Monday, February 28, 2011

2011 Goals Update

At the beginning of the year, I set some goals for myself to work towards this year.  I vowed to update my progress at the end of each month to help keep me motivated.  This month there have been some successes, and some things that I need to work harder at going forward.

First, the successes!  I have kept up with the blog dare challenge and posted every day.  Some days have been more challenging than others to find something to write about, but it has helped me branch out and expand my comfort zone.  I managed to get out and meet up with some friends, and gathered the family together for my son's birthday party.  As for date night, my husband and I managed to sneak in a restaurant dinner while shopping for my son's gift (not exactly a date night, but the closest we could manage this month!).  I'm still plodding along on my thesis, and hope to have the first draft completed soon.  My goal for this blog was to have 40 followers by the end of February, and I'm at 38, so I'm happy!

There's still much room for improvement though.  Let's not discuss the weight loss, except to say that I'm still committed and need to up the exercise if I hope to reach my goals.  We still haven't put together any photo albums or hung any new photos around the house, so that's a priority going forward.  And hopefully my husband and I can find time to have a real date night soon!  Both of our birthdays are in March, so that provides a good excuse to see friends and family again.  Maybe finish that thesis draft?  And another 20 followers would be lovely as well!

Time to get cracking on those goals!  I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Menu Plan

Daycare Lunch Menu
Monday: Chicken in a mushroom cream sauce with Rice and Peas
Tuesday: Sloppy Joe with corn
Wednesday: Stir Fry with rice
Thurs. and Fri. not applicable

Dinner Menu
Monday: Provençal-style white beans over shell pasta
Tuesday: Spanish stew with chicken and potatoes & Salad
Wednesday: Black Bean Nachos
Thursday: Mushroom Chicken, Rice and Baked Leeks
Friday: Turkey Chili

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Recipe: Herbed potatoes with crumbled bacon

These potatoes are a delicious side dish that can be perfectly paired with some scrambled eggs and a citrus fruit salad for a nice breakfast, or served alongside a meat and vegetable for lunch or dinner.  Tonight I prepared them with baked turkey sausages and steamed green beans for dinner. 

Ingredients
4 strips of bacon
6 red potatoes (medium sized)
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
salt and pepper

Directions
1- Wash and cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes.  Set aside.
2-In a frying pan, fry the bacon until crispy.  Remove from pan and place on paper towels to soak up excess oil and cool.
3- Over medium high heat, fry the potatoes in the oil from the bacon until crispy on the outside and cooked through on the inside.  Sprinkle with dried herbs and pepper. 
4- With a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes from the oil and drain on paper towels.  While still warm, place in a serving bowl.  Crumble the bacon over the potatoes and combine.
The bacon should add enough salt flavour, but season with more salt if desired.

*** This dish could be made by tossing the potatoes in olive oil and herbs and baking them in a 375F oven until cooked to cut down on fat and calories.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Recipe: Niçoise Salad (Naturally Gluten and Dairy Free)

I love having salad for a meal, particularly accompanied by a nice bowl of soup.  This salad is one that I love because it's filling, full of protein, and great for any season. 

My recipe is a loose take on the traditional recipe.  I've omitted what I don't really like and substituted in flavours that I prefer.  That's the beauty of such a versatile recipe. 

A few subtle changes and the salad can be adjusted to suit anyone's preference.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Product Review: GroOrganic Garden Planner




When I came across the opportunity to review the groOrganic Garden Planner software, I jumped at the chance.  I'm fairly new to gardening, but have set a goal for myself to replace half of my family's produce consumption this summer with produce from the garden, and have the rest supplied by a local green box delivery service.  To accomplish this goal, my garden will have to be much bigger than it was last year and produce a wider variety of produce.  Knowing where to begin was overwhelming.  That's where the Garden Planner came in.

