It’s kind of crazy to think about, but Spring Break is just around the corner… What’s everyone doing- are you heading out of town or staying close to home? If you’re stuck for meal ideas to get you through the week, I’ve got you covered!
Whether you have the kids home all week or are sending them off to camp/ activities/ the grandparents, let’s try and make the evenings a little easier, shall we? I’ve rounded up 5 of my favourite meals that the whole family will love, each taking less than 20 minutes to whip up, with a few slow cooker ideas so you can prep everything ahead of time and have dinner take care of itself.
…Now if only the wine would pour itself! 😉
There are two ways to check out the Spring Break Menu Plan:
It’s been a little over a year since we removed gluten and dairy from Ari’s diet and I thought now would be a good time to chat about our journey in the hopes that it might help others. While ours is far from being figured out, our journey over the past year and a half has taught us many things- how we eat and even how we think about food has changed considerably in that time- and I like to think we were already quite informed about food before Ari’s diet became a curve ball to figure out. If you’ve followed the blog for a little while, you’ll know that Ari and Will are the inspiration behind many of the recipes I share and have adapted for these dietary changes. I get asked quite a few questions about how we came to the conclusion to remove gluten from our then 18- month old’s diet, what we eat, and general tips and suggestions, so I’m going to do my best to share about our experience in this post.
I have been asked ‘what does your family eat?’ on more than one occasion. I sometimes ask myself the same question on evenings when it’s been an especially busy day and I’m facing the task of cooking dinner and have no idea what to make. Toss in a picky toddler and you have the recipe for a cranky mama. Those days are still the most frustrating for me, the ones where I can’t fall back on a quick and easy option, where I have to improvise. But in many ways, those are the times where I’ve been forced to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. Thanks to Will cheering me on (and putting up with many of my frustrated culinary tantrums) I’ve began to think of food less as ‘what we can’t eat’ and instead focus on everything that we can. And that little change in perspective has helped a lot. In addition to the swaps for gluten free versions of things like bread and pasta, our family has found other new foods and recipes to love: I make most of my own salad dressings and marinades, bake way more than I ever used to, and changed what we consider to be a meal or snack (Ari loves seaweed, something I never would have tried outside of sushi before this experience). If you’re looking for some tips and ideas, see below.
if you’re looking for some other ideas, see the blog’s Recipes page
Tips for healthy gluten free eating
Healthy options aren’t a guarantee- just because something is gluten free doesn’t mean it’s a healthy option; while white rice, corn, and potato flour are popular ingredients in place of wheat flour, they lack nutritional benefit
Pay attention to sugar content- pay attention to the sugar content in gluten free baking, etc. Many of the store- bought items we’ve come across are loaded with sugar to compensate for a lack of flavour
Look out for crappy ingredients- while common in many gluten free products, I try to avoid certain ingredients if they’re not organic/ non- GMO, such as corn. This can sometimes limit choices and I can’t always do this, but I try
READ THE LABEL- if it isn’t labeled as gluten free, it isn’t. Of course I’m not suggesting a banana isn’t gluten free. What I’m referring to is anything from salad dressings and condiments, to potato chips to… anything you can think of. Some products are ‘gluten free’ but processed in a plant with wheat and/ or other allergens. If you are highly sensitive or have Celiac disease, this risk of cross- contamination can be a problem. (I remember getting angry when a jar of baby food- plums- had wheat in it. I had bought it to help Ari’s digestion and if I hadn’t read the label I would have accidentally made the problem worse)
It’s trial and error- And trial and error. And trial and error. Going gluten free isn’t budget- friendly, especially when you’re trying to figure out different gluten free flours, mixes, recipes, etc. It can also be frustrating and time consuming. A recipe you know in your sleep probably won’t be the same when it’s gluten- free, and figuring out a version that’s close to what you want can take several attempts (just the other day I tried whipping up a batch of GF pancakes and since I switched up the combination of flours, they were too soft to flip so I ended up having to bake them in the oven! And I totally admit getting angry- they’re just pancakes for goodness sake, not a souffle!)
