Archive | December, 2015

Two weeks of meals

14 Dec
With some extra planning, we've been able to make gluten free work for us.

With some extra planning, we’ve been able to make gluten free work for us. These biscuits are made with a gluten-free Bisquick mix. We made a set that were not gluten free for the rest of us and froze the leftover gluten free biscuits for future meals.

I know some of you have missed our bi-weekly menus for your own meal planning inspiration, and I’m glad to say that it’s back this week!

We’ve been working within the parameters of our family’s needs, with the most recent addition of a member of our family eating gluten free. Although it takes some advanced planning, there’s so much available out there for people who are on a gluten free diet, that we’ve been able to make it all come together every night without making a separate meal for anyone. Sometimes we need to use a separate pasta or change our recipe a bit, but so far, so good.

Without further ado, here’s two weeks of kid-friendly, gluten free meals for you:

  1. Shepherd’s Pie: We use ground turkey for this meal, which tends to be lower in fat and this recipe is already gluten free except for the packet of gravy we use. However, Alex doesn’t use the gravy to begin with, so we didn’t need to do much to this recipe in the way of modifications.
  2. Tacos: Hard taco shells are corn-based and we found a gluten-free taco seasoning mix to add to the ground turkey. However, in the past we’ve also made our own taco seasoning mix. There are soft white or yellow corn taco shells that are gluten free, but so far, we prefer the hard shells. The fixings (lettuce, tomato, cheese, low fat sour cream, and refried beans) are all gluten free.
  3. Corned Beef and cabbage: It’s not just for St. Patrick’s Day, you know! We try to pick the least fatty cut we can, and trim off much of the fat when we cook it. The plain, boiled veggies (cabbage, potatoes, onions, celery and carrots) are all low fat and gluten free.
  4. Sloppy Joes: This was a quick meal for only a portion of us that were home one Friday night. I bought gluten free rolls (which she didn’t like so she just ate the meat without them) and the sloppy joe mix is out of a can over ground turkey.
  5. Nicoise: This is totally gluten free: olives, hard boiled eggs, green beans, tuna and red potatoes. The dressing is olive oil and balsamic vinegar, all were gluten free. It’s a low fat meal and can be served with bread or biscuits on the side. We have a bag of frozen gluten free biscuits on hand.

    We've tried both the orange cheese and the white cheese versions of Annie's and it's been well received both times.

    We’ve tried both the orange cheese and the white cheese versions of Annie’s and it’s been well received both times.

  6. Macaroni and Cheese and hot dogs: We’d started out planning a homemade version, but due to time constraints we had to use boxed mac and cheese. We had Annie’s Gluten Free on hand and we use turkey hot dogs and we keep gluten free hot dog rolls in our freezer.
  7. Chicken Soup: This is a homemade soup in which we used a gluten free pasta as the base, along with the usual chicken and vegetables. We have a bakery here called A&J’s Bakery which specializes in allergy free foods, and I have found everything I need there, if I can’t find it in a store. For this meal we used a small pasta that I found there. Up to that point, I’d only found large gluten free pastas (like penne) which was too big for soup. This pasta was imported from Italy, so it was pricey, but it was a corn pasta rather than a white pasta and it was perfect for this soup. Although I wouldn’t use it for my weekly pasta meals on a regular basis, I’d buy it as needed for soups like this one. We used the whole box and made the whole soup gluten free, rather than trying to make a big batch and a small batch, but we could have done that too.
  8. California chicken sandwiches: This is just grilled chicken with cheese and avocado. It can be had on a roll or on the plate, with our without the toppings. It’s a DIY chicken and everyone has it how they like it, but we had gluten free rolls available if needed.meatloaf burgers 4
  9. Meatloaf Burgers: This recipe is a family favorite and everyone loves it. The only thing I did differently was take the bread crumbs out of the mix. It made them a bit softer, but the end result was the same. In the future if I purchase a gluten free bread crumb, I could throw some back in, but they were fine without.
  10. London Broil: This was on a night not everyone was home for dinner so there wasn’t a lot of menu modifying to be done. This is marinated and served with onions, mushrooms and peppers as well as some side dishes (usually a rice or a couscous).
  11. Homemade Pizza: For this we made two homemade pizzas and bought one gluten free pizza from Trader Joes’ which was cheese, sliced tomatoes and sauce. Thumbs up on this, so it’ll be an addition to our Friday night Pizza Night meals.
  12. Chicken Marsala: To modify this dish to be gluten free, the chicken was not breaded and the sauce was made with cornstarch instead of flour. I actually liked the sauce better. We served it over pasta and made one pasta gluten free and the rest not. This is a favorite meal of mine, personally, so I was glad to see it easily modified.The rest of our meals consisted of leftovers one night and another hot dog/hamburger night using gluten free buns with french fries which were baked and are already gluten free, and salad.So for our first two full weeks of meal planning with our new needs, we were in good shape and we’re all able to eat one meal, all together, and no one is feeling hungry or slighted or as if they can only eat salad and water every day or night.