The planner is available directly from the groOrganic website, and doesn't require any special software.  To use it, a membership plan must be purchased.  The website describes the planner as follows:
"This online Garden Planner helps you grow fruit and vegetables to the best of their ability, whatever the size or shape of your garden or plot. With the groOrganic Garden Planner it is easy to draw out your garden plan and decide how best to plant it. The groOrganic Garden Planner software shows how much space plants require and how to group them for maximum success, removing the need to look up planting distances and crop families. Growing advice is just one click away as you select the plants that you wish to include, enabling you to solve problems and maximize your harvest from the space you have."

I found the planner straightforward and easy to use.  The quick start video walked me step-by-step through the planning process, and I had a garden plan started within the first 15 minutes.  The plan opens up on a grid, and it's a simple point and click function to add garden beds and plants from a scrolling menu at the top of the screen.  I also liked that I could create and save multiple plans, allowing me to create different layouts or to focus on one area of my garden in each plan.  The true product value for me is not the visual of the garden that it provides, but the wealth of information available. 

Clicking on a plant allows the user to access an information page, including space and light requirements, companion planting, watering needs and pest concerns.  By entering in my location, the planner provides me with frost dates in my area and advises when to sow and harvest each plant.  The program sends me email updates to remind me when something can be started from a seedling indoors or planted in my outdoor garden. It allows the option of square foot gardening.  It calculates how much space a plant needs and how many plants can be placed in a given area. Perhaps for an experienced gardener this information would be second-nature, but I find it useful for someone just starting out.  I found the list of vegetables and herbs fairly comprehensive, but the program allows additional plants to be added manually.

The main drawback of this program is that it's geared specifically towards growing fruits and vegetables.  I was hoping to plan out both my flower and vegetable gardens.  Although the program does have generic categories for flowers and trees that can be customized, they don't automatically provide the same wealth of information that is provided for the vegetable garden plants.  However, with a little patience, I could enter in the flowers and other plants on my list and add them to the system.  With all of the other benefits, this minor drawback would not deter me from continuing to use the program.

Want to see what the garden planner looks like?  Click on the link to get to the site, then click Try Out The Garden Planner button in the top right hand corner.  It will take you to a sample plan of the White House Vegetable Garden.
http://gardenplanner.groorganic.com/gardenplanner/gardenplanner.html#

Overall, I found this product useful and simple to use.  I can't wait to put the plan into action!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday




                                                         Just loungin' around!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Menu Plan

Daycare Lunch Menu

Monday: Closed for Family Day
Tuesday: Fish filet and oven roast potatoes with mixed vegetables
Wednesday: Shepherd's Pie
Etienne is now home with me on Thursdays and Fridays, so the menu no longer applies


Dinner Menu

Monday: Roast chicken thighs, green beans, salad and leftover antipasto
Tuesday: Spinach and rice soup with GF crackers, salad w/cranberries, apple, walnuts & leftover chicken
Wednesday: Pizza and fruit salad on the side
Thursday: Oven baked pasta with steamed broccoli
Friday: Crustless quiche and cauliflower gratin, salad

Monday, February 21, 2011

Birthday Party Rundown

As mentioned yesterday, the birthday party was a success.  The photos, not so much.  For some reason, most of them are a bit blurry, so excuse the quality.  I wasn't taking the photos, so maybe the camera setting was off.  Everything else was perfect though!  The Sesame Street theme sent my son into a tizzy of excitement, and he insisted on wearing his Elmo pyjama top.  If you look closely, you'll also see that he insisted on putting on his cousin's pink princess shoes and refused to take them off!

The birthday boy, in an Elmo shirt and princess shoes!

