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!

My Unconventional Love

Daily Prompt: Unconventional Love

Over the weekend, we explored different ways to love. Today, tell us about the most unconventional love in your life.”

What is unconventional love?

Hmmm before I can answer that, I need to define what conventional love is.

The Greeks have four words for describing love: affection, friendship, eros, and charity.

Affection– I think this is kind of like what you feel for your third cousin on your father’s side that you get along with or the fellow commuter you chat with everyday.

Friendship– We all know what this is. It’s the love you have for your best bud, the pal who has been with you through good and bad. They have your back and you have theirs and if you ever need to make an emergency call to someone, it’ll be this person.

Eros– Ah, romantic love. We’ve all had a Sweetie at some point in our lives….

Charity-The unconditional love you have for your child or for those in need.

If I base my idea of conventional love on the above definitions, then for love to be unconventional, it has to be something other than affectionate, friendly, romantic or charitable.

I think my love for cooking falls into the unconventional category.

Oh, I know we all have a need for sustenance and for most of us, preparing our food is a necessity. In fact, I know of several people who think of food as just a source of fuel to get them through the day. I also know folks who regard cooking a meal as “just another chore that needs to be done”. That’s not what I’m referring to here.

I really do mean I love cooking. I’m almost always cooking. My regular job is chef at a daycare, so from Mon-Fri, you’ll find me sneaking extra veggies into everything from pasta sauce to Sloppy Joes and adding extra protein and whole grains into muffins and cookies. When I’m not actually in a kitchen, I’m usually thinking about it. I’m constantly learning new techniques and skills. I am forever expanding my knowledge of different ingredients and cuisines. I love thinking about what would “go well with” this or that ingredient and I take great pleasure in passing along what I know about food and cooking to other people. Like you!

Dyson and the Omelet

There was a time, not so long ago, when my typical weekend mornings involved preparing a big breakfast of fresh fruit salad, bacon, sausages and freshly made waffles (gluten and dairy free, of course) to feed my hungry gang. My kids were fairly early risers. The youngest would trundle, down to the kitchen, still looking sleepy, around 7 in the morning. Then one by one, the others would drift down by about 10, just in time to help set the table. That was before my children started hitting their teen years.

Over the last few years, breakfast slowly turned into early brunch, served by about 11am to accommodate the sleepy-heads. When early brunch morphed into late brunch that didn’t finish until after 1 in the afternoon, I stopped cooking for the masses on weekend morning for fear I’d never leave the kitchen. :S

The current routine around my home on weekend mornings is that everyone fends for themselves for breakfast and /or lunch. I just provide plenty of options.

One Sunday morning few weeks back, I was sitting in my kitchen, enjoying a rice & coconut milk cappuccino when my 16 yr old son, Dyson asked if he could make himself an omelet for breakfast.

(Now, I have, on occasion, been told that I tend to behave a tad bit possessive about my kitchen. I’m not fully convinced but I am trying to be more aware of my behavior…)

I quickly told to myself that my first born was probably going to be leaving the nest sooner rather than later and I want to make sure he has enough confidence in the kitchen that he’ll be able to eat well. I figured, if I played my cards right, this could be a great teaching/bonding opportunity. In my most easy going mom voice, I said “Sure!”

Dyson began rummaging through the fridge and came up with a carton of eggs, several containers holding a cornucopia of leftovers, a box of fresh mushrooms and a massive hunk of cheese. (Not everyone in my family needs to follow a gluten & dairy free diet. I’m the only one, which comes with a learning curve about cross contamination for everyone in my house. I’ll write a post about this soon!)

I just sat back, watched, waited and enjoyed my cappuccino. I didn’t have to wait long before the conversation to begin..

Dyson: “Can I use these onions?”
Me: “Sure”
Dyson: “What about the peppers and zucchini?”
Me: “Yep.”
Dyson: “Mushrooms?”
Me: “Go for it!” I know my kids all have pretty mature palates so by this time I was intrigued.
“What ‘cha makin’?”I said.
Dyson: “There’s this diner that makes this thing called a “Roman Omelet”. It’s pretty good.”
Me: Not wanting to seem too enthusiastic, I said “Cool”.