    Stay tuned as we continue on this journey through the holidays and beyond and thanks for your feedback over the past few weeks as we’ve been at the beginning of this journey!

 

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Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Muffins

9 Dec
I was temporarily lost without one of the staples in my menu: muffins.

I was temporarily lost without one of the staples in my menu: muffins.

Muffins.

If you are a long-time reader of The Whole Bag of Chips, you know how much I love a good homemade muffin. I like the versatility of being able to serve them after school, for breakfast, for a lunchbox item or for a late night snack.

Going with a gluten free menu for my youngest just before Thanksgiving has led me on a search for all kinds of staples and pantry items as well as for some good recipes to try. The staples and pantry items were immediate needs, as were items for each meal. One Sunday morning rolled around, and I realized my go-to plan for Sunday morning breakfast might be in jeopardy if I couldn’t make muffins.

This ended up being a lifesaver for one of our Sunday mornings

This ended up being a lifesaver for one of our Sunday mornings

Luckily, I’d visited our local Trader Joe’s earlier that week and picked up two bags of an all-purpose flour. I had grabbed two because I don’t often get to Trader Joe’s, and because I am learning quickly that there’s often only enough for one batch of something when it comes to buying gluten free items.

I noticed that the back of this package of flour contained several recipes, and one of them was for an apple cinnamon muffin. I was thrilled. Muffins are a staple here, and I hadn’t yet thought about what to do about that for Alex. When Sunday morning rolled around, I remembered the flour and the recipe on the back side.

As I examined the recipe at home in my kitchen, I was very excited to read that the recipe could be used as written, to make the apple cinnamon muffins, or it could be used as a basic muffin recipe if you took out the cinnamon and you could put in whatever you wanted.

Well of course….she requested that I put in chocolate chips. A girl after my own heart.

The recipe was easy to follow. I had two snack cups of natural applesauce here that I used, which was lucky because I hadn’t planned ahead for this, so I was glad I had it on hand at home already. I used canola oil instead of sunflower oil and skim milk. The recipe was quick and easy to follow and I was able to make 18 muffins, so she ate a few that morning and then I froze the rest. Now, a couple of weeks later, there are only three left, and I’m already thinking of what recipe to make next. I am thinking of using some of our frozen blueberries that we picked in August to make some homemade blueberry muffins.

I was so happy to see this recipe on the back of this package of flour from Trader Joe's.

I was so happy to see this recipe on the back of this package of flour from Trader Joe’s.

This flour was $7.99 a pack, and the muffin recipe used about 3/4 of the pack, so I was glad that I had more than one. I will finish it off and start my next package of flour when I make my next batch of muffins. There was also a pancake recipe on here, but as you saw last Wednesday, we were happy with our Bisquick gluten free pancakes, so for now I’m sticking with that.

If you haven’t found a muffin recipe you like yet, and you’re searching for gluten free, I encourage you to try this one. It did not require anything unusual and the muffins were tasty. All three kids eventually got to have them, and they all gave them a thumbs up each time.

If you have any other good muffin recipes to try that don’t require a ton of unusual ingredients, I’d love to hear about them!

What’s for dinner Wednesday: Gluten Free (and fat free and shellfish free)

2 Dec
Suddenly, we were adjusting to a member of our family who was now gluten free.

Suddenly, we were adjusting to a member of our family who was now following a gluten free diet. It was not our first time at the menu modification rodeo. I have a shellfish allergy, and my older daughter has an intolerance to fatty foods.

Happy December!

Have you missed me? It’s been two weeks (at least) since I last wrote, and what a busy two weeks it’s been!

My last post was a new muffin post for Peanut Butter Pumpkin muffins, and then…nothing! Well, a lot has been going on over here in the past weeks, and it’s taken me some time to process and organize it all, and to be able to share it with you.

First, Happy Thanksgiving! We had a great holiday and I hope you all did too! We got to visit with family and it was wonderful. I was a bit under the weather with a cold that did me in and took away my voice for much of that week, but overall it was a great holiday and a much needed school break.

The break provided us with some time to catch up a little bit. We slept a lot, we shopped very little, and we got ourselves organized at home a little bit too. We’d recently been told to try our youngest daughter on a gluten free diet as a trial, to see if it would alleviate her chronic stomach issues that had been plaguing her since the springtime. Normally, any stomach problems we’d encountered had responded to medication, but for the first time ever, adjusting her medications hadn’t done the trick. We spent the end of the school year and our entire summer, even as we criss-crossed the country on our Cross Country Adventure of 2015, trying to make heads or tails of her constant, chronic stomach pain. We could not alleviate it and we could not figure out the cause of it. Our oldest suffers from an intolerance to fatty foods, and we saw some similarities, but yet not exactly. All of our three have dealt with, and our youngest continues to deal with, abdominal migraines, but yet that didn’t seem to be it either, and the medications for it didn’t seem to be helping anymore.