He didn't really understand that all the gifts were for him, and once he opened one, he would get completely absorbed in the toy and had to be coaxed back over to open another!  Here's one of his new toys.  My parents bought my husband a real kit that looks about the same for Christmas, so my son was very excited to get a tool kit just like his Dad's!
The kit comes apart, and came with pliers, a hammer, screwdriver, etc.
As I mentioned in this previous post, everything at the party was gluten and dairy free, and no one even noticed.  The only question I had to answer was if there was any bread, and I just explained to everyone that my son can't have it so there were crackers instead.  The food was excellent, and there was very little left over.  My biggest concern was the cake, but once I opened the box all my fears were put to rest.  Look at the masterpiece Terra Mia Bakery put together for us:



We had fifteen people at the party, and we got 24 regular sized slices from it.  The inside was a three layer, double chocolate sponge cake with a whipped cream-style filling.  The cake was light and airy but not dry, and the icing was full of flavour but not overly sweet.  Our guests began questioning how my son could eat the cake with his dietary restrictions.  Everyone was completely surprised when they discovered that the cake contained no gluten and no dairy.
Three layers of chocolate deliciousness!

.
As you can see, my son enjoyed it too!

In fact, it was so good that people asked to bring slices home with them.  By the time everyone was gone, this was all that was left.

And my husband finished that off before bed!  I'm really happy that the cake was a success because it was the most stressful part of the planning.  Decorations, gifts, invites are pretty straightforward to get ready.  Even the main dishes were fairly simple to plan and order after a bit of research.  The cake was an entirely different matter. We had some bakeries tell us that they could do dairy free OR gluten free, but not both.  The baker we almost went with told us that we should just get an 8 inch cake because most people probably won't like the cake anyway.  The bakery we chose, Terra Mia Bakery, we found by accident, and it felt like the stars had aligned in our favour.  We were quoted for a 10 inch round cake, but the baker put together a larger square cake, with an extra two pieces as the little boxes on top for no extra charge.  The service was fantastic, the price was $45, which is $10 less than all of the other quotes we had received, and the cake was to die for.  As soon as they get a website I'll post it on here for local readers.

I am, however, hoping that someone else got a good shot of my husband, son and I, because this is the only one from my camera, and it's a little blurry.

                                                 I guess I can't have everything!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Etienne!

My little man turned two today, and the birthday party was a success!  Mommy's exhausted, so I'll post a full account tomorrow with photos.  Let me just say before I head off to bed, that his cake ROCKED!  Who said gluten and dairy free can't be delicious?  Seriously, I am thrilled with the bakery who made his Sesame Street themed cake that went above and beyond our expectations.  It was so good people asked to take home the leftovers. 

I'm still getting used to the idea that I'll probably have to stop referring to his age in months soon....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Just a quick note...

Tomorrow is my son's second birthday, and with all the running around to prepare for the party I haven't really had much time to reflect on the past two years.  It seems like it's all happened so fast!  The struggle to get his health in order has been a tough one, but we know that we're blessed to have relatively small concerns.  Watching him change from a helpless baby to a fiercely independent little boy who can run and sing and help get himself dressed has been an amazing experience.  Every day he comes out with some new phrase that makes us laugh, or sings a song I didn't know that he knew. 

So although I still have to wrap his gift and fill out the card, decorate, pick up the food and cake, cut his hair and deal with the check engine light that just popped on in the car, I think I'll make a cup of tea, pull out some photos and take a few minutes to savour the memories of the past two years.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Restaurant Review: La Taquizza

Last night we found ourselves tired and hungry after our day of birthday party planning, and neither of us felt like cooking.  On a whim, we decided to try a Mexican restaurant that we've passed by almost every day for the last two years.  La Taquizza is a small family run restaurant with an extensive menu.  Their online menu does not list all of the options that are found in the restaurant.  The restaurant is an open, family-friendly spot.  All but one table was occupied with parents and children when we were there.  Their motto is "...a place where you can eat good, eat healthy, eat happy".

The decor sets the mood. The colourful walls display Mexican statues, tapestries and ponchos, but the effect is laid back and comforting rather than tacky and overpowering.  The owner hails from Mexico City, and was personally serving the tables.  He quickly made friends with our son and even got him dancing in his high chair to the music while waiting for his meal.

