Monday, May 28, 2012

LUNA Protein Bars Review

Last week, I received some gluten-free LUNA bars in the mail.  Marketed specifically for women, the bars have fewer calories than their Clif bar counterparts, and have more nutrients specifically geared to the needs of women. 

The line of bars is fairly extensive, including the original bar, the mini, protein and fiber versions.  I received 3 flavours of the LUNA protein bar for review: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cookie Dough, and Mint Chocolate Chip. 

The Facts:  All LUNA protein bars went gluten free in 2011 and are produced on their own dedicated line.  The company website states that they source ingredients that are confirmed to be gluten free and that they also test the final product.  The website also has an allergen reference table that provides information on the most common allergens ata quick glance.  The protein bars are also certified kosher and contain no genetically modified ingredients. 

Each bar is under 200 calories, making it a snack bar rather than a meal replacement.  They also contain 3g of fiber, and are high in calcium and folic acid.  The bars contain between 6-9g of fat each.

The Flavour:  I have to admit, these bars were pretty delicious!  Most protein bars have a vaguely chalky feel to them and a strange aftertaste, but not these.  They were nice and chewy without being hard, and were comaprable in size to some bars that are higher in calories and fat.  I eat breakfast at around 7a.m., and I ate a bar each day at around 9:30 at work.  The protein kept me feeling satisfied until lunch, which is sometime between 11:30 and 12:30, depending on the craziness level of the day.  Considering my increased pregnancy appetite, that's pretty impressive!

The Verdict:  On a pure taste level, I love these bars.  The flavour is great, I like that the calorie count is reasonable for a snack and that they have a decent amount of fiber and an even better amount of protein.  I also love that the ingredients are non-GMO, and that they contain calcium and vitamins that are geared specifically towards women's nutritional needs.  The only drawback for me is that each bar is a bit high in saturated fat, at 3.5g per bar.  I would prefer that amount to be lower. 

Although I don't eat protein bars on a daily basis, these bars taste great and make a great portable snack to have on hand when hunger strikes and gluten free food is nowhere to be found.  Their protein and fiber content are satisfying and the flavours make it feel more like eating a treat than a health food bar.  I always pack something to tide me over when going out, particularly now that I'm pregnant.  These bars are going to become part of my go-to arsenal of portable, gluten free snacks. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

This week's menu plan was a quick and simple one to prepare, because most of the dishes are simple assembly-type meals that just need to be thrown together in a few minutes.  For that reason, there are only 2 photos this week!

Monday:  Creamy polenta with spinach tomato sauce.  Polenta is cornmeal, and is a common dish in Italian households.  It can be made creamy and soft, or it can be baked or fried and eaten like pizza, or topped with various foods.  It's gluten free and yummy!

Tuesday: Jamie Oliver's Chickpea and Chorizo Soup   This soup is full of flavour.  It's a new favourite!

Wednesday:  Grilled Chicken Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Goat Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts.
All the ingredients are ready to go and just need to be tossed together.

Thursday:  Turkey Tacos with Avocado, Lettuce and tomatillo Salsa, with a side Salad of Mozzarella and Tomato

Friday: Pasta Salad with Artichoke Hearts, Oven Roasted Tomato and Garlic and Sweet Peppers 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gluten Free Rice Krispie Squares!

It's only 8:50 a.m. here, but I've already baked up a batch of gluten free Rice Krispie squares with my little one.  We've been up for a loooong time, despite the fact that he was up late last night.  It doesn't matter when he goes to bed, he never sleeps in. 

I'm sure that Kelloggs has an official recipe on their website somewhere, but I just winged it from memory.  Hard to believe this will be my son's first time eating a Rice Krispie Square!

Here's what we used:

3-4 tablespoons Becel vegan margarine (my son can't have regular butter)
1 250g bag of regular marshmallows
5 cups gluten free rice krispies

Here's how to do it:

1- Grease a casserole dish for the finished product

2- In a saucepan, melt the margarine over low heat. 

3- Add the marshmallows and increase heat to medium-low.  Stir until melted.

4- Add the cereal and stir to combine.

5- Press into casserole dish.  Let cool and then cut into squares. 

The whole process (minus the cooling time) took about 10-15 minutes. 

