Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween: Part 1


Yesterday, after cooking for the week, we carved our pumpkins and baked some gluten free Halloween treats for tonight's festivities.  Here's what we'll be eating before heading out trick or treating!

Dark Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows with Sprinkles

Creepy Spider Mini Cupcakes

Gluten Free Halloween Mini-Cupcakes

Happy Halloween!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

This week's menu is more meat-heavy than usual.  Must be the onset of fall that's making me crave comfort food!

 Monday: Gluten Free Lasagne and Salad 


Tuesday: Butter Chicken, Spinach Curry Potatoes and Rice 

 Wednesday: Tourtiere (Meat Pie) with Brussels Sprouts
(The crust cracked, but this pie crust was much easier to work with than the last brand I used.  Reviews of both coming soon!)

 Thursday: White Bean and Chorizo Sauce over Leftover Rice 
)A close up shot of the ragout still in the pot. YUM.)

Friday: Steaks in Dark Sauce and Pureed Squash

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Upgraded to a Big Boy Bed!

Last week, as I checked in on my son before heading off to bed, I found him literally sleeping with his feet on the ground and his body reclining backward across his bed.  You may remember this photo:

The week before I found him in a similar position, only face first.

I knew it was time to put together his big boy bed. 

When I was pregnant and looking for cribs, we decided on this one in particular because it converted from a crib to a daybed with a removable safety rail to a full bed.  I don't regret that decision for a minute. When he was practically climbing out of the crib at 16 months, we converted the crib to the toddler daybed.  Now, at 2 1/2 years old, he's grown too big for that.

So today, we put together his full bed.  We used a mattress and box spring combination.  It makes it more difficult to tuck in his sheets, but it keeps the height of the bed low and provides great support.  After a little maneuvering, we put together the bed and rearranged his room.  It's no longer a baby/toddler room, but a little boy's room!  When did this happen?  I must admit, it's awfully cute though.  What do you think?

A bed I don't think he'll be rolling off

His little "reading" nook!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Five List: Getting Ready For Halloween

Halloween is just a few days away, so now is the time to get all those last minute candy, costume and decorating item crossed off the list.  Here's what's on my to-do list to prepare for the big day:

1- Carve our pumpkins.  We picked up several pumpkins for 99 cents each at the local grocery store that have been adding to our fall decor.  Now it's time to get them ready for their big night. 

2- Buy gluten free candy.  I worry so much about my son coming home without any treats he can eat, so I figure there have to be other parents with the same worry.  So, along with keeping everything peanut free, I'm going to try and have a variety of gluten free and dairy free treats as well.

3- Finish putting up the inexpensive decorations I picked up the other day.  The spiderwebs are on the wall, it's time for the caution tape to up. 

4- Pick up some treats for my students.  Our school is part of a healthy schools program, so rather than buying candy, I think I'll get some Halloween-themed non-edible treats.

5- Prepare a family-sized meal for my sister, niece and parents, and bake some Halloween themed treats for the kids to decorate. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gluten Free Halloween Treats: Cupcake Skulls

I picked up a cheap silicone baking pan in the shape of little skulls, and got the urge to try them out before Halloween.  I used a box mix, so mixing the batter took no time at all.  Then I just used gluten free frosting in different colours to bring out the skull features.  Kids could easily do this part, and with a little imagination, a variety of edible goodies could be used for the eyes, teeth, etc.

Here's what our dessert looked like last weekend after our visit to the pumpkin patch.

Not very fancy, but it brought a huge smile to my two year old's face.

Gluten shmuten.  Who needs it?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: They're So Cute When They're Sleeping

This is how I found him one night.  This is how we know he needs a big-boy bed.

We were taking him to a park, but he fell asleep in the car...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Garden's Last Gasp

I know it's the end of October, but I've been very lucky this year to have a garden that's still producing tomatoes and other good stuff this late in the year.  I've been wanting to plant my garlic and onions for next year, but I can't bear to pull out plants that are still giving fruit!  This past weekend, I picked more tomatoes, a few hot peppers, and leeks.  I still have to cut my swiss chard (it keeps raining on my plans!)

My leeks

The cherry tomato plant that keeps on giving!

In addition to our weekly food delivery, we've been able to eat mostly local produce all summer and fall.  Some foods just can't be grown locally, but I've enjoyed the convenience and freshness of eating food minutes after I've picked it from the plant.  I'm going to miss that over the winter.  Maybe next year I'll plant a little plot just for my son, with strawberries or other yummy fruits or vegetables that he'll get to call his own!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Fun at Southbrook Pumpkin Patch!

This is the second year we've taken our son to Southbrook Farms pumpkin patch in October for their Halloween festivities.  We like it because it's close to home, has a variety of activities for kids his age, and best of all, it's free!

The pumpkin patch is located Major Mackenzie Drive in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  They're open on weekends in September and October, from 10-6.  I like that there's plenty of free parking, and everything is located within a comfortable distance for kids to walk.  We brought the stroller, but our son only used it when he was eating.   He was too busy trying to decide what to do first!

