Friday, February 28, 2014

My Dye-Free Valentine

At their ages, Valentine's Day is full of cookies and candies and fun. For a Mama of kids with dietary restrictions, it's full of stress and worry and trust. Trust that the teacher won't blindside my kid with something she can't have that we hadn't previously discussed and I hadn't sent an alternative for. And trust that my kid will resist temptation and stick to the treats Mama sent!   

Both of Z's Kindergarten classes had sugar cookie decorating parties, but the teacher at the private school made everything herself, to be sure it would be safe, and so all the kids could have the same stuff. (Have I mentioned that I love this teacher? Tears will be shed at the end of the school year!) She made gluten-free sugar cookies from a mix I'd supplied earlier, made frosting from scratch, and had proudly announced at the beginning of the school year that she'd bought some dye-free sprinkles specifically for this activity later in the year! (We had the same teacher last year, which was one of the many reasons we opted to stay at this school for Kindergarten too.)

The public school Kindergarten Z attends in the afternoons is actually an all-day program, but we only show up at lunch time. But Valentine's week was half-days due to conferences. So I picked Z up a little early from her AM class and rushed her off to her other class for the last hour of school to go to her other class party. She nibbled on her lunch along the way, but wasn't really hungry (surprise surprise.)

But I had packed her a dye-free gluten-free cookie decorating kit anyway. Plus extra treats to help her resist busting into any of the candy in her Valentines.

GF vegan sugar cookie, asst dye-free candies, Truffle Pig, dye-free frosting, dye-free sprinkles, gummy hearts
I found heart-shaped vegan gluten-free sugar cookies at the gluten-free market up near my mother-in-law's house, but in a pinch, I would have used round ones from Enjoy Life or Lucy's - both companies are completely free from the Top 8 Allergens and gluten!

I sent a kit willed with star-shaped gummies from Whole Foods and UNREAL candy-coated chocolates (not dairy-free,) some Lovely fruit chews (just like Starburst!) a Truffle Pig (not dairy-free,) vegan white frosting (store-bought caned frosting almost all have artificial dyes, even the white and chocolate ones!) and a mix of sugar sprinkles and jimmies from Maggie's Naturals and India Tree Nature's Colors.

(If there's not a Whole Foods or natural market near you with dye-free candy and sprinkle options, check out And you can order sugar sprinkles and food colors direct from Chocolate Craft Kits or Maggie's Naturals. I've even found dye-free Sprinkelz packets at Fred Meyer and I think Wal-Mart. And Cherrybrook Kitchens makes the only "canned" frosting I've found without artificial colors and/or flavors (I just found out that artificial flavoring vanillin is more commonly made from petrochemicals, just like the dyes are, and not a wood pulp manufacturing byproduct, as I'd previously thought. That puts it on the "avoid at all costs" list, like the other petrol-derived food additives that Z reacts to!) I've only ever found Cherrybrook Kitchens frosting at Whole Foods and other natural grocery stores. And online.)

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Because I knew they'd be full from cookies, I didn't pack big lunches. And I went for popcorn over sandwiches because it's more of a "sure thing" as far as actually getting eaten!

My Little Valentine
Organic apples, organic popcorn w/salt and nutritional yeast; organic carrots, peas, and grapes
E got some MOMables Real Food Valentines Treats apples left over from a previous lunch, but otherwise these snacky lunches were just plain and simple and easy to put together.

My Big Valentine
Organic popcorn w/salt and nutritional yeast; organic carrots, peas, and apples
Both my girls love their "cheese powder" which is what we call the nutritional yeast in our house. Two Tablespoons of "nooch" contain 9g of protein - a complete protein - as well as 4g fiber and a variety of B vitamins. So I am more than happy to let them sprinkle it on pretty much anything they want! They especially enjoy it on popcorn, and I don't even need to add (non-dairy) butter!

In between all the shuttling back and forth for Z, E and I went to a Valentine's party with my MOMS Club. They too were decorating sugar cookies. Luckily, I had brought extras from packing for Z!
E had a great time decorating her cookie. Sadly, Z got the only unbroken one left at the store, but E didn't mind. In fact, she made me break up the larger pieces after she decorated them! And she was thrilled to spread her own frosting and add her own decorations onto her broken cookie. Just like a Big Girl! 