Start with one excited kid

Add Marshmallows

And margarine


Pour in the cereal


Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Five List

The weekend is upon us once again and the weather is still hot, hot, hot!  Today also marks the beginning of the third trimester of my pregnancy.  3 months to go! 

Here's what's on my mind this Friday:

1- Just finished the last of my gluten free Luna bars today.  Look for my review early next week.

2- Getting ready to make gluten free Rice Krispies Squares with my son tomorrow to celebrate the beginning of trimester 3.  I'll post the results tomorrow night.

3- My son starts his soccer class on Sunday.  I can't wait to see him running around on the field. 

4- Going to start a baby name list.  This is how you know I'm not in my first pregnancy.  The first time around I was picking names the second the test came back positive.  This time I feel like there's still plenty of time before I need to settle on names!

5- I'm hoping to get to the library in the next few days.  A friend of mine has recommended a couple of good cookbooks that I want to check out.  New recipes!  Speaking of recipes, the Weekly Menu Plan will go up as usual on Sunday. 

Whatever yor plans are for the weekend, I hope it's a great one! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Random Thoughts on a Tuesday

For some reason I've been feeling like there's some big activity that I've been putting off.....although I can't really put my finger on what that activity is.  I think the problem is that I have so many little, disconnected things that I've been meaning to get done that no matter what I accomplish I never feel as though I've accomplished enough. 

This weekend I got the vegetable garden sorted and planted, which is no simple feat when you're almost 7 months pregnant.  I'll pot some pics when things get growing!

Our garden this year is fairly simple, for obvious reasons.  We're growing:
-Early girl tomatoes in the ground, and I'm experimenting with cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket
-Blue Bush Beans
-Bunching Onions
-Herbs: Sage, Coriander, Lemon Balm, Thyme, Basil, Parsley and Rosemary
-A variety of hot peppers: Thai Dragon, Portugal Hot Peppers, Habanero, Ring of Fire, etc.

The herbs are easy because they're just pick and go, and the rest are pretty straighforward.  With a baby due in August, I didn't want anything too labour intensive. 

You'd think that would be enough to give me a sense of accomplishment, but the to-do list in my mind is still a mile long, and there's always something ready to take the place of any item I manage to cross off. 

I think part of it is that I remember how busy I was after my son was born, and I want to get stuff done before the next one arrives.  All those things that I know I won't get around to later I'm trying to get done now, and the list keeps growing!

Next up- decorating the baby's room.  And maybe choosing some names... 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Monday: Frittata and an avocado and endive salad  
(Want the recipe? Click HERE)

Tuesday: Steak and potato salad

Wednesday: Fettuccine with arugula pesto 

Thursday: Orchard Chicken Pie with Scalloped Potato Crust  

Friday:  Stuffed Eggplant with Tomato, Onions and Raisins 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Five: Ideas for the Long Weekend

It's Victoria Day weekend here in Canada, and that means a three day weekend for most.  The weather forecast is a dream, with warm teperatures and sunshine forecast for the entire long weekend.  So, whether you're heading to the cottage, going camping, or just hanging out at home, here are my five ideas for making your long weekend great!

1- If a campfire is an option, gluten free S'mores are a must!  With a little imagination, perfectly edible S'mores can be made without an open fire too.  Graham wafers (I use Kinnikinnick), marshmallows and good chocolate combine in a heavenly treat that perfectly welcomes the beginning of summer.

2- Get outside!  Go for a walk, play in the park, work in the garden or just sit outside with a cool drink.  I'm going to get some gardening done, and my son and I have a date for a picnic in the backyard. 

Some of the herbs and peppers I'll be planting

Some of my early spring daffodils

My garlic, and some of the empty space where my hot peppers and herbs will go

3- Check out some fireworks.  This is one of my favourite activities.  We live near an amusement park, which means that we get a great view from our driveway.  The neighbours all bring out some lawnchairs, the kids run around, and we enjoy a million dollar view.  When I was a kid, we used to go to a local school yard where the fire department put on a display.  I'm sure that they were less elaborate than the ones I see now, but it didn't matter.  The excitement of staying up late and watching the show were enough to make any kid happy.

4- If the great outdoors isn't your thing, catch some sports action on T.V.  NHL playoffs are on, Champions League Soccer finals, tennis, etc.  Better yet, watch some sports on your laptop while sitting outside with a cold drink.

