Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2011 Goals Update

August is almost over, so it's time yet again for me to reminisce about the month's happenings and to take stock of where I stand in relation to the numerous goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the year.

I'm happy to say that I've kept up with the blog dare challenge and have been posting daily, even when on vacation.  Some days are easier than others, but I've managed to get something posted each day.  I've added a few tabs and organized some of my posts under them to be easier to search for and find.  I have a few posting ideas I've been thinking about, including more recipes and some "theme" type posting weeks, so we'll see where that goes in the future.  I go back to work teaching full time in the fall, so my main goal is to keep up the daily posting and not fall behind on the blog when things get busy at work.

August, like July, was very much about family.  July was spent mostly with my side of the family, but August was about my husband's side.  This is a treat for us because my husband's family doesn't live in Canada.  Traveling to Washington for his cousin's wedding allowed us to see my husband's mom and his brother, who managed to fly in for the occasion.  Etienne only sees his grandma once or twice a year, so we take any chance we can get.  We also spent some time at the beach as a family, which was a well needed family vacation before all the craziness starts in September.

My writing has been sporadic since I've had so many other things to work on, but I hope that when my schedule goes back to normal in September I'll have more time. 

I'm happy with this summer.  It's gone by much too fast, but I guess that's a sure sign that it's been fun!  I've tried to enjoy my time off as much as I can, knowing that I'm back to work full time soon.  I always try to hold on to summer as long as I can, but to be honest, I love autumn because it always feels like a new beginning.  Another few weeks of hot weather, and then bring on the sweaters and the falling leaves! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Final Few Days at the Daycare

This week is my son's last week at his current daycare.  He goes 3 days a week, Monday-Wednesday, until he switches next week when I go back to work full-time.  His new daycare is attached to the school we hope he'll attend in kindergarten, so the transition will hopefully be easier when the time comes. 

I'm excited about the move for a few reasons.  The daycare is within walking distance of our house, so dropping him off and picking him up will be simple.  He'll learn French (hopefully!).  The centre is small, with fewer students and teachers than his current daycare, so less chance of accidental cross-contamination of someone unaware of his condition.

More importantly though, the daycare's menu is supplied by an outside catering company that supplies all of the children's meals.  I contacted the company and they assured me that providing my son with a gluten free and dairy free meal each day would not be a problem.  The company has a separate kitchen where they provide the meals that don't contain the most common allergens.

The representative told me that they try to provide students with food restrictions meals that are as close to those that everyone else is eating as possible.  For example, veggie sticks and cream cheese dip would be replaced with a dairy free version of cream cheese.  This is important to me because my son is starting to realize when his food is different from that of everyone else, and he doesn't like it.

I have to admit though, putting my son's meals back in the hands of anyone but myself is also causing me considerable anxiety, although the company is reputable and the menu and preparation methods sound appropriate.  When Etienne was being fed by his current daycare, we had more than one incident of cross-contamination and illness.  He hasn't had an incident since May, when he was accidentally fed a slice of whole wheat bread at daycare, and I would like it to stay that way.  I've been providing all of his food for a long time, and I've rested easy at least knowing that his food was safe and hadn't come into contact with any ingredients that would make him sick.  Handing over this responsibility to someone else is proving to be more difficult than I thought it would be!

Wednesday night is the orientation/open house.  We've already discussed Etienne's requirements with the staff at a previous meeting, and we're going to be providing a list of items he can't come into contact with, like certain types of glue, paint and clay-type products.  We'll provide alternatives if necessary, but I just hope things go smoothly.

Like all parents with children beginning at a new daycare or school, I hope that my son likes his teachers, makes friends and has fun every day.  On top of those concerns, I worry that he'll struggle with the new language. 

Above all though, I worry that he'll make it through each day without getting sick.  Without being fed something that damages his insides, that causes him pain and discomfort, that makes his soft skin break out into an itchy, miserable rash.  Without suffering through the mood swings, lethargy and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that accompany contamination with gluten. 

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Hello everyone!  This week I tried out some new recipes, and I'm happy with the results.  Here's what we're eating for dinner this week.

Monday:  Turkey Scallopini with Basil Pesto and Sauteed Green Beans in Olive Oil & Garlic and Marinated Artichoke Hearts


Tuesday: Maple Glazed Salmon with Fava Bean, Red Potato & Mushroom Compote 

Wednesday: Polenta w/Tomato Sauce & Sauteed Mushrooms (The sauce is ready, the polenta I'll make same day.)