The food?  Really, really good.  And much of it gluten free.  Traditional Mexican food uses more corn than wheat flour, but it's not uncommon to see a mixture of the two.  The menu specifically indicated which flours were used in which dishes, and there were many dairy free options as well.  We started the meal with the in-house tortilla chips and guacamole.  The guacamole was a soft green with the perfect accents of lime and salt, and the tortilla chips were light and crispy.  My son had quickly claimed the bowl of chips for himself.

We ordered Mexican rice and refried beans for the little one, both of which he used as dips for his tortilla chips.  None went to waste.  My husband ordered the Sopa Azteca, a broth based soup with chicken, hominy corn and tortilla strips.  He followed that up with beef tacos.  The tacos come plain, and patrons garnish their own from a variety of homemade sauces.  The tortillas are thicker than the ones found in most grocery stores, and have more texture as well. 

I ordered the chicken mole enchiladas.  Corn tortillas stuffed with pulled chicken and smothered in a chocolate sauce.  Mole is not sweet like milk chocolate, but is a sauce made from cocoa and infused with tomatoes, chilies and a variety of spices.  The sauce was the best I've had, and the chicken was moist and flavourful.  The dish came with beans and rice.  The dish is a little heavy, so perhaps next time I'll order a salad on the side, perhaps the cactus salad that looked so appealing in the photo. Unfortunately we were too full for dessert, but online reviews are claiming that their tres leches cake is something special.  It's my husband's favourite, so I'm sure he'll want to go back to try it. 

This is definitely a place that will get our repeat business.  The atmosphere was relaxed and very family friendly, and the food was authentic and delicious.  It's not a cheap hole in the wall place with greasy food, so it's not the place to go if you're looking for a $2 burrito.  If, however, you're looking for a family friendly restaurant that services authentic Mexican food in a relaxed atmosphere, this is the place for you.

La Taquizza
3175 Rutherford Road, Unit 28
Vaughan, Ontario

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Planning a Gluten and Dairy Free Birthday Party

My son turns two on Sunday, and this is the first year we'll be preparing for a gluten and dairy free party.  The party is mostly family, with just my son and his cousin as the two children.  Since it's in the afternoon, post-lunch and pre-dinner, we decided to go with a simple appetizer style menu that everyone can enjoy.

Here's our menu:

Artisanal Meat Platter: We ordered from Metro (Dominion in some areas).  We spoke with staff and they were very open to ensuring the safety of the tray for our son.  We read the ingredients on the different meats for the tray and approved the brands that were safe.  Black forest ham, roast beef, rosemary ham, Montreal smoked-meat and oven roast turkey.  The staff was helpful and accommodating of our requests. We've ordered from them before, and were happy with the quality and service.  We'll pair it with a few varieties of gluten free crackers instead of bread.  My son refers to any sliced meat as "sandwich", so as long as there's some available, he'll be satisfied.

Grilled Vegetable Platter:  This we ordered from Longo's, because it doesn't come with any cheese.  Again, the service was great, and we were able to check out all the ingredients before agreeing to the order.  The platter has marinated mushrooms, eggplant, roasted red peppers, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and asparagus.  It will pair nicely with the meat and has enough variety to keep everyone happy!

Salad: We'll put our own together and pick up a gluten free dressing.

Snacks: plain potato chips, GF pretzels, GF candy

Fruit Platter

Gluten and Dairy Free Cake:  We have been looking for a suitable cake for a while now, and I was pleased to discover that there are actually several bakeries that could accommodate us.  We eventually settled on a cake from a bakery that we came across by accident on our way to another place, Terra Mia Bakery.  Unfortunately they don't yet have a website.  The sign outside advertised gluten free cookies and cakes, and we went in.  We settled on a 10 inch, double chocolate cake, with dairy free whipped cream and sugar icing.  My mouth is watering already.  I hope it tastes as good as it sounds!  The bakery bakes their own line of gluten free cookies, which are delicious.  The baker and the owner came out to discuss our needs, and went over all of the ingredients and options with us.  Keeping my fingers crossed!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

 My little monkey is turning two on Sunday.  How time flies...
At just a few months