Rethink why you eat certain foods- We don’t need wheat in our diets to be healthy. The same with dairy. But we do need quality foods to meet our nutritional needs and some fun stuff tossed into the mix so we don’t go crazy (everything in moderation, right?). A big change we made was taking our toaster out of the kitchen. I don’t buy bread as often since store bought GF loaves are pricier (I’m still working on perfecting a sandwich bread we love) and without really intending to, we’ve almost removed this carb from our diet.
As I’ve said, we’re also mostly dairy free, so that can make things a little interesting, but not impossible. What we do isn’t perfect, but it’s worked for us so far, and I’m always trying to make gluten/ dairy free versions of meals we love. Some things I’ve just had to accept won’t be the same, or even possible (mac n cheese and soft tortillas are 2 things that have eluded me). And as someone who isn’t limited to her food choices, this admittedly can be frustrating when I just want something familiar (but before I get too pouty I remind myself that Will feels this way too, but doesn’t have a choice, so I try to shut up). And baking gluten and dairy free is in a league of it’s own, but I’m learning what blends of different GF flours work best for sweet (some combination including coconut and tapioca flour(s)) vs savoury (some combination of brown rice and quinoa flour(s)) recipes.
Before and since our family faced these dietary crossroads, I know of many friends whose families have had to adjust what they eat- whether it was for themselves, a spouse, or a child. Like us, they didn’t make these changes because they were trendy, or a fad, it was out of a need for change. With Ari, we suspected things were amiss when she broke out in head- to- toe rashes and had other lingering health issues she couldn’t kick, but there are a variety of symptoms to be aware of, and I suggest you look into them based on what you’re experiencing. Be an advocate for your health. Since embarking on this health journey with Ari, we’ve had her at doctors, naturopaths, a paediatrician and gastroenterologist, had xrays and an ultrasound, blood tests, and various other tests along the way. And we’re still not entirely sure if what she suffers from is something we can resolve or ‘fix’ or if it’s something we’ll have to contend with forever. We just don’t know, but we’ll keep doing the best we can.
Whether a dietary change is something new that you’re trying to navigate, or you’re just looking for more information, I hope this post helps a little and I’d love to hear how your family has adjusted around dietary needs. We have learnt so much more about food in the time since making these changes, gone beyond gluten and dairy free eating- researched, read, and watched (thanks Netflix!) as much as we could to educate ourselves not just on ‘eating healthy’, but trying to gain a true understanding of nutrition.
I recently had a breakthrough in my continuing journey in alternative (gluten & dairy- free) cooking and whipped up a batch of perogies that were sans allergens and delicious! Before Will went off gluten and dairy about a year ago, I loved making homemade perogies and we would slather them in sour cream and cheddar cheese among our other favourite toppings. Yum. Then came his and Ari’s diet changes and so many of the meals we loved had to be adjusted or eliminated altogether. Until this attempt, perogies were one of the meals that got the ax (heartbreaking!), and while there are ready- made options, we haven’t found any that we like and sometimes it’s nice to enjoy the process of making your own- pending cooperative kiddos. 😉
There has been and still is a lot of trial and error when it comes to testing gluten and dairy free versions of some of our favourite meals, and sometimes there’s just no winning. This can be frustrating, discouraging, and expensive- especially when I’ve taken the time to make a meal catered to these diet restrictions and my critics don’t approve. But we’re making progress and finding more recipes we enjoy, and with every success I’m gaining a little more confidence and regaining my love of cooking, albeit with edited ingredients. With the cooler Fall & Winter months ahead, I’m looking forward to making more of these suckers. Heck yeah, it’s comfort food season!
Makes approx 10- 12 perogies which serves 1- 2 people depending on appetite 😉
5-6 slices of bacon cooked & chopped into 1/8″- 1/4″ pieces
Other options you could add:
– grated cheese, diced green onion, ham…
Bacon (just cook up extra when you make the filling)
Sauteed diced onion
Kefir cheese, sour cream, or cottage cheese (for dairy allergy- sufferers: we’re loving using kefir cheese as a healthy & tasty dairy- free alternative to regular cheese. This website is excellent & informative if you want to learn more about kefir)
1. Prep and cook the filling ingredients. Combine & set aside to cool a bit while you make the dough.
2. In a large bowl, combine the dough ingredients and mix until combined; you may have to add a little more water or flour mix to get the right texture (moist but not too sticky, so you can roll it).