Thursday: Quinoa Vegetable Soup & Spanish Tortilla (Spanish Omelette) 

A tomatillo


Friday: Ground Beef Nachos with Goat Cheese Cheddar and Homemade Tomatillo Salsa 

The photo of the salsa doesn't do it justice.  I really need a better camera.  The mixture of the dark green of the jalapeño and bell peppers contrasts nicely with the lighter green of the tomatillos and the bright green cilantro stirred in at the end.  Definitely a recipe to keep.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

50 Jars of Tomatoes and a Birthday Party

This morning's birthday party was a lot of fun for my son.  We brought along some gluten free hot dogs and hamburgers to match the menu, and I baked a few gluten free cupcakes for him to enjoy as a substitute for birthday cake.  I used the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix to make the cupcakes, and the Duncan Hines fluffy white frosting that I had leftover from when I made the Devil's Food Cake.  They baked up perfectly, were nice and moist, and had a great vanilla flavour.  YUM! 

The only problem we're now encountering is that my son has reached the age where he realizes that his cupcakes are not the same as the birthday cake that everyone else is eating, but he's not old enough yet to really understand why.  I explain to him that the cake will make him sick, but he still doesn't get it.  I think next time I'll try matching the colour of the icing to the cake to perhaps make it seem more similar.  He did enjoy his cupcakes though, and there were no meltdowns, so I'm happy.

On the tomato front, they got done today, and I brought home about 50 jars of freshly canned tomatoes that we can use as sauce, in chili, or soups, or casseroles...the possibilities are endless!  We now have some canned roasted red peppers and some canned tomatoes to get us through the winter.  There's nothing like opening up a jar of tomatoes in the dead of winter knowing that they were preserved right at their freshest point, when the best looking specimens available at the grocery store are pale and nowhere near ripe. 

Weekly menu plan goes up tomorrow! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

5 Things on a Friday: Canning Tomatoes Edition

Today we canned tomatoes.  All day.  There will be more tomorrow.  Hopefully we'll do enough for two years, so that we won't have to do it next year.  I'm sore and tired, so before I relax with a nice glass of wine, here are my thoughts on the day.

1- The acid in tomatoes is great for exfoliating the skin.  My hands are smooth as a baby's bottom.

2- A little salt, a little basil, and a lot of tomatoes.  Simple recipe, simple process, a lot of elbow grease.

3- By about the 900th tomato, one begins to wonder if having homemade tomato sauce is really worth all the fuss.

4- The first time you open a jar and the smell of homemade sauce hits you in the face, you realize that of course it was worth it.

5- Maintaining a family tradition that reminds me of my childhood is worth the sore back and hands. 

Before more tomato canning tomorrow we have a birthday party to attend.  Picked up the yellow food cake mix to make cupcakes so that my son can participate in the birthday cake too.  What's that?  What about the cake I made two days ago?  I have no idea where it all went...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Devil's Food Cake

While visiting the US this summer, I brought home a box of Betty Crocker Gluten Free Devil's Food Cake to try and review.  Last week I wrote THIS POST about finding two Betty Crocker GF products available at my local Fortino's grocery store.  The box states that the product is produced in a dedicated gluten free facility.

I meant to bake up the cake over the weekend but ended up canning roasted red peppers at my parents' house instead.  This weekend I'll be canning tomatoes for sauce (family traditions at their best!), so I got a craving and decided to bake last night.  Smack dab in the middle of a thunderstorm and tornado warnings.  I wanted something sweet to munch on while huddling in the cold room in the basement in the dark. 

Preparing the mix is straightforward- add water, eggs and butter (I always use a dairy substitute), mix and bake.  Easy-peasy. 

The cake took on the longer end of the stated time spread to cook all the way through, but it rose nicely and was springy to the touch.

The only complaint I have is that the cake cooked a bit too much on the very bottom, and despite greasing the bottom of the pan as per the box instructions, it was a little tricky getting it out without breaking it.  Next time I'll use a springform pan.  It had a lot of loose crumbs around the edges as well, but I think that was a result of all my efforts to get it out of the pan in one piece.  The cake itself held together well once on the plate.  
For icing, I decided to give the Duncan Hines white icing a try, after seeing "gluten free" listed on the back of the container, underneath the ingredient list.  The only reason I checked was that someone had mentioned to me that they thought it was safe for my son to eat.  Listing it on the front of the container might make it a more obvious option for those of us who can spot the words "gluten free" on a shelf full of 50 different products from the other end of the aisle.  

