Menu Planning ,Food Journals and the Canada Food Guide

Along with preparing yummy gluten and dairy free things for my Dee’Lectables business, I have day job.

From Monday to Friday, I  shop for and prepare two healthy snacks and a wholesome nutritious lunch daily for 7 adults and 30-40 little ones.  I’m the cook for a licensed daycare centre.
At the daycare we have two menus;
A two week rotating Warm Weather Menu from end of May- Sept. 30th
A  three week rotating Cool Weather Menu for the rest of the year.

The menus were in place when I arrived.

Now that it’s almost time to switch over to the cool weather menu again, I have decided it’s time to mix things up and build a new and improved menu for the centre. Now, because we are a licensed facility, we have rules and guidelines we have to follow for everything, and the menu is not overlooked. So, to the Canada Food Guide I went to find what is recommended for my little charges.

2-5 year-olds need:

4-5 servings of Fruit & Veggies
3-4 servings of Grains
2 servings of Milk and Alternatives
1 serving of Meat and Alternatives

This got me thinking about my own daily food intake. I mean, I think I eat well.
I eat plenty of fruits and veggies and lean meats. I try to stay away from junk food, although I have my vices too. Since going gluten and dairy free, I have been more focused on what my body doesn’t need.That said, it’s been a while since I thought about what my body does need.

Canada’s Food Guide says 19-50 year old females (that’s me!) need:

7-8 servings of Fruit & Veggies
6-7 servings of Grain
2 servings of Milk and Alternatives
2 servings of Meat and Alternatives

Most of us are pretty good at keeping track of what we put in our mouths. For example, I know I had a banana and a large  rice and coconut milk cappuccino for breakfast this morning.  Because of my food issues, I’m really good at keeping track of what I put in my mouth but this time I’m more curious about how much. So,  I’ve decided to keep a Food Journal for a few days.

Day One (That’s today!)

So far I’ve had:

1 med banana
1 extra large cappuccino with 1/2 cup of steamed coconut/rice milk blend

1/2 cup mixed greens
1/2 c mixed tomatoes, cucumbers & chickpeas,
topped with 1 tsp olive oil and pinch of salt

2 cups of chicken &  sausage jambalaya
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts
2 dates
1/2 cup fortified rice milk
1/2 cup fortified almond milk

Fruit & Veg: 3 1/4
Grains: 2
Milk and Alternatives: 1 1/2
Meat and Alternatives: 1 1/2

How do your eating habits measure up?

Check out Canada’s Food Guide to see what you should be eating.

Now, what I am I gonna have for dinner?



Happy Gluten & Dairy Free Cranberry Quinoa Cookies

To start today’s post off I’d like to apologize for the unexpected hiatus last week. I mentioned in my earlier post “In The Beginning Part 2” that I suffer from sinus polyps. Often I am treated with Prednisone, which is a  (a type of anti inflammatory medication), to shrink the polyps. I can’t take over the counter anti-inflammatory meds (like Aspirin) because they cause my asthma to go into overdrive, so to speak. I also take a regular asthma medication, which contains some corticosteroid too, to prevent attacks. In addition to that, I take a nasal spray to keep my sinus passages open and (you guessed it) that contains a corticosteroid also. Who knew that taking three different medications all containing corticosteroids, at the same time, could cause an adverse reaction?? If you or someone you know requires this type of medication to feel better, please send them to this link at MedlinePlus . The list of medications that contain corticosteroids is long and by no means complete….you may have to read the teeny tiny fine print on the medication to find it, but it’s worth it because the list of symptoms of over use range from simple dry skin to convulsions to psychosis. The last thing my family wants is for me to suffer from that last symptom….I’ve seen waaaay to many episodes of C.S.I, Criminal Minds and Hannibal for their liking. >; )

Of course, now that I know this…I can take greater care of myself. : )

Ok now, let’s move on to more Dee’Lectable topics.

Now that I feel more or less myself, I am all about the baking, the gluten and dairy free baking, that is.
I’ve been playing with recipes like Lemon Tart Cookies (with a lime variation too!), lots of muffins, and I’ve even decided to resume my search for a good GF/DF bread.

Today I want to share a recipe that I’ve been playing with for more than a year. I was inspired by a recipe in the January 2012 issue of Bon Appetite Magazine for Cranberry Quinoa Cookies.  These are meant to be cakey breakfast style cookies, reminiscent of hot bowl of cereal but portable.

Cranberry Quinoa Cookies
yield: Makes about 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups all purpose gluten free flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup fancy molasses
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
1 cup gluten free oats, old-fashioned style
1 cup dried cranberries
¾ cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup slivered unsalted almonds, optional

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, both sugars, and molasses in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add eggs and extracts; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir in quinoa, oats, cranberries, and almonds. Spoon dough in 2-tablespoon portions onto prepared sheets, spacing 1″ apart. Bake cookies until golden, 12–15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

Gluten and dairy free cakey breakfast style cookies, reminiscent of hot bowl of cereal but portable!

