I Come Bearing Treats

I had some errands to run today and while they weren’t super close to Whole Foods & Trader Joe’s, I decided to make them part of my trip. With the cost of gas, I don’t go to those stores as much as I used to. They are about 15 – 20 minutes away and that is too far when you are paying $3.50+/gallon of gas and drive a mini-van. I always go into these places excited to see what kinds of new, fun GF treats they have. Most of the time I come out close to empty handed. This happens for a few reasons. First, I tend to overstock. You certainly won’t go hungry in my house. Second, the item or treat is a great idea and looks good, but then I rationalize that for less $$, I can make the same thing and it will most likely taste even better than what is sitting right in front of me; this is where I get some of my baking & cooking inspiration. Third, the stuff is just too dang expensive!

My first stop was Trader Joe’s. I always hit their bread section first hoping for some kind of miracle, but never find anything that comes close to my beloved Pamela’s Wheat Free Bread. I did pick up some GF French Rolls that Jon and I will toast and have with our dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how that goes. I am not overly optimistic. I usually make Chebe Foccacia or homemade corn bread if we want bread. I was just thinking of the convenience factor b/c I have a meeting at school tonight. As I was walking along, I came across the sample stand and they were sampling Fage Greek Yogurt and Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Granola. I picked up a cup…YUM!! The granola was really good. I believe that it is $3.49 per package, pretty reasonable compared to the stuff I bought last week, Enjoy Life for $4.99, same size. The Fage was also really good, but very expensive. I passed, since yogurt and I are not getting along lately. I picked up some GF pasta, can’t let that stock get low when it is $1.99/package at TJ’s. Much cheaper than other places in Columbus. Then in the frozen food aisle, I stumbled upon some Chocolate Meringue cookies. They say “no gluten ingredients” right on them. They were under $3. I took a chance. Even though I love the baked goods I make, I had to give these a try, as I have never even tempted to make meringue anything. Maybe that is one thing to add to my list of must try in 2009. I will put that right up there with making homemade cinnamon rolls. 🙂 So I had a couple of the cookies after lunch…OMG….I was very impressed!! They are a little on the sweet side, but hey, that is why I was eating a cookie, b/c I wanted something sweet! They are low in fat and only have 30 calories per cookie! The box says the serving size is 4 (I love when they have larger serving sizes, then I don’t feel like such a pig!). I would say these are a definite buy again treat. Here is a picture of the box:

I was also looking for Lara Bars while on my excursion today. I usually by the Jocalat ones in bulk online, but my other favs are cheaper to buy in local stores when on sale. Trader Joe’s used to have a pretty decent selection, not so much today. They had 4 different ones to choose from and none really jumped out and said “Buy me!” They had apple pie (yuck), cherry pie (yuck), chocolate (have a bunch) and pistachio (don’t like pistachios at all). I guess I will stick to buying them at Raisin Rack where they have about 15 different kinds to choose from.

On to Whole Foods. This store is just amazing. It is almost overwhelming with all the different sights and smells. I could spend days walking up and down the aisles. My Dad and his friends call it “Whole Paycheck” b/c it is so expensive…LOL! I started in the produce section and picked up some beautiful, local, heirloom tomatoes. YUM! I grabbed some goat’s milk yogurt (marked gluten-free right on the container) since real yogurt has been bothering my stomach lately. BTW, if this doesn’t work, I give up on yogurt, and I really love it! Then I came across some Envirokidz Crispy Rice Bars. I have had the chocolate, berry and PB ones before, but they have a new flavor out……Peanut Choco Drizzle. OMG! I love the new Leapin Lemur Peanut Butter & Chocolate cereal, so I figured these would rock too. Boy, was I right!!! They are just the right amount of peanut butter and even have peanuts in the bar! The chocolate is just right on top, a drizzle, not a coating. These were not cheap (and not on sale like the other Envirokidz bars) at $4.99 for 6 bars, but I had to give them a try. Now, I must hide them from Jon….LOL! Just kidding!

When I got home from my outing, I was starving. I made myself a wrap with a Food for Life Brown Rice Tortilla. I put in some heirloom tomatoes, turkey, swiss cheese, spinach & Frank’s Red Hot. I had some sauteed spinach & blue corn chips along side. Oh, and don’t mind the rip in the tortilla. These normally don’t rip very easily, but someone had crinkled it up in the fridge in the way back. Wonder who that could have been??

Off to make dinner now.

School is so close, I can smell it!

Today was schedule pick-up for my soon-to-be 7th grade son. I received a bunch of paperwork last week in the mail. I sat and took the time to fill out all this paperwork, including the medical release form that I was required to turn in in order to receive his schedule. I completed picture forms and every other kind of form you can imagine. So this morning I am rushing around getting things ready, making bottles for sweet baby E (my best friend’s little girl that I watch during the day), brushing hair and sucking down some coffee because I stayed up too late watching the US Women’s gymnastic team miss their chance to win the gold. Talk about heartbreak, but that is another story. Anyway, in all the madness, guess who forgot all the carefully filled out paperwork? That’s right. Me. UGH. If you could have only seen the look of frustration on my face, as the nice gentleman manning the schedule station asked me for the emergency medical form, I realized in all my caffeine induced craziness that I didn’t have it. That is okay, you can go over to that round table over there (pointing across the gym) and fill out one. So, I had to fill out all his paperwork again. So much for being on top of things.