This icing was light and fluffy and really, really sweet.  I iced the cake quickly because I was worried about the power going out in the middle of the operation, so you can still see some of the loose crumbs kind of mixed in with the icing.  If I had taken more time, the icing itself would have done a good job of covering the cake. Regardless, it set really nicely.  More importantly, it tasted like regular icing.

Verdict:  I really liked the cake.  It was a little crumbly right out of the pan, but it set nicely and the slices held together without problem.  Even my husband, who doesn't like cake in general, had two slices last night and brought another slice to work today.  I found that I actually enjoyed the cake more today than I did yesterday.  I left it on the counter overnight, like I would any regular cake.  I've been picking at it all day, and it hasn't dried out at all. 

As far as boxed-mix baking goes, everyone knows Betty Crocker, and those who are gluten free are no longer left out of the party.  The price was comparable to regular mixes, and the taste was just as good.

Looking forward to trying the Yellow Cake mix next!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CityLine Features Gluten Free and Dairy Free Options

I don't generally watch Cityline, but today the show featured both gluten free cooking as well as alternatives to regular dairy products. 

Nothing revolutionary on the gluten free front, but the exposure and awareness are always welcome!  The show did feature three recipes, GF chocolate chip cookies, GF fudge cake and a GF pasta bake.  Recipes can be found on Cityline's WEBSITE .  They look delicious!

The show also featured a segment on alternatives to cow's milk for those who can't digest it, or who just want some other options.  Soy, rice, almond and hemp milk were just some of the options featured.  Again, nothing revolutionary here, but a really great way to raise awareness of the options available. 

Great to see Gluten Free and Dairy Free awareness hit the mainstream!

Wordless Wednesday

My son, on his tricycle (that's less than a week old).  Asking his father if he can jump.  Le Sigh.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gluten Free at Winners/Home Sense

When shopping for some pretty home office supplies the other day at the Winners store at Vaughan Mills, I came across a happy surprise:  Gluten Free products!  Whenever I notice a food section in any store, I can't help but swing by and check to see if there are any gluten free products offered.  At Winners, they have a small packaged food section, with a shelf of gluten free items.


Candy.  Including sugar free options.


Baking mixes.

Quinoa flour!

Good job Winners! 

So, wondering if this was a one store wonder, I made my way over to the Woodbridge store, and I'm happy to report that they also had a gluten free section.   

The section is small, with just a few items, but Winners isn't a food store.  It's mainly a clothing and home decor store, with a small section of prepackaged specialty foods and snacks.

It's good to know that there's one more place I can run in and pick up a safe snack for my son when we're out, or where I can find him a treat on short notice. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting Ready For Fall

School starts in two weeks, which means that I'll be back at work next week, getting my classroom set up, photocopying, attending meetings, and so on.  I've been off for a long time, so this is going to be a bigger than usual post-summer adjustment.  It also means that all the fall prep I haven't done in two years is back in full swing.  Yesterday I was at my parents' house canning peppers, and this weekend we'll be doing tomatoes.  In a few weeks we'll probably make sausages and maybe even some cabbage rolls.

Most of my fall prep revolves around nailing down a tighter schedule and organizing some time savers to make life easier.  This year, I'll be preparing some freezer meals in advance with the intent of only having to prepare 4 weeknight dinners each week.  I'm also doing some menu planning in advance so there's less guess work when I get home in the evening.  All those day-to-day things I've been home to do the past two years will now have to get done evenings and weekends. 

A part of me is looking forward to going back to work (and getting a full-time paycheck again), and another part of me is a bit sad to be losing the day-to-day freedom that comes with staying home.  Right now though, I'm consumed with the lesson planning that needs to be done, work clothes that need to be bought, and freezer meals that need to be prepped. 

On a side note, although I wasn't able to take photos of all my menu plan meals this week, I do have a great one of the beet salad.  Beets aren't my favourite vegetable, but when they come in our weekly harvest food box delivery, I like to make this salad.

If I must eat beets, this is a darn delicious way to do it!