When we returned from our trip she begged me to call the doctor again.

“I can’t go back to school like this,” she said. “I ended last year like this, I don’t want to start the new year like this.”

She was right, and so I placed another call to him and this time we went in. I explained that the last few things we had tried through the spring and summer weren’t working. He offered out a couple of new things to try, and each time we’d have a follow-up visit in three more weeks. Each time we’d go back with not much better news from whatever we’d tried over the three weeks. Finally, he handed me a meal plan to try with her, a “low FOD Maps” plan. You can explore that here, or google it for more information. As he handed it to me and we went through it, it mentioned gluten free items here and there, and he said, “Or, you can try gluten free, too.”

When I went home, it took me a few days to sit and look through the new diet and to consider my options. As I looked at the low FOD Maps list, there wasn’t a ton on it that she didn’t already do, and as I looked at the foods to avoid on the high FOD Maps list, there wasn’t a ton on there that she ate. It didn’t seem worth figuring out for such little change. I decided to explore the gluten free diet. I figured we’d try it for one week. I knew from past experience that if you didn’t feel a difference by then, you weren’t going to. And if it worked, you’d feel the difference even sooner.

My daughter and I went shopping and picked up just a few things to get us started. It was enough stuff for dinner that night, some breakfast, lunch and snack items for the next day.  That night for the first time in months and months, she went to bed without a stomachache after her first gluten free dinner. She woke up the next morning without a stomachache. I packed her a gluten free lunch, planned after school snacks that were gluten free, and off we went. Day two, still stomachache free. I couldn’t believe it. I had not expected it to work. We’d been down that path with my other daughter and had seen no difference in the two weeks we’d tried it. Each day or so I picked up a few new things in my travels and began to think ahead as well. Thanksgiving was a week away. Luckily, my sister-in-law was coming in to visit, and she was also on a gluten free diet, so my mom and dad had her dietary needs in mind, and they were hosting the holiday, so that would work for Alex too.

It’s now been two full weeks and she’s doing great. We visited the doctor the other day for our three week check-up and he gave us the okay to continue on the gluten free diet from here on in. We have since had a major holiday, we’ve eaten out, we’ve eaten in, and hosted a big event out of the house ourselves, and we’ve pretty easily incorporated her needs into all of our plans. Our next big event is Christmas, and looking for Christmas Cookie recipes or changing our own is obviously at the top of my list. They now need to be low in fat for one daughter and gluten free for another.

Keeping everything in one spot in our pantry so we don't have to go searching for the gluten free ingredients and snacks.

I’m keeping everything in one spot in our pantry so we don’t have to go searching for the gluten free ingredients and snacks.

In the weeks we’ve been doing this, I’ve already gotten to experiment and to organize our pantry and freezer a bit in order to make it easy for everyone to see what she can and can’t have, even if I’m not here, and I’ve tried out some great recipes and foods that she’s liked. We also have pantry shelves in our garage and we’ve allotted a section of that space for just gluten free foods too.

Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be posting what we’ve been up to on this new adventure, whenever I can, and as we go along I’ll be able to make more and more, and try out new things. I’ve taken lots of pictures of the foods we’ve bought and the foods she’s liked as well as the recipes I’ve had a chance to make. As always, and I welcome your ideas and comments as well!

This has been a great ingredient for our pantry. We've already used it for two different recipes.

This has been a great ingredient for our pantry. We’ve already used it for two different recipes.

For today, I’m starting at the beginning. One of the first dinners we had was a quick “breakfast for dinner” of pancakes with blueberry compote. The compote was homemade and you can find the recipe here. It was already gluten free. The pancakes are something we often make homemade, but on this night we were using a “just add water” boxed mix for our own, and that’s what I used for Alex’s too. I had already bought the gluten free Bisquick which had recipes on the side and back of the box for waffles, pancakes, biscuits and pizza dough. Bisquick is a familiar and trustworthy name in my opinion, and I thought it was a good first choice for my pantry. The recipe made enough pancakes that we could save some leftover for another day. By cooking for just one person, I’ve been able to make a lot at once and freeze ahead so that we can pull out what we need for her as we go, rather than starting from scratch every time. Alex liked these pancakes a lot, and had no problem having them again later in the week for breakfast.  The meal was a win-win for everyone.

Alex's pancakes looked just like ours and she said they tasted just as good.

Alex’s pancakes looked just like ours and she said they tasted just as good.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first (of many, I’m sure) posts about eating and cooking for a gluten free diet. Do you or anyone in your family follow a gluten free diet? What kinds of tips and tricks can you share?