Monday, January 28, 2008

Meal/Menu Planning

A new feature I've been using for all sorts of things is google documents. It particularly helps me with the arduous task of weekly menu planning. Menu planning is a must in our household, since we can't just drop everything and go eat out anytime we feel like it (allergies, kids, money, etc.). Even though I spend 1-2 hours every Saturday on menu planning, I have to believe it also saves time and money. It helps me use up what I have on hand and plan for the groceries I need. I never have to stop and think, "what will we have for dinner tonight?" My husband can also access the spreadsheet from work if he's curious.

While I don't plan everything - and sometimes I plan too much - at least I have a road map for the week, knowing that it can change spontaneously.

Here's my approach to menu planning:
(1) Make a list of what you have in the refrigerator/freezer/pantry you want to use up.
(2) Pick out 1-2 new recipes you want to try during the week.
(3) Make a list of the foods your family eats/can eat on a regular basis - dividing into vegetables (we do "starchy and non-starchy" from the Schwarzbein Principle), fruits, meats, and grains.
(4) Try to rotate the meals you eat on about a three-four day basis if possible (we have not been following a strict rotation diet, but I think it's still a good idea).
(5) Fill out a spreadsheet for the week (alternatively, I make one spreadsheet and list several options for a given meal, using the basic meal plan for several weeks. This also allows you to also make an impulse decision with some basic suggestions (i.e. quinoa pancakes or quinoa flakes?). You also don't have to start from scratch every week.
(6) Make your grocery list.
(7) Go shopping.

This is what one of our weekly meal plans looks like.

An Excellent Whole Foods Cookbook

My mom sent me an excellent whole-foods cookbook with lots of everyday, easy-to-prep recipes. While not allergy free and it does include refined sugar, I am able to use my list of substitutions and make most recipes in this book. The cookbook is from the "everyday food" magazine related to Martha Stewart Living and is called "Great Food Fast: 250 recipes for easy, delicious meals all year long". They are all wonderful "whole-foods" recipes (you will never see the ingredient 1 can cream of mushroom soup!)

So far I've made the Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce, Carrot Soup, Lentil Soup, Crispy Apricot Pork Chops and Salmon Steaks with Hoisin Glaze. The enchiladas were great because they were made with corn tortillas (I made my own out of yellow corn masa flour) and canned pumpkin puree instead of wheat and tomatoes. The recipe called for chicken, but we had shredded roast port tenderloin since my husband is allergic to chicken, and white sharp cheddar cheese (which I substituted soy cheese for my husband and regular cheese for my daughter).

The carrot soup was very creamy and sweet (no sugar, only the sweetness of the carrots and mild curry) - my kids could not eat enough. I substituted my vegetable broth for the chicken broth. I made the crispy apricot pork chops, not with breadcrumbs, but with Ryvita rye crackers and they also turned out well. Since I don't like fish, I used the hoisin glaze on my chicken and just left my daughter's chicken without the sauce. Instead of buying a packaged hoisin sauce, it was just as easy to find a recipe online - but it included soy and peanut butter.

If you're stuck on meal planning and need some new ideas to make whole-foods fast, try this book. A nice feature is that it is arranged by season!

Thai Mango Sticky Rice w/ Purple Potato

Having allergies makes you branch out to different cultures/styles of cooking to find foods you can eat. This was my first time making sweet, "sticky" rice. Also, it was my first time cooking "purple potatoes." I had them in sweet rice once in a Thai restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI and I finally found them at A. Russo's in Watertown, MA. I followed the directions on the package of sweet rice for steaming the rice in cheesecloth, and I also made some in the rice cooker. I thought the steamed rice turned out better; it was soft but still intact...whereas the rice in the rice cooker came out almost like a pudding. Maybe I used too much water. Anyway, if I made it again I would steam the rice.

Here are the directions:
Soak 1 cup of sweet rice in in water overnight. Drain. Spread sweet rice in thin, even layer in steam rack lined with cheesecloth. Steam covered, over rapidly boiling water 25 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with salt, steam 20-25 minutes more.