Last year's pumpkin!
This year...chatting up some old friends

This year we went with my parents, so Etienne got to spend the day with Grandma and Grandpa.  After weaving our way through the country store (which is filled with yummy baked goods, jams and honey) he made a beeline for the mini-car circuit.  He picked out a bright red car and took a few laps around the track.

My little speed demon.  I love the look of concentration

He only made it around the track about two times before he decided that it was too much work!  Not to worry, there were several other activities to occupy his attention.

The fun wasn't limited to the kiddies though.  Grandma and Grandpa had fun too!

I think my son's favourite part of the day was the hayride.  He absolutely loves tractors, so the chance to get pulled around a field by a tractor was almost too much excitement for him to handle!  This year, there were helicopter rides as well.  We didn't go up, but watching it take off and land was just as good in my son's eyes! 

We finished the day off with a gluten free treat: BBQ corn on the cob!

The corn was too good to put down and smile for the camera

For a few dollars, we spent a good couple of hours making memories and enjoying a beautiful fall day.  Can't ask for much more than that!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

It's off to the pumpkin patch today for some Halloween fun!  Here's what we're eating at my house this week!

Monday: Breaded Veal Cutlets (or Fettina, as we call them) with Purple Scalloped Potatoes  
(I'll take a picture of it when it's all plated and ready to go!) 


Tuesday: Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

Wednesday: Pulled Pork Fajitas with Food For Life Brown Rice Tortillas and Mango Salad
(everything's ready to go, just needs to be assembled)

Thursday: Mushroom, Rice and Pea Soup with an Apple & Cranberry Salad

Friday: Tuna Burgers with El Peto Hamburger Buns and Potato Salad 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

So we went to a Naturopath today...

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that my son's health has improved dramatically over the past year since removing dairy and gluten products from his diet.  However, his sinuses have continued to be an on and off issue. 

We've been to our family doctor, an allergist and an ear/nose/throat doctor.  He's been on allergy medicine and antibiotics, and we've tried removing various foods from his diet, but he still has sinus issues.  Some days his nose is normal and dry, but others he wakes up stuffed and full of mucous.  On these days, he also gets a lot of saliva and drools almost uncontrollably.  So, although we still have a doctor's appointment with our regular family doctor later in the week, we thought it was time to try something new too.

So today we took our son to a Naturopathic Doctor.  I've never been against alternative treatments, but since we've never been to one, I didn't know what to expect.  Overall, it was pretty much like visiting any other doctor, only there was no waiting around and the appointment lasted an hour.  She took her time asking us questions about Etienne's history, going all the way back to the pregnancy, including eating and sleeping patterns, behaviour, vitamin intake and his symptoms. 

She recommended a few products, but wasn't pushy and suggested that we think about them until our follow-up appointment next week.  She recommended a multi-vitamin (he already is), and that we give him Vitamin D drops and Fish Oil.  The Vitamin D is something I've been meaning to put him back on, so I think we'll take that piece of advice. 

She also recommended digestive enzymes and probiotics.  I've never heard of these being recommended for children before, so I think I'll do a little more research before making a decision.  I'm also going to ask my family doctor for her opinion when I take my son to his appointment this week.  Hearing more than one opinion, along with doing my own research allows me to feel that I'm making informed decisions. 

I like the idea of an integrated approach to health care.  There are so many options available, I don't know why I wouldn't get advice from more as many places as possible when looking to improve my son's health.  If natural remedies, vitamins and supplements can help him maintain good health, then I'm open to integrating them with more traditional approaches to health care. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Five List

Here are the five things on my mind this Friday:

1- Even though all the leaves have fallen off my tomato plants, they are still producing ripe, red tomatoes. 

2- Ditto for the zucchinis still managing to thrive despite the dead leaves on the vine.

3- I'm hoping that the rain holds off on Sunday for our visit to the pumpkin patch.

4- Speaking of pumpkins, I still have to write that review of the gluten free pie crust mix I used on Thanksgiving.

5- I really need to finish my Halloween decorating this weekend.  Not to mention the yard work.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Product Review: Healthy Top Whipped Topping

Looking for a dairy-free substitute for whipped cream?  Tired of greasy substitutes that are runny or don't have the right consistency? 

Me too. 

Lucky for me (and you!), my husband stumbled upon a great product that is both dairy-free and delicious.  I sent him out to find some non-cream whipped cream to top our Thanksgiving dessert.  Our local gluten free store had this brand on sale for $3.99, so he grabbed a box to try.  It's called Healthy Top, and the box declares it to be Dairy and Lactose free, Soy free, Gluten free, Cholesterol free, Non-GMO, Vegan and Kosher.  Whew!

It is made from almonds and cashews though, so it's not suitable for people with nut allergies. 

The product is shelf stable, and doesn't need to be refrigerated until you're ready to use it.  I was a bit apprehensive when I saw the package and realized that it wasn't "instant" since it needed to be whipped.  I was worried for nothing though, because all it takes is a few minutes of whipping with a hand-blender for it to double in size and be ready to eat. 