Dyson continued to poke around in the fridge. A left over mild Italian sausage and a bit of marinara sauce was added to the growing bevy of omelet fixin’s. I watched, proudly as Dyson’s mis-en-place took shape.

Me: “How does this all go together?”
Dyson: “I want to cook the mushrooms. Then I want to put all this stuff in the omelet.”
Me: “Sounds great. Feel free to be generous with the mushrooms, I bought extra.”
Dyson aka “The Mushroom Fan”: “Excellent.”

I watched while my son rummaged for a pan. He went for the cute heavy, orange enamel covered cast iron, a great little pan, but way too small for what he had in mind. I know my kids hate to be micro managed, so I had to tread delicately.

Me: “You gonna cook a bunch of mushrooms?”
Dyson:”Of course.”
Me: “I’d go for the big nonstick, they’ll sauté better if they’re not crowded. Let it get nice and hot before you add some oil.”
Dyson: “I’m gonna use butter.”
Me: “Ok, but add some olive oil to raise the smoking point so the butter won’t burn.” I could tell I was appealing to my son’s love of chemistry. “Then sauté them until they squeak. They’ll release their liquid and it’ll cook off so they won’t make your omelet soggy.”
Dyson: “Cool. Thanks.”

I continued to watch as Dyson swapped the pan and put it on the stove and fired up the burner. He proceeded to cook the ‘shrooms (exclaiming that they really do squeak-he thought I was joking). When they were done, he looked at me and asked “now what?”

Me: “grab a bowl to hold the mushrooms. Add all your other filling ingredients, except the cheese to the bowl so the heat of the mushrooms will take the chill off the other stuff and the omelet won’t take long to heat through. Then you can scramble your eggs in another bowl. When you’re ready to add the filling to the omelet, put the cheese down first to let it melt, then add the rest.”
Dyson: “Oh, ok.”

I watched with pride as my first born put together an omelet that looked worthy of any diner menu.
I sipped my cappuccino and thought, he’s gonna do just fine.

The Beginning, Part 3

This is the last of my 3 part story of how I got here. If you have read the previous two chapters, thanks for coming back.

Breathing is even better when you don’t have strange blobs growing in your nose.
Gross eh? Yep, but it’s true.

So…why am I still on a quest? My polyps came back! Three months after my first surgery, I was back on prednisone. I’ve been through several prescriptions to reduce the size of the polyps. Sometimes, it helps but mostly it just slows them down. In May of 2011 I had a second surgery to remove more polyps. Six weeks later, they were back again.  Something had to change.

Now by the time I had my second surgery, I was in a relationship with a wonderful man, who introduced me to a friend who is a nutritionist, specializing in people dealing with food allergies and intolerances. She suggested my sinus issues may be food related. After some education and some convincing, I went gluten and dairy free. I figured I had nothing to loose except my sanity.  Although, some say I never had any to begin with. ; )

At first I thought, this won’t be so bad…I’ll just switch over to gluten free bread and use margarine and I’ll be good…..Man was I wrong! Did you know that gluten and dairy are in practically everything? Well, maybe not everything. If it’s a processed, pre-packaged, ready made food, chances are it’s full of gluten or dairy, or both.

I had already been in consultation with a friend who is also a nutritionist and I did get some advice on what not to eat as well as a few brand names to look for in the grocery store.  However, I’d always loved flipping though my collection of cookbooks and cooking magazines for inspiration, so off I went to Chapters.

The first book that gave me hope of being a happy eater once again was “Cooking for Isaiah”, by Silvana Nardone.  All the recipes in the book looked everyday easy, made my mouth water and best of all each recipe was completely gluten and dairy free. I thought, well if this is what I have to eat, I can do this!

Since then, I’ve been testing and converting of my own recipes along with the several books, blogs, and other resources, full of gluten and dairy free recipes I’ve found to inspire me in the kitchen.

My nose is still a little stuffy, but much, much better these days. I’m still battling polyps and searching for the piece in my puzzle that will keep them from returning. But my asthma is more manageable and I’m much less congested. : )

Now it’s my turn to help….If any of this sounds familiar to you, I’d love to hear from you.

In the up coming posts I’ll be sharing info about my attempts at living a  balanced, healthy, gluten and dairy free lifestyle.