In a saucepan, warm 1/2 can coconut milk, 2-3 T. maple syrup, pinch of salt, and 1/2 t. vanilla. Add 1 t. arrowroot powder dissolved in 2 T. of water. As it thickens, turned heat to low and cook about 3 minutes.

I baked the potatoes and chopped them into cubes. Put cooked rice, potatoes, and cut-up mango in a bowl. Ladle hot coconut milk sauce over and enjoy! If you want the potatoes sweeter, maybe soak them in the coconut sauce longer. I've also seen this made with black-eye peas. I love that vegetables/beans are included even in dessert!

Monday, January 21, 2008

How can I get my kids to eat vegetables?

"Mommy, more carrots and some of that new special sauce please." These were the glorious words uttered out of the mouth of my 3-year old at dinner tonight. And all it took was a little homemade cucumber-ranch dressing from an old Martha Stewart Living magazine.

Lately I've been really into dips, recalling a Pampered Chef party I once went to where another mother quoted her daughter saying "no Mommy, I dip". Kids seem to have a fascination with brightly colored or milky white sauces and cute little dipping bowls.

So, here are my dip can use whatever you like from crackers to carrots (or whatever you're trying to get your kids to eat) as the "dippers". I've included the dairy dips too in case your child can tolerate daughter can have dairy and eggs, but tried some commercial ranch dressing when we painfully realized it had soy in it.

(1) Guacamole - there are recipes out there that are as simple as mashed avocados and lime juice to the full-fledged spicy version
(2) Hummus - a chickpea and garlic spread
(3) Roasted vegetable spread - eggplant or red pepper
(4) Pesto - any herb pureed with olive oil, cheese and nuts optional
(5) Salad dressings - we are partial to the carrot-ginger dressing in "The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook" by Cybele Pascal, and also Martha Stewart vinaigrettes
(6) Cybele Pascal has an allergy-free recipe for "avocado mayonnaise" similar I think to guacamole
(7) Plain sesame tahini, mixed with a little water or rice milk to make it into a dip

The dairy ones:
(1) homemade ranch
(2) yogurt dips
(3) spinach dips
(4) cheese dips

Quick Easy Breakfast Ideas

Even though I am a stay-at-home mom, time is short around our house too. I still try to fit in time to make allergy-free pancakes or a balanced breakfast meal (we try to make it the most important meal of the day). Here are some suggestions to make breakfast easier:

Try to make breakfast the night before:
-mix up a gluten-free pancake or muffin mix, combining all the dry ingredients and putting them in a plastic bag. Then you just have to add the wet ingredients. Get a large 2 burner griddle so you can cook a lot at once.
-make swiss oats (oats soaked overnight with rice milk or regular milk/water, honey if you want), then add dried fruit/nuts/sunflower or pumpkin seeds in the a.m. Bob's Red Mill makes a new GF rolled oats
-how about granola made the night before?
-Muesli made the night before (make your own with GF rolled oats, dried fruit, sunflower or pumpkin seeds)
-A fresh vegetable "salad" like fresh chopped zucchini, summer squash, and chickpeas with a little flax seed oil and lemon juice is also a good option to make ahead at night and keep in the fridge until the a.m. Also, coleslaw, a cold rice or quinoa salad with fresh vegetables are other good options (see the "Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook") You can pack these salads for lunches too.

Fast morning ideas:
-try Bob's Red Mill Mighty Tasty GF Hot Breakfast Cereal - it's like quick-cooking Cream of Wheat (without the gluten). Arrowhead Mills also makes "Rice n' Shine" another quick-cooking hot rice cereal. Cream of buckwheat is good too.
-A few frozen vegetables steamed in the micro or on the stovetop for 5 min. is a great way to start the day (broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peas) If it's hard to get your kids to eat fresh or steamed veggies, try a wide variety of sauces/dips - hummus, a roasted red pepper or eggplant spread, homemade yogurt sauces if your kids can have milk, homemade dressings or can stock your fridge with these sauces/dips ahead of time.

