty of raw organic fruit and veggies for in between snacks and salads.  They are always snacking on apples, bananas, oranges (except Nathan who is allergic to oranges), raw nuts and seeds, carrots, and celery sticks.  They get dehydrated fruits with their breakfasts and granola-type snack mixes that I make up.  However, we do like to have nice hot meals for our dinners and some lunches. 
     When I was first learning about eating gluten free, we ate a lot of rice cakes with peanut butter (or, in my case, almond butter since peanuts don't agree with me) and sliced bananas with a little honey for lunches, snacks, and dinners on the go.  We have gotten tired of that and want more variety. 
     I have decided to start bulk cooking again, giving us more variety and the ability to have healthy, hot dinners, even when we are busy.  I think it will help in other ways, too.  Some of us cannot have dairy while some can.  We have a friend who is willing to give us raw, organic milk (the only form of milk I can tolerate, though my son cannot tolerate any dairy whatsoever).  I have been avoiding all meals that contain cheese or dairy since Nathan cannot have it, and I don't have the time to cook 2 different meals every night.  If I cook and freeze food, then I can make some versions with and without dairy and freeze in single-sized portions.  Nathan and I cannot have soy while the other members of our family can.  I have avoided all Chinese foods, though we all absolutely love Chinese.  I can at least make some Chinese stir fry for those who can have it.  Those of us who can't have it will be able to take something else out of the freezer for those dinners. 
     Thus, my cooking and baking endeavors today.  I made a large batch of spaghetti sauce, developing a tasty recipe that we can all have.  My husband is Italian, so we have always eaten a lot of pasta.  I do like the Tinkyada rice pastas a lot.  Up until now, we have just thrown some basil, garlic, and oregano in a pan with a can of crushed tomatoes, heated it up and called it spaghetti sauce.  It didn't really compare to the sauces we were used to, but they all had high fructose corn syrup or other things we can no longer have.  I took the time today to come up with my own recipe.  It was very good, but I want to test it a little more before I share it.  I need to freeze some for awhile, thaw, and reheat to make sure it tastes just as good.  Some herbs get stronger through the freezing process, while others get weaker. 
     I have been craving chocolate so much lately.  Since I can't have HFCS, soy, and dairy, chocolate candies have been off of my list of allowable foods.  I cannot afford the truly good stuff, so I have just avoided it all.  I cheated a couple of times and really paid for it.  I made peanut butter cups for me and Nathan today that were dairy, soy, and HFCS free (though I can only indulge in 1 or 2 if I don't want to get sick).  Delicious!  I love Enjoy Life chocolate chips!  I also have Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips that are dairy free, not soy free, that I used to make more cups for the rest of the family--much cheaper than the Enjoy Life chips since I got a bunch on sale during the Christmas baking season.  We each had a couple of pieces, then I bagged, labeled, and froze the rest.  I usually don't use refined sugar, but I did use a little confectionary sugar in the peanut butter.  These will be used for once-in-a-while splurges of decadence!  I will be trying to improve on my recipe, making it healthier without the sugar.  Until then, they are quite good.  The strawberry cups need some more work, though they were tasty. 
     I made the banana cake for a party we are going to tomorrow evening.  Some of our friends that will be at the party can be hard to please when it comes to food, so I feel that if they like my cake, I will know that it is truly a great recipe and worthy of sharing with the world!  I will be making some other food to take tomorrow, as well, though I am still deciding on what to make.
    My sister and her family have food allergies and must eat gluten, dairy, and egg free.  She shared a recipe for hamburger buns with me that I decided to try tonight.  She said they would make nice dinner rolls.  I wanted to see if they would be acceptable to take to the party tomorrow night, but they still need some work before I share.  I had a hard time with them.  My children loved them, though.  They did taste a lot like gluten rolls.  I will try to make them again tomorrow morning, making a few adjustments, first.
     Well, that was my day.  This has turned into a long post!  I didn't know I would have so much fun sharing all these details with everyone, but it's quite liberating!  Write in and tell me what your recent experiences have been with trying new recipes and expanding your food horizons.  How do you fit your special dietary needs in with your busy life?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free Hot Chocolate