Quick reminder, click on the Menu Plan tab to access all the gluten free weekly menu plans since January of this year! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Today's menu plan is being posted late because I ended up spending the day canning peppers at my parents' house.  It's an easy procedure, but time consuming.  The up-side is that we will now have enough homemade roasted red peppers on hand for antipasto, salads and sauces for the next year.  Worth the work.

Unfortunately, that means that while I cooked a few of my meals in advance, I didn't cook them all, and I didn't take photos.  Sorry! 

Monday: Gluten Free Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs & a Romaine Lettuce Salad

Tuesday: Hearty Beef and Vegetable Soup with Gluten Free Garlic Bread

Wednesday: Quinoa Pilaf with Eggplant and Yellow & Green Zucchini & Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Thursday: Pulled Pork Tacos with Salsa and Homemade Guacamole

Friday: Bacon & Eggs, Sauteed Swiss Chard with a side of Rice & Peas

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Today was one of those days when my son refused to nap and I felt my patience draining from me faster than I care to admit.  It doesn't help that yesterday he also refused to nap.  This lack of napping wouldn't be so bad if he actually functioned well without one, or was one of those children whose energy begins to fade the more tired they become. 

Not my son.  No, my son becomes louder and more hyper the more tired he gets.  Jumping on the bed.  Coming downstairs to say hi.  Zooming his cars along the wood floor in his room.  Singing at the top of his lungs. 

By the time he finally fell asleep, much later than his usual naptime, I was exhausted and so was my husband.  We both knew that he would then be wired until much past his regular bedtime as well. 

And so he was.  He just went down a few minutes ago.  At 10pm.  His regular bedtime is 7: 30. 

What's that you say?  At least he should sleep in tomorrow.


Maybe until 8 o'clock or 8:30 if we're lucky,  but most likely it will be before 8 am.  Rise and shine.  Good morning Mommy!  Get up! 

So, I think I'll call it a night.  Curl up in bed with Outlander, my current read, and make it an early evening. 

I'm going to need all the energy I've got tomorrow.

Don't forget, the weekly menu plan will be posted sometime tomorrow (depending strongly on the State of the Nap).  Check the Menu Plan tab for previously posted plans. 

Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cake Mixes Available in Canada

I may be late to the party on this, but I've been looking for a while now and only found them today:  Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cake Mixes (Devil's Food Cake and Yellow Cake).  I have a habit of checking for new gluten free products each time I go grocery shopping, just to see what's available.

Today I found them in the regular bakery aisle.  I brought home the Devil's Food Cake mix from the U.S. on our recent vacation, but I'm excited to have another gluten free option on the shelves for consumers in Canada. 

As I always do when checking out a new product, I checked out the company website  to learn more.  What did I learn?  Well, that the two mixes currently gracing store shelves are but two of many gluten free products available.  Many, but not all, are available in Canada as well as the United States.  I'm hoping that over time, more and more products will become available north of the border.  It also states that the mixes are processed in a dedicated gluten free facility.  The website also has tips and recipes, which I found useful.  

Additionally, there's a product locator, where you can type in or choose a product as well as your postal code (it actually has the postal code option, not just the zip code) and the site will tell you what stores in a certain radius carry the product.  Unfortunately, Canadian stores aren't currently supported using the product locator function.  Which makes it difficult for me to ascertain precisely which of their products are available in my area for purchase, and where to get them. 

So unless I stumble across a new product on my regular grocery runs, Betty Crocker (and parent company General Mills) will be missing out on potential sales from customers like myself.  Customers who will actually go out of their way to shop at a different store to buy a particular gluten free product.  If I could see which of their over 250 gluten free products are available at grocery stores near me, the company would make significantly more money from me than they do now. 

I know that it often takes time for products and services to migrate to the Great White North, so I'm hoping that my discovery today of yet another product lining the shelves means that their website will eventually be updated to allow me to search for (and ultimately purchase) more of their gluten free offerings. 

Hopefully it's sooner, rather than later. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Could Goat Cheese Be a Go? Part II

A few days ago, I wrote THIS POST regarding my most recent effort to introduce dairy into my son's diet (on my family doctor and specialists' advice).  I gave him a slice of Goat's milk firm mozzarella as a snack. 

And guess what?


This is an excellent first step!  Obviously this doesn't mean that we're in the clear when it comes to dairy, even of the goat variety, but it does give me some hope that he will be able to at least tolerate small amounts of it. 