Gluten and dairy free cakey breakfast style cookies, reminiscent of hot bowl of cereal but portable!

Fun, Nutritious, Portable Breakfast Style Cookies!

Fun, Nutritious, Portable Breakfast Style Cookies!

Back on the (Fitness) Wagon

Recently, in an attempt to shed the few pounds that I’ve  accumulated over the winter and firm up a few things, I’ve  intensified my workouts.

I’ve always been a bit of a fitness nut. I cycle. I run. I lift. I will do just about anything that involves physical activity, well, except maybe step classes…I don’t know why I can’t seem to get into them.  : S

Anyway, I’m sure it was little surprise to those who know me that I took up a “Squat Challenge” that had been circulating through my Facebook peeps. I’m currently up to 150 squats, in addition to the chest presses, the bicep curls, triceps “skull crushers and kickbacks, the shoulder work etc. Oh and I can’t forget my favourite; the spin classes I attend each week.

Needless to say, I’ve been feelin’ the burn. I’ve also been feeling hungry.

Trying to keep good quality, nutrient dense food at the ready for after a workout session used to be really easy. Before I went off gluten and dairy, I’d keep a bunch of protein bars on hand for post workout noshing.  These days I have to put a bit more thought into it. I always have a stash of fruit and nuts but sometimes bananas and almonds aren’t enough. Often I do my workout after 4pm so that by the time I’m done, I’m famished and likely to put just about anything in my mouth. So, I’ve been stocking my fridge with prepared nummies that can easily be tossed with some leftover rice, greens or into a wrap.

This is a list of what’s in my fridge right now:

Hard boiled eggs
Shredded Chinese cabbage
Artichoke hearts, tossed in olive oil and kosher salt, roasted
Homemade guacamole

Sweet potatoes, skin on, tossed in olive oil and kosher salt, roasted
roasted sweet potatoes

Black beans, simmered in chicken broth and dried Ancho peppers
Ancho Mayo
Ancho Mayo
Homemade corn tortillas
If you’ve never made your own corn tortillas you gotta try. They are so easy and full of amazing flavour.
Check out this video
Make up a batch and keep ‘em in the fridge. Throw one in a pan for a minute to warm, then fill.

What do you keep on hand for  gluten /dairy free post workout munching?

It’s a Big Ol’ Smelly World : )

One of my main motives for starting this blog was to share info about living a gluten and dairy lifestyle. My secondary hope was to connect with more people who, like me, suffer from chronic nasal polyps. I am still looking for that piece of my personal puzzle that will allow me to breathe and taste and smell without relying on meds to keep my polyps at bay. Removing gluten and dairy from my diet has been a huge step in the right direction for me. However, my doctor recently put me back on Prednisone to shrink the polyps…again. L

It’s been a while since my introduction to Prednisone. When it was first prescribed for me, it helped a lot and I got my sense of smell back almost immediately… but I think I’ve developed a tolerance for it. The last few times I’ve taken it, it didn’t work as well. The polyps shrank, but not as much and I didn’t get my sense of smell back. I have been worried that the surgeries may have left me with scar tissue or something that might prevent my sense of smell from ever coming back.

So, this time my doctor and I agreed to increase the dose. Now, I’m very careful to listen to my body when I take this drug. I find that there are a number of side effects that surface while I’m on it.

Have you ever looked through a telescope or a pair of binoculars before they were fully in focus? That’s kind of what life feels like to me most days.

When my sinuses are inflamed and full of polyps my sense of smell is gone and my sense of taste is diminished. My ability to hear is affected.  When I sing, I loose half my range because there’s nowhere for the sound to resonate. I put away those songs, just like I  put away a favourite sweater when the weather turns warm.  I compensate for these things by turning up the volume, only singing in my low register and eating intensely flavourful foods.

But when my sinuses clear, it’s like everything comes back into focus. I hear how loud the birds are out side my window at 4:30 in the morning. (Crazy birds!)

When I sing, I get to go back to songs that are like old friends I’ve been missing and I’m able to hit the high notes and hear the harmonies again. I can smell my morning coffee. Very strong =)

But most of all, it’s being able to smell and taste delicate flavours again that bring me tears of absolute joy.

The smell of bananas; the delicate flavour of artichokes that have been slow roasted, the sweetness in a fresh, perfectly hard boiled egg; how amazingly green a sugar snap pea tastes,  the intoxicating aroma of the whole vanilla beans I keep for special recipes and  chocolate, OMG, chocolate!

These are the things I crave and want to be able to enjoy all the time. These smells and flavours are like my drug. When I can smell, I’ll walk around just breathing deeply, trying to enjoy as many smells as I can because I’ve learned that this probably won’t last.

My dinner last night was a plate of simple, delicately flavoured bites;

Artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes and lemon slices, tossed with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, roasted together until the tomatoes became soft and the lemons started to caramelize combined with  torn red leaf lettuce, wedges of hard boiled egg, some blanched sugar snap peas, some finely diced sundried tomato and a little dressing of mayonnaise seasoned with saffron and garlic.


Pssst… I think Spring is here.