His 1st Birthday

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Menu Plan

Daycare Lunch Menu
Monday: Hamburger, Fries and Mixed Vegetables
Tuesday: Chicken Fingers and Roast Potatoes
Wednesday: Souvlaki Chicken, Rice and Green Beans
Thursday: Spaghetti and Meatballs
Friday: Alphabet Soup & sandwich

Dinner Menu
Monday: Lentil Soup with cornbread and Sausage
Tuesday: Steak, Sweet potatoes and Peas
Wednesday: Vermicelli stir fry with braised bok choy
Thursday: Tuna casserole and mixed vegetables
Friday: Roast Chicken Legs with sweet chili sauce, warm quinoa salad & roast vegetables

Monday, February 14, 2011

New Food Labeling Requirements Officially Announced

Today the Government of Canada finally followed through on their promise to enact new food labeling requirements that have been in the works since 2008.  See here for Health Canada's official press release.  Also, see the following for a description of what is to included in the new labeling:  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/allergen/project_1220_rias_eeir-eng.php


The new legislation requires that potential allergens such as wheat and milk be clearly displayed on the food label prefaced by the word "Contains", and that the simple terms be used.  An example is if a product contains casein, the label must state that the product contains milk, thus simplifying the process of identifying potential allergens.  The labeling extends to wax coatings of prepackaged fruits and vegetables as well, which is significant.  Another area of clarification is the requirement to declare the source of hydrolized plant protein.  

The regulations are of course not perfect.  Potential sources of cross-contamination were deemed to be outside of the scope of the current legislation, and the beer and wine industry were successful in their attempts to be exempt from the new legislation pending further consultation.  However, a publicity campaign decrying the stalling of the legislation on behalf of health advocacy groups was successful in pressuring the government to implement the new legislation without further delay.  The exemption of the beer and wine industry for the time being is in my view a satisfactory compromise in the interim.

The new requirements come into effect  August 4, 2012, providing manufacturers 18 months in which to change their labels, but they are urged to comply with the new regulations as quickly as possible.

On a personal level, this is a significant victory for my family.  It allows me to make more informed choices about what to purchase for my son and be better in control of his health.  I hope that it will be viewed that was by food manufacturers as well.  There are many products that I do not purchase because of vague ingredient information on their labels.  Many products may indeed be safe for my son to consume, but without clear labeling, my purchasing dollars go elsewhere.  This may increase the range of products that I and other consumers like me purchase. No should be in fear of consuming a product because they can't find out what it contains, and this new legislation provides the consumer with the power to make informed choices.

A great way to start the week, don't you think?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Few Stolen Moments on a Sunday Afternoon

This morning we went to my parents' house to have a Valentine's brunch with my parents, sister and niece.  My son and his cousin played in their little kitchen, danced, put stickers on every window within reach and ate more candy than I'd like to admit.  Brunch was fantastic, and I came home with a bouquet of tulips and another bouquet of roses that look lovely in their vases, bringing a bit of springtime into our winter world.

Now we're home, the little one is napping, my husband has gone out to pick up who-knows-what at the grocery store, and I'm stealing a few moments of quiet before I get working on cooking for the week.  I'll post my menu plan ideas tomorrow. 

Enjoy the afternoon!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tea with Friends and Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today I had the chance to get together with two of my girlfriends and check out a tea shop on Bloor Street in  Toronto, David's Tea.  The shop sells loose tea in any combination one can imagine, and I was impressed by the knowledge of the staff behind the counter.  The woman who served me was able to explain every ingredient of every tea and herbal tea I asked about, and opened up containers to let me have a look and smell the aroma before purchasing.  The store sells packages of loose tea, tea pots, tea balls, among other things.  One of the best items for sale is the reusable travel mug that has a tea ball within to brew tea, and a compartment in the bottom to store the loose tea in case you want a second cup on the road! 