5- Relax and enjoy something that makes you happy but that you never seem to have enough time for.  Read a book.  Take a long bath.  Catch up with an old friend.  Spend some family time playing games.  Whatever makes you happy! 

Take a dip...

or just hang out with those you love...

My weekend hopefully will look a little something like this:

Tonight, to bed early with an advance copy of a book I got at the conference I attended a few weeks ago. 

Saturday, my son and I have some plans in the backyard- some gardening and a picnic in the morning, soccer finals in the afternoon, followed by some outside activity. 

Sunday, the menu plan cooking first thing in the morning, and then my mom is coming over to hang out for the day, capped off  by fireworks when the sun goes down.  I've left Monday open.  Maybe we'll spend the day relaxing, or decide to take a drive somewhere new. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Weekend Full of Moms!

This weekend we spent both days hanging out with moms both new and experienced.  On Saturday, my Aunt had the family over to meet her new grandson, Cooper.  My cousin and his wife live in the United States, so this was the first opportunity those of us in Canada had to meet the little guy.  My little one was excited to see a "real" baby, since it gave him the chance to ask all sorts of questions about babies in general.  He checked out his toes and rubbed his head and sang  him songs.  Hopefully he's just as helful when his own new little brother or sister arrives!

The weather was great on Saturday and the kids were begging to touch the water of the pool, so my Uncle threw on his bathing suit and the kids joined him in the pool.  He took them for a ride on his back and caught them as they jumped in off the edge.  The water was a little chilly, but once they got used to it, the kids had a blast.

Sunday mommy got to sleep in (until 8:30, it's all relative) and then I was treated to gluten free pancakes in bed.  My son then proceeded to eat both of my pancakes, by it's the thought that counts!  I also got a certificate for a pregnancy massage, which sounds heavenly right about now.  I also got the cutest little hand made gift from my son. 

We spent the afternoon at my mom's, where the kids played in the yard and I was surprised with some Burt's Bees products and some outdoor patio dishes and serving plates.  The day was capped off with a gluten free cupcake (or two). 

A great weekend, and a pretty awesome Mother's Day as well. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

 Happy Mother's Day!

This weekend has been packed with family visits, so although the food got cooked, the photos didn't get taken.  Forgive me?  I hope all the mothers enjoyed their day!

Monday: Calamari Salad

Tuesday: Ropa Vieja with Beans and Rice

Wednesday: Quinoa Soup  

Thursday:  Hamburgers and French Fries

Friday: Mediterranean Flatbread with Goat Cheese & Roasted Vegetable topping and Tabbouleh Salad

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ontario Writer's Conference Recap

This past Saturday I spent the day at the Deer Creek Golf Club in Ajax, Ontario attending the Ontario Writer's Conference.  This was my first writer's conference, so I was unsure what to expect and arrived a little bit nervous.  The weather was warm, and the golf club setting was beautiful.  Every room had a fantastic view, and added a nice touch to the event. 

The day started bright and early, with registration at 8:15 and breakfast at 8:45.  I picked up my conference package, grabbed a muffin and found a seat in the main hall.  I quickly met some other attendees, including a woman who had made the trip down from a small town near North Bay.  I soon realized that many people were also attending alone, and I took the opportunity to strike up some conversations with others seated at the same table.  In the first half hour alone, I met two published authors, and several more unpublished ones like myself.

I participated in three workshops over the course of the day, the first being a session on revising and editing led by Andrew Borkowski.  What I appreciated the most from that session was the opportunity to edit an early draft of the presenter's own piece of writing, and sharing my edits with those of others.   In listening to everyone's changes, I was struck by how many different ways there are to express the same basic thought, as everyone had a different opinion about what to keep, what to cut, and what to rearrange or reword.

The second workshop focused on "The Pitch", and was led by agent Hilary McMahon.  She had great advice for writers looking to find someone to represent their work, as well as for those already published looking to expand their options.  I learned a lot about the industry from her talk and had many of my questions answered. 

The last session was led by Susan Lynn Reynolds, and was completely interactive.  She led the group through a series of writing exercises that introduced me to simple ways of approaching the opening sentences of a story or scene.  She also made me more aware of different types of description, and we practiced incorporating all the senses into our writing.  The hour flew by!