So what are the next steps?

Good question. 

I think for now, I'll stick to goat's milk products, and limit it further to harder cheeses such as firm mozzarella or cheddar.  I think I'll incorporate it into one meal a week for now, and see how things go for the next few months. 

I may sound paranoid to someone who doesn't have a child with food intolerance/allergies.  But I remember the bloating, the pain, the lethargy, the rashes, the pure misery of my little boy when he wasn't well, and I don't ever want to experience that again.

So it will be one step at a time.  Or should I say, one slice at a time? (Sad, I know, but I still giggled writing it.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Introducing Goat's Cheese to a Dairy Free Child

If you've read my blog in the past, you'll know that my son is both gluten free and dairy free.  What's never been clear is if the dairy intolerance is something entirely separate from the gluten issue, or whether he was having difficulty digesting dairy because of intestinal damage caused by the gluten.  What was clear, however, was that he reacted badly to dairy products.  So on the advice of our doctor, we cut out dairy entirely.

He's been tested for a milk allergy and the test came back negative, but just like any allergy testing, since he was so young (less than 2 years old), the testing is not necessarily accurate.  So, both our family doctor and our gastroenterologist suggested that we should try and introduce dairy products back into his diet, one product at a time, beginning with goat's milk products.  Apparently hard cheeses are easier to digest than soft ones, and goat's milk is easier to digest than cow's milk.  Sometimes those who are lactose intolerant are able to tolerate goat's milk cheeses quite well.  The suggestion was to incorporate a bit of goat's cheese into a recipe, and see what happens.  We are also to get him allergy tested for dairy once a year, unless he ceases to react negatively to dairy products at some point.

So....tonight we gave him a slice of firm mozzarella made from goat' milk.  I had originally put some in Monday night's pasta dish, but but he decided he wasn't in the mood for pasta. 

Go figure. 

Instead, tonight I offered him a small slice of cheese as a snack.  Fingers crossed.

It would be fantastic if he could eat goat's milk products.  We're managing fine without dairy, particularly since there are many dairy substitutes on the market, but it would be nice to have one more option in his diet.  Particularly when eating out. 

But if not, well, then that's OK too.  We'll give it a try in another 6 months.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Atlantic View Hotel in Dewey Beach, Delaware

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely loved our brief stay in Dewey Beach.  After spending 5 days in Washington for a family wedding, my husband, son and I were looking forward to a few days of relaxing on the beach.  We originally chose Dewey Beach for its proximity to Washington and because there is a family bonfire every Wednesday night in the summer.  It sounded like a quieter alternative to nearby Rehoboth Beach while being close enough that visiting Rehoboth was only about a 5 minute drive.

Where is Dewey Beach?  Dewey Beach is located on the Atlantic coast of Delaware.  It's about 10- 15 minutes from Lewes, the first town in the first state.  Click HERE for a map of the area.

Beach behind hotel  

The Atlantic View Hotel claims to offer "the best views and easiest access to the beach of any hotel in Delaware."  I can't speak for all of Delaware, but I can attest to the fact that the hotel does sit directly beachfront, and is surrounded by private residences, not other hotels.  Their motto is "Friendliness and Cleanliness", and we saw the words "Simpler Hotels" in several locations. 

The Hotel:  The hotel really does remind me of a smaller, simpler establishment than newer hotels, but it still had many of the amenities one would expect from a larger chain.  It really is just steps from the hotel door to the beach, and the hotel offers beach chairs at no additional cost.  Just let  the front desk know how many you're taking for the day, and inform them when you bring them back.  Simple!
An important note however is that the hotel has stairs only, so accessibility could be an issue.  I'm not certain if ground floor rooms are fully accessible or not.  Atlantic View Hotel is located on a small street off the main highway.  This makes getting around easy to navigate.  Rehoboth Beach, the outlets, Lewes, and other attractions are all a short drive away.

Hotel photo taken from the beach.  Note the top floor sundeck.