The company ships in Canada, the United States and Internationally.  The website is very informative with descriptions of all their blends and the various properties of different varieties of tea.  I picked up some of the Greek Mountain Blend today because it reminded me of the homemade tea a Greek friend of mine would give me from her grandmother when we were exchange students together, but I already have a wish list of teas I want to try.

Additionally, my friend picked up a package of gluten free chocolate chip cookies from Farmhouse Biscuits, a UK-based company that offers a line of 4 types of gluten free cookies, Shortbread, Ginger, Chocolate Chip and Cheery & Almond.  The chocolate chip cookies came packaged in a pretty cylinder, and were enclosed in a sleeve so that they didn't break.  Unfortunately, they contained dairy, so I couldn't give them to my son, but they were very good and tasted even better dipped in my tea!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day Activities for Toddlers

My son is too young to really understand what Valentine's Day is all about, but they did make giant cards at daycare, and it got me thinking about some fun little activities that we could do together this weekend to celebrate.  I am not very gifted in the crafting department, but that doesn't mean I don't like to try!

These are some of my simple, quick, toddler friendly ideas:

1) Glitter hearts: Grab some card stock, cut out some hearts, glue, and glitter.  A glitter glue pen is probably simpler (and cleaner) for toddlers, and they can create designs with the pen.  For the more ambitious, cover the entire heart with glue using a craft glue brush, and then pour glitter over top and shake off excess when dry.  Punch a hole in the top, tie some pretty ribbon through and hang your hearts wherever you wish!

2) Homemade Valentine Cards: Some construction paper, crayons or pencil crayons and you're good to go. Some websites have free printable colouring pages as well, like this one

3) Snow Painting: If you're like me and there's a lot of snow on your lawn, mix up a bit of red food colouring with water in a spray bottle and try to get your little one to paint hearts or x's and o's in the snow.

4) Tissue paper art: Using construction paper or card stock, cut out various shapes (hearts, x' and o's, lips, flowers, etc.).  Cut pieces of pink, red or white tissue paper into small pieces and place in a bowl for your toddler. Put some glue on the paper and have your toddler glue the tissue paper on.  You can scrunch up the tissue paper first to have more texture. 

5) Love bugs: Collect some rocks (small enough to put in a pocket, but large enough for a toddler to work with) that are smooth and lie flat.  Using a permanent marker or some paint, write your child's name on the bottom.  Have your child colour, paint or glitter the rock.  Draw some eyes or glue some googly eyes and tell your child it's a love bug.  This is a cute little gift that could be made and given to siblings as well.

Just a few ways to take a very commercial holiday and make it more personal.  I personally hope to find some time to glitter this weekend!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Gluten Free Valentine

I've been searching some gluten free treats for my son for Valentine's day, and I must admit it's been trying.  It's more complicated since he's also dairy free.  I've done some digging, and pulled up a small list of companies offering gluten free options that are not expensive specialty products or only available to a local market.

NOTE: For a full list of ingredients, and to find out if the products contain dairy or other allergens, please click on the company name to be taken to their website. 

Looking for Gluten Free treats for your valentine?  Here are some sweet ideas to get you started!

Necco: The Valentine's Conversation Hearts remind me of childhood, and are listed as being gluten free. For a full list of GF products click on their website.

Jelly Belly: Their FAQ states that all of their beans are gluten free.  Click on the link in the company name to see their statement. 

Skittles: Sour, Wild Berry and Crazy Cores are listed as gluten free.

Tootsie Roll Industries: States that all Tootsies products except for Andes cookies are gluten free. (peanut and other nut product free too!)  This means Tootsie Rolls, Charms blow pops, DOTS, Junior Mints, Nik-L-Nip and others.  Many products are also listed as Kosher.

Prefer to whip up some gluten free brownies, cupcakes or a cake to share with the family?  Try some of these mixes:

Bob's Red Mill: This is generally my go to because we are dairy free as well.  Many of the gluten free mixes are also dairy free.  The brownie mix is our favourite.  Some of the best tasting brownies ever, GF or not.  They also have cake mixes and gift baskets of gluten free products, including a Gluten Free starter's kit.