So, off to the food service station we go next. I fill out a form for depositing money onto a debit card that will allow my child to purchase lunch, drinks or snacks without carrying cash with him. Now, being gluten-free, there is not much he can eat in the way of lunch in the school cafeteria. Yes, they said last year that they would be happy to make accommodations for him and serve him a gluten-free meal, but I am not sure I trust that. It really isn’t that hard for me to pack him lunch, he just gets tired of it and wants to have what his friends are having. Anyway, they have “gluten-free” marked on his card/account so that when he checks out and uses his debit card, an allergy allert comes up. I am not really sure what this does. Does someone come check to make sure his food is GF? I highly doubt it. Maybe it just prompts the cashier to remind the student to check their food? Who knows. Anyway, he just uses the debit card to purchase fruit (yeah, right) or drinks or yogurt on occasion.

So, the smell of school. The smell of school is the aroma of home baked bread coming from my Zo (my Zojirushi Breadmaker). This is one of my first purchases when I learned I had to eat gluten-free. I had never made homemade bread before in my life, though I used to watch my Grandmother make Challah bread years ago. Something told me that first time I made bread in my new machine that it wouldn’t taste anything like what Grandma used to make. Glad I didn’t set my hopes too high b/c I believe I threw away the first loaf that I made. Many mixes later I came to love Pamela’s Amazing Wheat Free bread and that is the smell I know and love! This is the bread that we make our sandwiches with. It is not necessary to toast this bread, like a lot of gluten-free bread out there, but Jon prefers it toasted. I keep it in the fridge after the first day to keep it fresh, so toasting warms it up and lets me add PB or deli meat & cheese and then pack for him to have for lunch. So when I walked in the house from picking up Jon’s schedule, I was met with the wonderful aroma of bread waiting for me. I had to slice some and have a sandwich for lunch. Yum!

While I am here and blogging, I might as well share what Jon likes to take for lunch. He has been packing lunch now for 2 school years straight. He used to buy lunch a couple days a week before he was diagnosed with Celiac. One of the first things I did was buy him a thermos that could keep his food warm until lunch time. I found it at Wal-Mart for under $10. I fill it with hot water about a half-hour before I put the warm food in and it will keep the food warm for approximately 5 hours. The only thing that stinks about this (literally) is that when your child forgets to bring it home and it sits in his locker all weekend, it is tough to clean. You can only hand wash these and it is close to impossible to get the smell and stains from chili or spaghetti out of white plastic that has been hiding out in a locker for a few days. Here are some of the things I pack for Jon on a rotating basis:

~Deli Roll-ups – meat with American cheese rolled up inside. You could use cream cheese too, Jon is not a fan.
~Tacos in a bag – Taco meat in the thermos. Bag of Fritos or GF Doritos (we use Cool Ranch) and shredded cheese on the side. I also pack a small container of taco sauce (Ortega Mild).
~ PB Sandwich – Simple..PB on Pamela’s bread. Jelly makes the bread soggy, so I either put PB on both sides and then add jelly or pack it for him to add.
~ Macaroni & Cheese – Tinkyada pasta made with the Kraft cheese powder (comes in a can…whoever thought that up is SUPER clever!). I have also made Mac & Cheese with Velveeta cheese. Jon likes it either way.
~ Chili – He likes Hormel chili with beans. (Not all Hormel Chilis are GF, so make sure to check Hormel’s list or only buy the regular with beans). I pack tortilla chips, cheese and taco sauce on the side.
~ Cold pizza – I make homemade pizza out of Pamela’s Wheat Free bread mix and then he will take it cold for lunch the next day. He loves this!
~ Pepperoni & cheese – Hormel Pepperoni and American cheese. He will make little meat sandwiches out of these. Fun and easy, too!
~ Spaghetti & Meat Sauce – Usually left over from the night before. Tinkyada pasta and Prego 3-Cheese sauce with ground turkey or beef.

I alternate side items for him. I do fresh fruit in season. He is picky about fruit, so I have to pack something I know won’t end up in the trash. Bananas or apples, forget it. In the trash can. He will eat cantaloupe or grapes. In the winter I will do Mott’s Natural Applesauce with cinnamon on top for him. He seems to enjoy that. He usually gets Cool Ranch Doritos with sandwiches. He won’t eat raw veggies, so that is out. I will sometimes put in baby carrots with Italian dressing to dip in, but I have to wonder how often he really eats that. He used to tell on himself when he didn’t eat something, now I am not so sure. He may have wisened up in his old years. Desserts are either homebaked cookies or brownies. I do buy Trader Joe’s Gingersnaps (very good) or the occasional box of Enjoy Life cookies (he really likes the Snickerdoodle flavor).

So the summer is coming to an end. It is bittersweet. I really enjoyed spending the summer with my kids, but it is time for them to go back and join their friends.