It doesn't take three sets of hands, but...

my "helpers" were eager to lick the beaters!

After digging a little deeper, I found the company's website, MimicCreme.  The site claims that the Healthy Top is the first non-dairy, non-soy, shelf stable whipped topping.  It's also free of hydrogenated oil.

After a few minutes of blending, the product had just about doubled in size and had formed stiff peaks, just like real whipped cream.

We served it everyone at dinner, on top the apple crumble and pumpkin pie.  The consistency was a little thicker than regular whipped cream, but it looked like the real thing on top of the desserts!

Everyone agreed that the flavour was fantastic.  A subtle hint of coconut and almond added a nice depth of flavour to a product that tastes remarkably close to the real thing.  It lasted in the fridge for over a week, and kept its flavour and consistency the whole time. 

It would also make a great fruit dip, cake filling or even a light, not too sweet icing. 

Great value for the money, and good enough to eat right from the spoon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Harvest Food Share is Coming To An End...

Next week is the last week we'll be getting our weekly Harvest Share delivery from Carron Farms, full of fresh, seasonal produce from local farms in Ontario.  This is the second year we've signed up for the delivery, and we haven't been disappointed.  Each week sine June we've received a food box with a variety of fruits and vegetables that are in season.  While this means that we don't always get the same things every week, I've really enjoyed trying new vegetables and introducing a variety of new flavours to my son.

We don't always love all the vegetables (my husband could do without cauliflower, and neither of us has been able to find a recipe for celeriac that we like), but we've been introduced to some great new flavours that we wouldn't have tried without this program.  Parsnips, beets, and even rutabaga come to mind. 

This week's delivery was sitting on my doorstep when I got home from work, and it looked so much like a still-life painting waiting to happen that I thought I'd snap a photo of it once I took it inside.

Lettuce, fresh garlic, cauliflower, mushrooms, beets, pepper squash, apple cider, spinach, purple potatoes, and apples are all part of this week's delivery.  
As soon as I saw what was inside, I started thinking about what I could make with all this yummy food!

Roasted cauliflower soup?  Borscht?  Mushroom Antipasto?  Mashed purple potatoes?  Baked, stuffed pepper squash?  Gluten Free Apple Pie?  So many options....

The best part is knowing that the food is not only fresh and local, but supports Ontario farmers.  It also minimizes the impact on the environment by only needing to be transported a short distance, and not being individually wrapped, or bagged, or otherwise packaged unnecessarily.  All good things.

So while next week may be the last delivery for this year, I'm already looking forward to seeing what next year's Harvest will bring!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Too cute not to post today

It's been a long day at work today, and this post is too cute to not post.  Until tomorrow!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipe: Autumn Harvest Soup

It's no secret that we eat a lot of soup in this house.  Soups are easy to make, inexpensive and abundant.  This soup makes use of those vegetables available from local sources this time of year.  The addition of apples adds just a touch of sweetness that really pulls the flavours together.  Gluten and dairy free.

Update: I adapted this soup from a recipe we received in our Harvest Food Box a few years ago.


olive oil or butter substitute to coat bottom of soup pot
1 small butternut squash or half a large, seeded, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
1 onion, diced or thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 apples, any sweet variety, peeled, cored and cut into 8 slices
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth or stock
water, as needed to thin soup
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tspn. nutmeg, or more to taste
thyme and marjoram to taste
1/2 tsp. fennel seed, ground


1- In a large soup pot, heat butter or oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook until it begins to soften.  Add garlic and saute for about 1 min.
2- Add vegetables and cook over medium heat for about 5 min. to bring out flavours.
3- Add stock, spices and apples.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and cook, partially covered until vegetables are soft and apples are falling apart, approx. 20 min.
4- Taste soup and add salt and pepper, if necessary.  Adjust seasonings.  With an immersion blender, blend soup to desired consistency, thinning with water or more broth if necessary.  I like this soup to still have some chunks of vegetables.
5- Ladle into warm bowls and serve garnished with some fresh, chopped parsley.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

This week is full of recipes celebrating fall's bounty, including Brussels sprouts right from the stalk, thanks to our weekly vegetable delivery.

Monday: Penne Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes, Swiss Chard, Garlic and Goat's Cheese  

Tuesday: Autumn Harvest Soup (recipe to follow this week) 

Wednesday: Sweet & Sour Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry & a Side of Bok Choy With Sesame Oil and Salt 

 Thursday: Leek & Potato Soup 

Brussels Sprouts on the stalk


Friday: Turkey Legs, Rice, and Brussels Sprouts in a Chili Lime Sauce 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Sillies

Today has been a whirlwind of laundry, abstract writing, writer's block, more laundry, and more abstract writing.  I need something cute to cheer me up! 

Post-pumpkin painting snack

Grandpa and the grandkids

Creating a masterpiece
Tomorrow the gluten free weekly menu plan gets posted, and I have a new recipe to add this week.  I also haven't forgotten about the two product reviews from Thanksgiving.  I'll get one of them posted this coming week.  Happy Saturday!