Kinnikinnick: They have angel food cake, chocolate and white cake mixes.

Betty Crocker: cookie, cake and brownie mixes.  Haven't seen them in my grocery store yet, so I'm not sure where to get the gluten free mixes in Canada.  The product locator didn't come up with anything for me either. 

Glutino: a variety of brownie and cake mixes.

There are also companies that offer gluten free gift baskets specifically for Valentine's day. A few online companies that I found:

Gluten Smart: This is an online store selling all kinds of GF products, including Valentine's day gift baskets.

Gifts.com: Not a specific Valentine's basket, but a few generic GF ones that I'm sure could look very festive with the right card..

Well Baskets: Gift baskets customizable by a variety of factors, including gluten and dairy free.

Valentine's Day can be just as yummy without gluten, and kids don't have to feel left out.  I'm going to put together a small heart shaped gift box full of gluten free candies for my son, with a card and a few inexpensive toys (a pencil, window tickers, stamps) to surprise him on Valentine's Day.  Some heart shaped GF pancakes, followed by some heart shaped brownies after dinner and I think he'll enjoy his day as much as anyone.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

There's been some sunshine this week after what seems like an eternity of snow, and it's got me thinking about spring and the (eventual) return of my garden!  Some of things I'm looking forward to seeing again....

Some flowers





And my vegetables...
Spring Onions

Hot Peppers

Swiss Chard

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting ready to potty train

My son will be two this month, so we're getting ready to begin potty training.  He had shown some general interest a few months ago, but then he was so sick for so long that we just abandoned the project for a while.  But next week he will be switching to three days a week at daycare (because I'm almost finished the first draft of my thesis! Yay!), so he'll be home Thursday through Sunday and I want to take advantage of that stretch to begin toilet training. 

He LOVES his underwear, and runs around telling us whenever he's ready to go, but still isn't too certain about actually using the toilet.  We have this awesome toilet seat that has a toddler seat built in, so that's what we're going with instead of a portable toddler potty.  What I need now are some tips and techniques for potty success. 

Any suggestions?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Menu Plan

First off, congratulations Packers fans! Well done!  Now on to this week's menu.

Daycare Lunch Menu
Monday: Meatloaf with potatoes
Tuesday: Chicken cacciatore
Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese with ham
Thursday: Beef stew
Friday: Chicken and rice soup & a grilled cheese sandwich

Dinner Menu
Monday: Leftover chili with tortilla chips
Tuesday: Coconut curry soup over rice
Wednesday: Rotisserie chicken with tangy barbecue sauce, kale and sweet potato fries
Thursday: White bean soup (substituting rotisserie chicken for meatballs), strawberry and chicken salad
Friday: Homemade pizza

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Superbowl Pt. 3 Game night chili

I make several versions of chili, depending on my mood and what ingredients I have on hand.  Here's a classic version that can be spiced up or cooled down.  Serves 4-6, so adjust amounts accordingly if cooking for a crowd.

Ingredients:
1 to 1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
2 28oz cans of diced or whole tomatoes
2 red peppers and 2 orange peppers, seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 19oz can kidney beans or black beans
1 19 oz can chick peas (optional)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup ketchup or sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup mustard
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar or red wine
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional)

Toppings:
shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
sour cream
chopped parley or cilantro
chopped green onion
crumbled tortilla chips
chopped jalapeño peppers
hot sauce for those who like it spicy!

Directions:
1- In a large soup pot pour enough olive oil to lightly coat bottom.  Over medium heat add onions and cook until translucent.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Pour in balsamic vinegar or wine, and add cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper.  Stir to coat.  The balsamic/wine helps to give a deeper flavour but also gives the beef a nice deep colour.
2- Add ground beef and increase heat.  Stir to coat and cook through.
3- Add vegetables, tomatoes, ketchup and mustard.  Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer, covered with a lid positioned to let some steam escape.  Let cook for at least 1 hour.  The longer the better.  Add some broth or water if you prefer a thinner consistency.
4- About 20 minutes before serving, add beans and jalapeño if using.  Adjust seasonings and let simmer until ready to serve.