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Food for Thought

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cheesy Cornbread "Cookie" Muffins

Wednesday, 1/15/14 - On a whim I decided to try cooking cornbread in a shaped cookie pan instead of just muffin pans, and it was a success!

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Butterflies for Kindergarten!
GF cornbread with goat cheese, organic strawberries, organic kale chips
I had made the cornbread the night before, so to melt the cheese, I just broiled them in the oven for a few minutes with a bit of goat cheese on each one. Goat milk has different easier-to-digest protein and sugar than cow milk, and is much closer to human milk, and the toddler and I both tolerate it just fine. And Trader Joe's sells a nice mozzarella-style sliced goat cheese, so Mama can be lazy! Win!

Lunch for my Little Princess
GF cornbread with goat cheese; organic carrots, peas, and tomatoes; fruit salad w/DF whipped cream
E's co-op preschool had had a build-your-own fruit salad bar at a family party the night before, and I brought home her leftovers. I'd brought dye-free pink maraschino cherries (also available in dye-free red) and a dairy-free rice-based canned whipped cream, which were a big hit with my girls, at least. So I made sure to include some of both in her fruit salad.

Cornbread for Mama
GF cornbread w/cinnamon sugar, Naturebox Cinnamon Spice Almonds, organic kale chips;
DF chocolate-covered Glutino pretzel chips, dye-free marshmallows, and GF MOMeo cookie
Even though I can tolerate goat cheese, I still try to stick to a plant-based diet. Plus cinnamon sugar is way yummier! I added some almonds as my protein instead.

I had loads of chocolate-dipped goodies left over from a chocolate party for my nephew, and I'm not afraid of sugar. So I packed an assortment of yummies in my already sugary lunch!

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Leftovers to Lunch: Simple But Fun School Lunches

We'd gone to Red Robin over the weekend as a special treat (ie: Mama was feeling lazy and we were already out and about anyway.) So we had some burger patty, fries, and grilled chicken left over. Instant lunches!

BBQ Chicken Skewers
Z's lunch: Organic strawberries and carrots, leftover chicken w/vegan "gouda," organic ketchup w/BBQ sauce
Monday, 1/13/14 - I had a salad at Red Robin that comes with grilled chicken, but I don't really eat meat, so I asked for it on the side, and brought it home to feed to my carnivores. This idea is from my MOMables menu subscription, and a fun way to use leftover chicken or turkey!

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E's lunch: Leftover chicken w/vegan "gouda," organic carrots and grapes
Z looooves Gouda, so when I found some dairy-free vegan "Gouda" at Whole Foods I decided to give it a try. But it was a bust. Neither girl liked it. It didn't really taste like Gouda to me.

DIY Chicken Cracker Stackers
Z's lunch: Organic strawberries, GF Van's Everything crackers, leftover chicken, organic kale chips
Thursday, 1/16/14 - Usually Cracker Stackers (also from MOMables!) are done with sliced deli meat and cheese, but chunks work too! And no cheese, since I didn't have any sliced cheese laying around.

E's lunch: Organic grapes, GF Van's Everything crackers, leftover chicken; organic carrots, tomatoes, snap peas
Same thing for Little Sis, but with different fruits and veggies.

Mini Hamburger Sliders
Z's lunch: Crispy brown rice treat, organic apples, leftover fries, organic ketchup, GF mini sliders
Friday, 1/17/14 - I used a mini scalloped round cutter on the un-chewed parts of E's leftover hamburger patty and toasted up some rounds of gluten-free bread for the "buns." I dabbed a little ketchup inside each one, plus added more for dipping, if desired.

*Please note that Red Robin uses a fry oil that contains a petroleum-derived preservative. Many restaurants do, including McD's, Johnny Rockets, and other fast-food chains. We gave it a try, but noticed behavioral issues in Little Z after. So no more Red Robin fries for us. Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Arby's, Burger King, Wendy's are the only places I've found so far with petrochemical-free fry oil.  (Ingredients may vary by location, and can change before being updated online, so be sure to double check every so often!)

E's lunch: organic cauliflower, tomatoes, grapes; dye-free maraschino cherries, leftover fries, burger scraps, ketchup
Little Sis got the burger scraps, since she's not a big bread fan anyway. And the last few dye-free maraschino cherries from an event earlier in the week.

And since she actually likes cauliflower, I rewarded her by making a few florets into cute little trees. Squeee!

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