I started out trying to write this post in my favourite spot. At my dining room table with my back to the window as the afternoon sun poured in, warm on my back.  I was feeling too fidgety to write. Well maybe not to write but certainly too fidgety to sit there. We’re finally having some warm weather here in The GTA and I thought I’d take advantage of it before the predicted thunderstorms roll in. I decided to go outside.

I think it’s pretty amazing that a week ago, I posted a piece about Mother Nature’s mood swings and now, here I am, sitting on the back deck and there are so many birds chirping it’s noisy! Thanks to the songbird clock I used to keep in my kitchen when my boys were little, I know that the cacophony I’m listening to includes Robins, Cardinals, Canada Geese , at least one woodpecker and, I’m pretty sure a Blue Jay or two. In fact, there’s a rather brave Robin eyeballing me as I sit here typing. I think I must be too close to a particularly wormy patch of garden.


The sun is warm on my face. There is a gentle breeze at my back and I’m getting the first real good look at my backyard since moving here in December 2012.  There are lots of big old trees. Lots of dog walkers. I like this old neighborhood.  It’s pretty and makes me think of planting basil, and tomatoes and marigolds, firing up the barbeque and enjoy a glass of wine while cooking up something yummy.

Whatever I cook, you can be sure there’s some kind of sauce to go with it.

Gluten free Barbeque sauces can be hard to find as so many sauces rely on malt vinegar. Here’s one of my favourite barbeque sauce recipes. It’s a little sweet, a little tangy, a bit smokey, with a wee kick to it. During barbeque season, this sauce never lasts longer than a week in my fridge.  Don’t worry about serving it to the kiddies, the alcohol gets cooked out.  I’ve used it on chicken, beef, pork…veggies, even fruit. It makes an awesome “Hobo Pack”, mixed with potatoes, veggies meat patties (and peaches when they come into season). Feel free to play with the chipotles to suit your tastes.

Dee’s Bourbon BBQ Sauce

1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
4 garlic cloves, minced (2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups ketchup (12 oz)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
½ cup bourbon whiskey
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dry mustard
2-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt & pepper

Cook onion  in oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until  tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30-40 minutes.

Makes about 5 cups.

Mother Nature Hits Menopause?

April is supposed to be spring in southern Ontario.  You know, “April showers bring May flowers” and all that.

But I think Mother Nature missed the memo.

Here in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA for short) we’ve had a long, weird winter. We’ve had big storms followed by above zero temps that melt everything, then back down to frigid temps. Up and down, up and down. We’ve had a very cold, sloppy, long winter. It’s like Jack Frost doesn’t want to loosen his grip.

But spring was starting to take hold. Over the last two weeks you could feel it. The Canadian geese and the song birds are back. Most of the snow had melted away. Last Saturday it was warm enough outside to swap my winter coat for a light jacket. On Tuesday I left the gym after my workout still wearing my shorts and I didn’t freeze. Golf courses are opening up. People have started planning their cottage weekends for the summer.

And me? I’m shopping for a new barbeque to kick off the new season.

Then today, my local weather report tells me that there is a “winter storm watch that will include heavy freezing rain and ice pellets, temperatures hovering around freezing, accumulation of 4-5 cm, followed by more of the same tomorrow but with temperatures around 8°C”.  Really?

As a forty-something female, I’m very much aware of the changes my body will soon go through as I approach “the change of life”.

Two well know symptoms of the approach of menopause: hot flashes and mood swings.
Hmmm…Mama Nature has definitely got that.
With the crazy temperature shifts come colds.  It seems like there has been at least one person in my family with the sniffles at any given time this winter. I know I’ve been fighting something for few weeks.
The best way I know to help fight off a cold is to eat some homemade soup.

I think I’ve made more pots of soup this winter than I can count. My current “go-to, make everyone better recipe” is full of white beans and veggies. It’s an easy going kind of thing that comes together quick and can be modified to suit what’s in your fridge or pantry. I’m on a Cannellini bean “kick” lately, so they’re in the soup too but feel free to sub in potatoes or your favourite gluten free pasta.  For a vegetarian option, swap the chicken stock for your favourite vegetable broth and omit the chorizo.

Here’s hoping Spring will come back to us  soon.

Vegetable Bean Soup with Chorizo

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 ½ oz (100g) Spanish Chorizo sausage, diced

1 large Spanish onion, diced

1 medium fennel bulb, tops removed, diced

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 medium zucchini, diced

2 large carrots diced

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

14 oz (398mL) can of diced tomatoes

8 cups chicken stock or broth

14oz can Cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained

4 cups kale, stems removed, chopped

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add Chorizo, cook 3-4 minutes, letting the sausage flavour the pan. Add onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes. The Chorizo juices will colour the onions while they cook. Add fennel, carrots, zucchini and garlic; continue to sauté 3-4 minutes or until the veggies have softened. Add the smoked paprika, sauté for 1 minute to release the flavour. Add tomatoes and chicken stock; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Add beans and kale. Cook until vegetables are tender, kale is wilted and soup is slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8