This chili can be eaten alone, over rice or pasta.  Serve over tortilla chips for nachos, or with some cornbread on the side.  If serving a crowd, place pot in centre of table with toppings in small bowls beside it.  I like to make it fairly mild and then allow everyone to adjust the level of spiciness with the toppings.

For a Super Bowl feast, just add snacks and beverages and no one will be going home hungry!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gluten Free Beer: Some Options

Most beers contain barley, chock full of gluten.  Have no fear though, many brewers have created gluten free options for those  who are Gluten Free.

Here are a few:

Bards: The original sorghum malt beer. Just enter in your zip code in the US to find out where you can buy it.

New Planet Beer: A gluten free beer company with three different types of gluten free beer.  They also donate some proceeds to environmental causes.  Great informative website on living gluten free.

La Messagere: Canadian brewery that offers 3 varieties of gluten free beer.

Redbridge Beer: Anheuser-Busch company's gluten free option.

Green's Gluten Free Beers: A UK based company that has 9 types of gluten free beers.  They also provide information on which beers are available in Canada and the United States.

Of course, some of us just aren't beer fans.  Luckily there are many gluten free choices when it comes to other beverages.  Wine is gluten free.  Many coolers are gluten free, as well as many cocktails.

And who said that alcoholic beverages had to be the drink of choice?  Try serving up milkshakes with a few drops of food coloring to represent the team you're cheering for?  Or a root beer float?  Get creative and make a big pitcher of a non-alcoholic cocktail for the kiddies or the designated drivers.  Having plenty of water, soft drinks and coffee is always a good idea, and have back up transportation plans for anyone who forgets to plan ahead.

Have fun and stay safe!



Updated September 2013

Friday, February 4, 2011

Strawberry Banana Breakfast Smoothie

Since I was thinking about breakfast ideas the other day, I've been making myself smoothies.  I tend to drink a lot of smoothies when the weather is warm, and forget about them during the winter.  Since I've discovered that my son loves them however, I've decided that they're a great way to get some fruit into his system in the morning. 

Strawberry Banana Breakfast Smoothie
1 banana, cut in chunks
1/2 cup strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup milk (or rice milk or other non-dairy milk)
2 ice cubes

Put ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  I've had to tweak the recipe a little because my son can't have dairy, so I substitute 1 cup of vanilla rice milk for the yogurt and milk.  If using frozen fruit, omit ice cubes.  Adjust milk to desired thickness.  I like my smoothies thick enough to eat with a spoon, but my son likes them thin like juice. 

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the yummiest!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Lunar New Year!

Wishing everyone who follows a very happy Lunar New Year!  I don't know all of the traditions, but I know that you're not supposed to clean today so that you don't sweep away the luck of the new year.  Sounds great to me!  So, goodbye year of the Tiger, and Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit!

 Although I celebrate the new year on January 1st, this is a reminder to me to keep working towards my goals for 2011.

Some great celebration photos can be found in this newspaper article from the National Post.

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Since we've been blessed with yet another snowstorm on this fine Wednesday morning, here's another round of "Where I'd rather be today"


El Salvador

El Salvador

El Salvador

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monday Menu Plan on a Tuesday

Daycare Lunch Menu
 Monday: Chicken Drumsticks and mashed potatoes
Tuesday: Chicken nuggets and sweet potatoes
Wednesday: Lasagna
Thursday: Risotto and beef sauce
Friday: Broccoli soup and pizza

Dinner Menu
Monday: Vegetarian Nachos
Tuesday: Vegetable Quinoa Soup and Eggplant Parmesan
Wednesday: Sun dried tomato risotto with vegetables
Thursday: Pineapple chicken and rice with salad
Friday: Leek and mushroom soup with leftover chicken