Oceanfront and with an outdoor pool open from 10am until dark
Free parking and free beach chairs
Free in-room Wi-Fi
Continental Breakfast, Vending Machines, Coffee and Chocolate Chip Cookies in Lobby all day
Private Balconies and a common 4th floor sundeck facing the ocean for those without an ocean view room (like us)
Mini-fridge and microwave in room

Hotel Pool

Rooms:  We did not have an ocean view room, and our room only had one king bed.  We booked the room quite late, and it was the only vacancy available.  The hotel had a no vacancy sign posted when we arrived.  Our son alternated between sleeping in the play pen we brought and between us on the bed.

The hotel does offer a variety of rooms with various sleeping options, we just booked too late.  We booked this vacation on a whim, but next time I'll book in advance.  That being said, the room itself was lovely and the private balcony was a nice touch.  The room had a small but modern bathroom with a hairdryer and Bath and Body Works toiletries, a table and two chairs, air-conditioning, a TV with many channels, a fridge and microwave, a king size bed and a balcony.  We knew it would be a bit tight with our son there as well, but it was roomy enough for two people. 

Prices fluctuate depending on the season.  When I booked I thought that the price was high since it isn't a big chain, but after staying there I feel the price is reasonable.  The hotel manages to have instant access to the beach, while still keeping the pool area relatively private.  The common sundeck allows everyone to have a beach view, and stays open until 11 pm.  Having a fridge and microwave in the room allowed us to keep fresh food for our son and slashed our additional food costs considerably.

Our room

Hotel Service and General Observations:  The hotel is kept in good condition, and the view from the 4th floor sundeck is incredible.  The pool is small but warm, and there are plenty of lounge chairs.  We spent most of our time at the beach, but we did swim in the pool a few times. 

The lobby is small, spacious enough to check in but not much more.  The breakfast was limited, but still offered french toast, pastries, scrambled and hard boiled eggs, yogurt and fresh fruit, coffee and juice, bagels, toast, etc. 

The hotel is kept clean and the windows in the stairwell provide a nice breeze.  The service was friendly as well and free parking is always a plus. 

Verdict:  This hotel is a keeper.  A beach vacation is all about proximity to the beach, and this hotel has it.  The fridge and microwave provided reassurance that gluten free options would always be available for my son.  The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.  The lack of elevator is the only drawback for those with limited mobility.  My husband and I have already talked about going back at some point in the future, and this hotel would be our first choice for accommodation.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan


Monday: Gluten Free Penne in Tomato Sauce with Shredded Chicken & Spinach and Topped with Goat's Milk Mozarella  
(Our doctor suggested that we try giving our son some goat's milk cheese to see if he can tolerate it.  This is the first try.  Fingers crossed!)

 Tuesday:  Pulled Pork Simmered in a Tangy Sauce and Cabbage and Carrot Oil and Vinegar Coleslaw with Corn Bread for Mopping up Juices 

Wednesday: White Fish Stew with Olives and Capers Served Over Rice

Thursday: Homemade Chicken Broth with Shitake Mushrooms, Broccoli and Ginger

Friday: Stuffed Portabello Mushroom Caps with Zucchini, Walnuts and Onions on a Bed of Garden Grown Swiss Chard and a Side of Cucumber Sticks and Cherry Tomatoes with Hummus Dip

Saturday, August 13, 2011

15 Hours on the Road.

We arrived home at 4am this morning.  The drive from Delaware to Toronto is only about 9-10 hours, but we stopped just outside of Wilmington to visit an old friend of my husband's who just had a baby girl this week.  We had originally planned to stop somewhere along the way, but we got to driving, and our son was relaxed and well behaved so we decided to just drive the whole way straight. 

When we arrived home at 4am, as my husband and I staggered in through the door, my son went running for the family room.

"Ready for bed?"  I asked.

"No.  I'm not tired" he replied. 


He had slept for about an hour in the car.  That's it.  No nap.  He should have been snoring by the time we got home. 

Not my son. 

We finally got him down, and tumbled into bed ourselves.  For almost 6 whole hours.  He woke up at 10, bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to play.

I wasn't ready to get up, but I was happy to be home. 

And I came home with some new products to try!  Bob's Red Mill White Cake Mix and Shortbread Cookie Mix.  Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake.  Gluten Free Rice Crispies.  Looking forward to trying them out and letting you know how they taste. 

Menu Plan goes up tomorrow. 

Happy Saturday Night.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

5 Things on a Friday: Heading Home Edition

Note: I'm actually posting this late Thursday night.  Since it's almost midnight, I'm not bothering to set up a posting time for tomorrow morning.  This is my Friday post.