The sessions were broken up with networking sessions, lunch, keynote speakers and book displays.  We were treated to a closing address by Wayson Choy, author of The Jade Peony.  His advice and encouragement were inspiring, engouraging each of us to believe that our work is worth noticing, and to take advantage of every opportunity to have it published or included in magazines, journals, or anthologies. 

He challenged us to go home and do something different, so that at next year's conference we would each have something new and exciting happening with our work. 

I hope I can rise to the challenge!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Monday:  Maple Glazed Salmon Served over a Red Potato and Fava Bean Compote

Tuesday:  Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta

Wednesday:  Chicken Souvlaki with Vegetable Kebabs and Baked Potatoes 
(this isn't the exact photo, since I'll be putting it together the day of)

Thursday: Mushroom and Asparagus Tortilla Quiche

Friday: Salade Nicoise and Cream of Tomato Soup    
(Salad will be put together on Friday.  Recipe is HERE)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Roasted Corn and Quinoa Salad

Last week I received a request for the recipe for my Quinoa Salad, and I thought it would be a good idea to share it here.  It makes a great side dish or a healthy lunch, and it's good warm or chilled. 

Roasted Corn and Quinoa Salad
Serves 4-6

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups water or broth
1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2c.-1 cup corn kernels (frozen or canned are fine)
1/2 cup baby spinach leaves, washed and dried (or frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, then chopped)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. lime juice or other acid (red wine vinegar, regular white vinegar)
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
handful fresh chopped cilantro or parsley


1- Rinse the quinoa to get rid of the bitter taste, and then cook according to instructions on package in broth or water. The amount of liquid listed is less than recommended so that the quinoa stays a bit crunchy. Let cool and put aside.

2- While quinoa is cooking, place corn kernels on a lined baking sheet and cook in a 400F oven for 15-20 minutes. I like the rest of my veggies raw, but feel free to roast the peppers as well.

3- In a salad bowl, mix the peppers, green onions, corn, spinach and quinoa and mix well.

4- In a small bowl, mix oil, lime juice, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper until combined. If you like a lot of dressing, double the recipe and put some aside. Pour desired amount of dressing over salad, add crumbled feta and chopped herbs and toss to coat evenly.

I hope you like it!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Celiac Awareness Month!

May is Celiac Awareness Month, so shout it from the rooftops!  It's important to get the word out about Celiac Disease, as well as wheat and gluten allergies and intolerance.  It's such a misunderstood issue, and one that has been twisted so much in the media lately that there's a lot of confusion surrounding what exactly going gluten free means. 

It's imperative that the larger public understands that for those with Celiac or other forms of gluten intolerance, a gluten free diet is an absolute medical necessity, not a lifestyle choice or a fad.  There is no other treatment.  And gluten is everywhere, even in foods that have no business containing gluten.  People often ask me why products like yogurt or juice would need to be labelled as gluten free.  The addition of gluten to so many products makes reading every label an absolute necessity, and greatly curbs the choices available. 

Dining out also becomes an exercise in detective work.  Foods that would seem safe at first glance, like soups or salads, often contain ingredients that are unsafe.  Foods that are safe are sometimes prepared or cooked in ways that contaminate the dish and cause illness.  People who would never dream of serving someone with a peanut or shellfish allergy a dish prepared on the same surface that had traces of those allergens don't always understand the damage that the tiniest bit of gluten can do to someone with Celiac disease, particularly since the reaction isn't always immediately apparent. 

Explaining the internal damage, the long-term increased risk for developing other diseases and disorders, the difficulty in absorbing nutrients, impact on fertility, etc. is complicated but essential for people to take this disease seriously, beyond the simple celebrity endorsements of increased weight loss and general wellbeing.  Living gluten free for medical reasons is a life-long endeavour, that can be trying and difficult at times. 

The recent increase in media coverage and explosion of gluten free options on store shelves has helped make things easier, but food companies must understand that this is not simply a fad or a passing food obsession for many people.  More awareness of the medical issues behind a GF diet is needed to ensure that when the popular interest in trying out a gluten free diet out of curiosity wanes, the choices available to those who must eat this way for  health don't disappear.

So, spread the word, clarify the misconceptions and be vocal about supporting medical professionals, companies who provide gluten free options and local businesses who go out of their way to make dining safe for all customers. 

Happy Celiac Awareness Month!