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! 

Tools of the Trade
Food for Thought

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