We're leaving for home today, and although I'm looking forward to checking out my garden and sleeping in my own bed, I'm taking a lot of great memories home with me.   Here are just a few:

1- Sometimes the opportunity to live out one of life's simple pleasures presents itself and shouldn't be passed up.  Dining at Lidia's in Pittsburgh was one of those things.

2- Seeing my son's face when he got to see his "Abuelita" (his grandmother) and his Tio Jaime who live in El Salvador made the 11+ hour car-ride to Washington worth it.

My son, who told my husband to "go over there so Tio Jaime can push me" with his uncle and Abuelita

3- Getting dressed up in a fancy dress and dancing the night away with my husband at the wedding.

4- Enjoying the weekly community bonfire on Dewey Beach, roasting marshmallows and watching the children experience the magic that is staying up late to laugh and dance with the lapping of the waves in the background.

5- Spending sunset on the beach, searching for seashells, digging in the sand and letting the waves wash over my feet.  And enjoying it all with family.

One last thing- we were treated to a show when a traveling school of dolphins swam by not too far from shore, leaping and frolicking in the water, chattering to each other the whole time.  That memory will last a lifetime.

Where are we going? To the beach!

Tomorrow is another travel day, this time beginning the trek home.  Over the past week and a half I've been to Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and Dewey Beach, Delaware.  Tomorrow we're heading back home to Canada after visiting a friend in Wilmington Delware, probably with a rest stop overnight somewhere along the way. 

The last week's posts have been review heavy, and there are a few more to come.  Along with another DC post will be a few posts covering Dewey Beach, of course focusing on gluten free travel as well as great places to stay and fun things to do.  These reviews are all personal, not sponsored.  The restaurants and other establishments I review have not provided me with free services or other type of compensation.  I will always include a disclaimer within a specific post if I have received any compensation or will receive any compensation for one of my reviews.

The 100 in 2011 reading list has been updated with my latest read.  For those of you new to the site, that's where I post what I've been reading this past year, with the goal of finishing 100 books before December 31st.  These books are those I read for interest and/or relaxation.  I was doing a lot of academic reading for my thesis this year, so many of the fiction choices have been easy reads, and for some reason supernatural/urban fantasy reads have been high on the list, much different from my usual reading. 

I plan on putting together a gluten-free book list in the future, with resources for living well without gluten. 

Early next week I'll have organized my new travel posts under both the Product Reviews and Gluten Free Travel categories that they belong to for easy reference. 

Today and tomorrow's posts will be lighter than usual, with just a few snapshots of our time on vacation.  Look for regular posting to resume Saturday, with the weekly menu plan resuming on Sunday, and more travel review posts early next week.

I'll leave you today with a few shots of the beach here in Delaware. 

This is my son's version of "relaxing"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Mitsitam Native Foods Café

Much of the sightseeing and attractions in Washington DC centre around the National Mall area, where the monuments and museums are clustered.  Located on the National Mall between the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol Building is the formidable National Museum of the American Indian.  (Fourth Street & Independence Ave., SW).  Click HERE for a map of the area.
Like so many other museums in Washington, entry to the museum is free, and the museum is open from 10AM- 5:30 PM daily.
A Gift from the Government of Canada to the Museum

A sample of some traditional handwoven textiles

While the museum itself merits its own post, this post is specifically about food! 

Inside the museum lies Mitsitam Café.  Whether visiting the museum (which I highly recommend), or just looking for a unique place to eat while in Washington, the Mitsitam Café is not to be missed. 

Food: The menu changes with the seasons, and can be found on the Mitsitam Café website.  The summer menu that we chose from can be found HERE.  The café is set up with different "stations" featuring cuisine from different indigenous traditions of the Americas.  It features Northern Woodlands, Mesoamerica, South America, Northwest Coast, and Great Plains.  It's not everyday that I come across indigenous eateries on my travels, and I also liked that it provided the visitor with another way to experience the cultures on display in the museum.  While some items reflect more traditional recipes, others are more modern takes on traditional recipes using ingredients native to the specific region being represented.

Gluten Free at the Mitsitam Café:   This is one of my favourite things about the restaurant.  Items are labeled, and on each label, gluten free items are indicated with the words "gluten free" in red type.  See the photo below for an example.  This made ordering so simple.  Additionally, a large number of dishes are gluten free, so there is much to choose from.  