     Brrr!  It has been so cold here over the last several days. 
     With wind chills below zero, it is truly frigid outside tonight, and if you sit near a window in our house, you can feel the wind coming through.  My poor hubby begged me for hot chocolate tonight.  We haven't had hot chocolate since going gluten free, dairy free, and all natural.  I have looked at all the ingredients on the commercial hot chocolate mixes.  In my opinion, they are inedible, even if you are able to have dairy.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to feed my precious loved ones corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and other harmful things.  So, when we got home from church tonight, I went to the kitchen and came up with a pretty tasty and healthy hot chocolate that even passed my picky husband's scrutiny.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free Hot Chocolate
3 c. dairy free milk*
2 rounded Tbs. cocoa powder
2 dropperfuls NuNaturals Alcohol Free Vanilla Stevia liquid**

Whisk together the milk and cocoa powder in a sauce pan on medium-high heat.  Add the stevia.  Continue to whisk occasionally until the hot chocolate is heated through.  Ladle into 2 mugs.  Feel free to play around with this recipe for your individual taste.  I am thinking that I may try adding a few mint leaves, or maybe some cinnamon next time. 

* I used rice milk because that is what I have on hand.  However, this would be exceptionally good and creamy with MimicCream, cashew milk, or even coconut milk.  You could even do half rice milk and half MimicCream.  A lot of times I will mix up some coconut milk tonic, which is very good and good for you.  This would be great using that, as well.  You can find information about the health benefits of coconut milk tonic (as well as a great and easy recipe to make it yourself) here: http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2008/05/coconut-milk-tonic.html .  I usually do not make mine with the vanilla because I just prefer the flavor without, and I don't use the dolomite powder because I am still unsure about the health benefits of it verses the possible dangers.  I have to do more research on it. 

** You can use a little sugar or whatever other sweetener you prefer, if you don't want to use the stevia.  I understand that some people find stevia too herbal in taste, however I feel that the NuNaturals liquid stevia is pleasant and does not have as strong an herbal taste as other brands if used in moderation.  Sometimes I will use a little maple syrup with a little stevia in recipes, so as not to use an overpowering amount of stevia.  My sister uses a little less cocoa powder and some sugar instead of stevia. My husband usually does not like stevia, but he really loved this hot chocolate and couldn't tell it had stevia in it instead of sugar or maple syrup. You may decide you like a little less stevia, perhaps 1 1/2 dropperfuls.

     I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's.  We were very busy.  I have been especially busy baking.  Today was the last party--my grandfather's 89th birthday party.  He has diabetes, so I made my revised Banana Cake recipe in a 9x13 baking pan, frosted with a homemade chocolate frosting.  I sweetened everything with agave nectar, which I normally do not use because I have read that it has similar properties to high fructose corn syrup.  However, agave nectar is lower on the Glycemic Index than the other sweeteners I usually use in my cake and is, therefore, better for diabetics, according to my understanding.
     I also made a triple batch of Elana's Cranberry Walnut Bread from http://www.elanaspantry.com/ to give as Christmas gifts to my relatives at the party that we missed seeing on Christmas day.  On top of that, I made 2 gluten free pizzas with a few pieces of pizza being dairy free, because this was a pizza party, and my kids would have had a difficult time seeing and smelling the pizza without being able to eat any of it (my one son cannot have any dairy, while the rest have it occasionally).  I did most of this baking this morning (the cake and bread), went to church, and then made the pizzas immediately after church before leaving to go to the party.  We left the party early, dropped the kids off at home, and then went to church for a prayer meeting.  What a busy day! 
     I am so glad all the parties are over now, though they were fun.  I am looking forward to getting life back to normal and on a schedule. 
     Let me know how this recipe turns out for you and what your holiday celebrations were like.