Try menu planning for the week or even for a few days so you don't waste time getting up wondering what you can cook or if you have the ingredients on hand.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kid's Stir-fried Rice (no soy necessary, but I did use eggs)

The kids needed something fast and nutritionally decent one day, so I decided to make them stir-fried rice. They loved it!

1 crown fresh broccoli, broken into bite-size pieces
2 carrots, shredded or grated
3 scallions, chopped
2 cups of cooked brown rice
3-4 T. sunflower oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten (or you could use silken tofu with tumeric)
1 T. sesame seeds

In a wok, stir-fry broccoli in sunflower oil until soft enough for kids to eat (or crunchy if you like). Add carrots, scallions, and rice. Stir-fry a few minutes until hot. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Note: I recently read that a lot of the proteins people are generally allergic to are found in the whites, not the yolks. My husband, who can't tolerate eggs, has just started eating the nutrient-rich yolks without any adverse effects. Slightly scramble the eggs, when they are no longer runny stir them into the rest of the rice/vegetable mixture. Then make another well in the center and add the sesame seeds. When they are toasted (a few seconds), stir them into the rest of the dish. You can put wheat-free tamari soy sauce on if you can tolerate soy, or my daughter had hers with a little white-wine vinaigrette.

Vinaigrette (from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food cookbook):
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1 T. dijon mustard
sugar (I used a little honey)
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Food Allergy Substitutions

Food Allergy Substitutions

Butter - Cow's milk

Dairy Cream/Evaporated Milk

  • Goat's milk yogurt
  • Cow's milk yogurt (some people allergic to dairy can still have yogurt, where all the lactose has been "digested" by bacteria)

  • Tofutti Sour Cream (soy)

  • For creamy vegetable soups try mixing a little more oat flour, or other allowed flour, with rice or allowed "milk"

  • Whipped Cream - try Tofutti Cream Cheese (soy) or Whipped Coconut Cream
  • Coconut Cream (an unshaken can of coconut will have cream on the top)

Milk - Cow's

  • Rice Milk

  • Nut or Grain Milk - oat, almond, hazelnut

  • Soy Milk
  • Coconut Milk
  • For some muffins, breads, or pancakes, you can just use any kind of fruit juice you like or water for the liquid

  • 1 T lemon juice or vinegar plus enough allowed milk to make 1 cup.  Let stand 5 minutes before using.

All-Purpose Flour

  • Arrowhead Mills Flours - Barley, Oat, Rye, Spelt, Rice, Buckwheat, Millet, Corn etc.

  • Yellow-Corn Masa Flour for tortillas

  • Bob's Red Mill Flours - Tapioca, Potato, Garbanzo Bean, etc.
  • Cornstarch, arrowroot powder, kudzu root starch - all good thickeners, but you can use 2 T. allowed flour to substitute 1 T. of cornstarch


  • Chicken <=> Pork <=> Turkey <=> Duck

  • Beef <=> Ground Buffalo/Bison <=> Lamb <=> Venison <=> Bean Burgers

  • Fish <=> Chicken

  • Chicken Broth <=> Beef Broth <=> Vegetable Broth <=> Seafood Broth


  • Crushed Cereal flakes - oat, kamut, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, etc.

  • Any of the above substitutes for all-purpose flour, cornmeal (for coating meat before frying)

  • Make your own yeast-free quickbread bread using any of the above flours

  • Sourdough bread using wheat-free flour (if you can tolerate it)
  • Crushed crackers - Ryvita (if you're allergic to wheat), rice crackers, or your own homemade crackers from any flour

Eggs - for baking

  • Ener-G-Egg Replacer

  • 1 T. baking powder + 2 T. liquid (note: egg free baking powder can be made with 1 part baking soda, 2 parts cream of tartar, 1 part cornstarch)

  • 2 T. flour + 1/2 T. baking powder + 2 T. liquid.

  • for recipes that call for 2 t. baking powder or 1 1/2 t. baking soda, replace egg with 1 T. vinegar

Eggs - For coating breaded meat or fish/meatballs, etc.