3. Roll dough to approx. 1/8″ thickness and use a round cookie cutter (you can also use a cup and knife in a pinch).
4. Scoop approx. 1 1/2 tbsp of filling into the middle of each circle. Fold in half and pinch the edges shut to form the perogies (I find this takes a little more finesse than with regular flour dough, but using a fork along the edges can also help if you’re finding it tough just doing it by hand).
5. To cook the perogies, you can boil them, bake them, or both. We like to boil them and then bake them for a few minutes to dry them out a little. To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and pop about half the perogies in the water. They’re ready when they float. Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out and alow to drain for a few seconds before transferring them into a serving bowl. Do the same until all the perogies are cooked. To bake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake on a lined cookie sheet for approx. 15 minutes. If you like the combined method, simply boil the perogies and bake them for 5- 10 minutes to reduce the moisture.
6. Serve with your favourite toppings and enjoy! We topped ours with diced bacon, sauteed onion, kefir cheese & salsa for a delicious gluten and dairy free option. YUM!
For more great gluten- free recipes, make sure you check out the blog’s Yummy Mummy Recipes page & if you’re looking for good gluten free baking ingredients, check out this link for some great options.
Bring on BBQ season! I love the late nights and spending time with friends & family long after the sun’s gone down. When we have BBQs there’s always got to be something for the kids- a blow- up pool or sprinkler and/ or a game, good drinks for the grown ups & good music. We all know that it wouldn’t be a BBQ without having a look for Yeti cooler alternatives to keep all of the drinks cool and refreshed. When the summer sun is looking down on you all, the last thing you could want is hot drinks. With Father’s Day (and Summer!) right around the corner Man Crates asked me what I would include in a crate for BBQ season, so I asked the expert (my hubby) what his ‘must haves’ are when he’s manning the grill. See below for his suggestions!
BBQ Must Haves:
– good tools (tongs, a flipper, skewers, a grilling wrack & a meat thermometer for starters)
– a quality grill or smoker (a friend keeps talking about looking for the best electric smokers with summer coming up, so we’re considering the upgrade too). Remember to invest in some quality wood pellets as well! Using wood pellets can give your BBQ food a unique smoky flavour that is sure to impress yorur dinner guests. You can check out some of the best wood pellets on the Bear Mountain website.
– good tunes to cook to (an outdoor iPod dock = great gift idea!)
– cold drinks (beer & mojitos are favs). While you’re at it, look into investing in some cool beer glasses to go with your drinks to accentuate that summery vibe and add to BBQ season…Viking horn drink glasses from Alehorn.com definitely bring the wow factor!
– a man apron for grilling those messy, saucy meals (bonus if there’s a pouch to hold a beer!)
– drinking games (have you ever tried playing badminton after a few bevvies???)
What’s on your man’s ‘must have’ list for grilling?
Now that we’re into the warmer weather (YIPPEE!!!) it’s nice to have recipes that are lighter and don’t require you firing up the oven & heating up the house. A girlfriend of mine sent me this recipe and after making a few tweaks and came up with my own version. I hope your family loves it as much as mine! (PS- this is a great slow cooker idea for you busy Mamas wanting to come home to dinner ready to go! Just pop in on low for 6- 8 hours.)
Yummy Mummy Recipe: Thai Peanut Chicken
Skinless chicken thighs (I find bone- in are juicier)
1/4 cup cashew butter (you can make your own by whipping up 1 cup of raw cashews with a tablespoon of coconut oil in a food processor; add a pinch of salt if you like)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
2 tbsp honey
2 tsbp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Combine all ingredients except chicken & cilantro in a blender or food processor
3. Place chicken in a baking dish & cover with sauce; cook for approx. 30 minutes
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