Sign in Mitsitam Café, indicating that an item is gluten free  

My brother in law ordered the ceviche, type of fish salad, because he wanted to compare it with the ones he eats at home.  He declared it delicious, and I was pretty impressed with the presentation.  It's a GF option.

Mitsitam Café's Ceviche
My husband and I ordered a simple, familiar dish for our son.  Totopos with Carne, which are a type of tortilla chip covered in marinated meat, with a side dish of cilantro scented rice and a side order of Yucca salsa.  Simple, but delicious.

My husband's Totopos (his had cheese)

My son approved.

Etienne with his Tio Jaime  

Our order at the restaurant 

Other dishes were more complex, such as Coconut and Chili Braised Rabbit, or Grilled Bison Steak.  Definitely not items seen on the menus of every eatery in town.  If I had been ordering just for myself, I would have tried something more adventurous. 

Verdict:  In my opinion, this is a definite hit.  The menu had something on it for every taste, from safe to adventurous.  The food was delicious and there were many gluten free options to choose from.  The café has a wall of windows that let in natural light and provide a bright and cheery atmosphere.  The menu changes with the seasons and features several dishes that would be difficult to find anywhere else. 

The Mitsitam Café also has a cookbook available for purchase at the museum or online through the Smithsonian store

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Some Travel Shots: Washington, DC

Today was another travel day, and I've only now had the chance to sit down and post.  Rather than posting Wordless Wednesday tomorrow, I'm posting a few photos tonight. 

In the next few days I'll wrap up my posts on Washington, including a review of Mitsitam Café and a Lebanese restaurant in Virginia, as well as a post including suggestions for sightseeing and gluten free travel in the Washington, DC area. 

I should be back home by the weekend.  The weekly menu plan will resume on Sunday. 

Our original reason for traveling to Washington was a wedding.  Here are some shots from the big day:

The setting, the courtyard of a Washington hotel

My husband and his brother, Jaime

The happy couple, dancing the waltz as their first dance

My husband and I   
With my husband's Aunt and Uncle, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary

Monday, August 8, 2011

Washington DC: The ZOO

One of the things I love about Washington DC is that most of the attractions are free.  With the exception of parking, the National Zoo is no exception.  We spent the morning there today with our son, who despite professing to only wanting to see the elephants, rather enjoyed some of the other animals on display. 

We began at the children's garden, where there is a small garden growing the ingredients to top a pizza.  The big draw for my son was the larger than life pizza playground, where he got to run around on top of a huge pizza and practice sitrring the sauce!

Playing on the pizza. Notice the huge mushroom in the background.
Stirring the massive pot of tomato sauce

From there we made it to the kids' farm, where children are encouraged to pet the animals and learn  how to care for them.  The donkeys and the alpacas were my son's favourites.

The donkey, chewing the bark

An alpaca, relaxing in the shade

We did eventually see the elephants, but it turns out that the trucks working on the new animal area were more intriguing than they were, and so we cut our visit short and went in search of "I scream for ice cream", which is what my son now calls any frozen treat.  Since he is dairy free, we went on the hunt for dairy free frozen options.  Surprisingly, there were many.  

Along the walkways of the zoo, food and beverage carts are set up.  Several offered shaved ice treats, all dairy free.  We opted for a frozen ice treat, watermelon flavour, because the container was easier for little fingers to manage with minimal mess.  Gluten and dairy free, it was the perfect treat.   

On our way back to our car, we saw perhaps the biggest turtle I've ever laid eyes on outside of a documentary.  I had to include the photo below!

Gluten and Dairy Free at the Zoo:  There are many dairy free treats at the zoo, and not only in the restaurant/cafeteria areas.  We didn't eat lunch there, but I did check out one of the cafeterias and saw many items that had the potential to be gluten free if the preparation didn't lend itself to cross-contamination.  I can't comment on whether the items were actually gluten free because we didn't eat there.  I read an article in a prominent magazine stating that in certain eateries in the zoo, items that are gluten free are labeled as such, but I didn't come across any. I wasn't looking too hard though, because it was extremely hot and we only stayed for about an hour and a half.

The Zoo is accessible by Metro, but there is ample parking.  Friends of the Zoo members can park for free, but we paid $15 for a visit of under 3 hours.  It was a great deal, and a perfect place to take the kids for a day out!