  • 1/2 c water and 3-4 t. brown flaxseeds - boil in a small saucepan and simmer 5-7 min until a gel begins to form.  Strain and discard seeds.

  • 1/3 c water + 1 T. arrowroot powder + 2 t. guar gum

  • 2 oz tofu

Eggs - used as a liquid

  • 1/3 cup apple juice

  • 4 T. pureed apricot or applesauce

  • 1 T. vinegar


  • Honey

  • Molasses

  • Date Sugar

  • Maple Syrup or Maple Sugar

  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Corn Syrup can be replaced with Brown Rice Syrup
  • Fruit Juice thickened with arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • Maple Syrup on pancakes can be replaced with Brown Rice Syrup mixed with some frozen fruit (blueberries, black or red raspberries, strawberries or peaches) and heated on the stove for a few minutes to make a fruit syrup

Soy Sauce

  • Salt

  • Vinaigrette salad dressing - like mustard/white wine/olive oil, or anything else

  • Thai fish sauce

Tomatoes - Sauce

  • can of pumpkin puree with garlic - can add spices like paprika, sumac, chili powder for color

  • canned, frozen, or fresh baked winter squash pureed with lemon juice and red pepper

  • sweet potato puree

  • turnip puree or add some beets for color

Tomatoes - Fresh

  • red peppers, with or without lemon juice

Baking Powder
  • 1 t. baking powder = 1/2 t. cream of tartar + 1/4 t. baking soda
Vinegar & Condiments containing Vinegar
  • mustard (vinegar) with mustard powder mixed with water or wasabi mixed with water (only use a pinch)
  • pesto
  • lemon/lime juice
  • 1/4 t. unbuffered vitamin C powder mixed with about 2 T. water
  • pineapple or orange juice
Gluten (Wheat)
  • Vegan and Gluten-Free Rice Protein Powder
  • Xanthan Gum (about 1/2 t. in each recipe made with G-F flours
Pasta (Wheat)
  • quinoa, brown rice pasta
  • buckwheat soba noodles (like fettucini)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Vegan Carrot Cake

Food is so social. We've been having lots of birthday parties lately, and of course, everyone HAS to have CAKE! It's difficult when you have multiple food allergies in social situations - like the donut breakfast at work, friend's birthday party, a wedding dinner, ordering in restaurants, etc., etc. How do you explain to your co-workers/host that you can't eat what they offer to you? I tell my husband to just say that he's vegan (he can't eat eggs, dairy or most "normal" animal products like beef, turkey or chicken). I mean no offense to all the vegans out there - you have made such great strides as a movement that being vegan is no longer viewed as strange. Being vegan/vegetarian just seems much more accepted and it's something people can generally understand. When my husband tells people he can't have this or that because he's allergic, you see the wonder in their eyes and their brains working to try to explain it. Couldn't you just have a little bit? Who ever heard of someone who couldn't eat tomatoes?

Anyway, I was lucky enough to receive "Vegan with a Vengeance" for Christmas - thank you Gail! The first recipe I tried was awesome - it was the Ginger - Macadamia - Coconut - Carrot Cake. I left out the macadamia nuts and spices on half for my kids. The only criticism I have is that it uses refined sugar (3/4 cup) and powdered sugar in the frosting. I guess you sometimes have to give in somewhere. Next time I would like to try to substitute a finely ground date sugar or maple sugar.

New Pizza Crust Idea

It's been 6 months since I made pizza. For some strange reason, my kids will never eat it - even with tomatoes and cheese (which they can have). Anyway, my husband and I had a pizza craving...maybe because we'd been snowed in for so long. So we indulged.

I published a pizza post last July, so the recipe didn't change much. But the big revolution was in the crust. I tried GARBANZO BEAN FLOUR! It made a great crust combined with quinoa flour, and hopefully made the pizza even more nutritious. Toppings this round were: pesto, ham, black olives, green peppers, artichoke hearts, and onions.