Author Archives: Gluten Free Gal Lizzie
A quick online search will lead you to about a million and a half different ways of toasting coconut. Since we often want to incorporate this into our meals, I really wanted to learn how to do it properly. Well, I tried quite a few of the methods I found online and found that none of them worked to my satisfaction. So, through some trial and error, I was able to come up with my own way of doing it and it works great. I wanted to share this with you guys so you don’t have to go through all the mistakes and mess that I did.
First, you are going to make sure you prep your coconut. Once you have cracked the coconut and have pulled away the meat, get out your old fashioned kitchen grater. You know, that bulky metal thing that always happened to just be in the kitchen? It always looked so scary to me as a kid, but I love how many things I can use it for now! But, back to business… Take your chunks of coconut and start grating them on the grater. Tip: Only grate as much as you’ll need for your recipe and maybe a bit extra for snacking later… coconut keeps longer in larger chunks than after it has been grated.
Once you have your small pieces of grated coconut, you’ll have to decide how toasted you want it. It really depends on your preferences and what kind of crunch you want it to have. If you are mixing in the coconut, or prefer slightly less crunchy toasted coconut, then use the frying pan method.
To do this, take a medium sized frying pan and spread your coconut out in a single layer. Turn your heat to high. As soon as you see the coconut begin to tan (about a minute), turn your heat down to medium low and stir the coconut around while continuing to toast until it reaches desired color/texture. Note: this method does not toast coconut evenly, so I would not recommend this method where the presentation of the toasted coconut will be visible. The advantage to this method, is you get the great coconut flavor without tons of crunch as soon of the coconut stays a bit on the softer side. This is great for those who have issues with texture differences.
However, if you are looking for either more crunchy or more uniformly toasted coconut, use the oven method.
To do this, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread your coconut in an even layer on a cookie sheet and place into the oven. Let it roast for about 5-7 minutes and give it a good shake and stir to ensure even toasting. Continue toasting until desired level of color and crunch is achieved.
Store your toasted coconut in an air tight container. If you happen to have any left that is! I hope this helps out those who are looking for a better way to toast their own.
If you haven’t tried toasted coconut, I highly recommend it! Its a great addition to salads, main dishes, and desserts. Its also great to have on hand as a quick snack!
Making the Switch to Paleo!!
As you know, we are gluten free. We have been for awhile now, due to necessity. However, we still have not seen the health improvements that we were hoping. Bear still had an enlarged lymph node in his neck that he has had for years, and Bee was still very moody and bloated. No matter what we did, we could not get the weight off of Bee and onto Bear.
So, I started doing more research. About health, about nutrition, about our history as humans, and about how our eating practices have evolved over time. All of this information, lead me to the Paleo diet.
For those of you that do not know, the Paleo diet mimics the way our ancestors ate thousands of years ago. The diet is simple really. Its all whole foods, fresh, not processed. There are no grains, no corn ( its actually a grain!), no peanuts or other legumes, no processed sugars or added sugars, no dairy ( with the exception of the grass fed butter). Its a diet high in proteins and good fats. For those of you that would like to know more, please let me know. I can get you pointed in the right direction
While it is not hard to follow, as far as knowing what is okay to eat and not okay to eat, there are some more challenging aspects of this type of lifestyle. There is a lot more time put into meal planning and preparation. This is because everything we eat is fresh. Nothing comes out of a package. So, this means making sure that we have enough veggies, seeds, and nuts. This means taking the time to make extra portions at dinner so that we can use them as a base for our lunches the next day. And, because our local farmers market does not open until June, this means lots of regular trips to the grocery store.
However, all of the new challenges that we have faced have been nothing compared to all of the benefits we are already seeing, and it has not even been a full 30 days yet! Bear’s lymph node has almost completely gone back down to normal. None of us are bloated anymore. Bee is visibly thinner. Our skin and hair is noticeably healthier. The kids both have much better moods and sleep much better. I’ve lost 6 pounds. Not to mention all of the fun we have preparing the food we eat. For me, cooking had previously become a chore, and we were stuck in so many ruts, eating the same types of things over and over and over. But with Paleo, we all get involved. We chose foods together at the store, and have a great time discovering new foods at small local stores. We have had a great time experimenting with new flavors and textures ( one of the latest was masked sweet potatoes with toasted coconut…try them, you will NOT be disappointed!). We do not have to fight as much to get Bear to eat. We all just FEEL better. Not to mention that it has really helped my husband and I become even closer.
It feels so good to know that we our nourishing ourselves and our children with healthy, whole, fresh foods. We are also much more adept at handling our stress. We now participate in exercise as a family, and have the ability to give ourselves alone time without feeling guilty. This has been the most positive lifestyle change that we have ever made, and my only regret is that we did not do it sooner.
I am going to be starting to experiment with some new Paleo recipes soon. Look for new ideas coming soon. And please, if there is something that you would like to see Paleofied, let me know and I will do my best to make it happen!
Bonus: The right kind of bacon (uncured, minimally processed, nitrate free, etc) is totally okay with this lifestyle!! Now, what can be better than that??
Lizzie’s Wordless Wednesday
Well, I know that its a bit late, but first I would love to extend my Happy Mother’s Day wishes to all out there. Whether you have had kids of your own, adopted, having issues with fertility, helping raise other kids, have kids that have their angel wings, or are a Dad doing it on your own ( yes you count as mama too!!) you are doing a wonderful job!! Don’t ever take yourself for granted, and I sincerely hope that you were able to enjoy some special “just for you” time yesterday.
We had a great, but busy day. I woke up to handmade cards from my littles, who were very proud of writing their names, this time without Daddy’s help. They also told him they wanted me to have flowers! They also know how much I love my coffee. They could not be happier when they lead me into the kitchen to see my vase of beautiful flowers and a great big iced coffee right in front. Who would have thought a 3 and 4 year old could be so perceptive? Every little thing they do just makes my love grow even more.
When then got a chance to go out by my mom’s. Again, my littles had a great time. They got to see everyone and play with their little cousin and the dogs my mom has, which the kids lovingly refer to as “puppies”. We then got to come back home for a bit, and everyone got to nap before we headed over to my mom in laws for a quick bbq.
All in all it was a great day, and I loved being able to spend some much needed time with all of our family.
Hope that you guys got a chance to make your weekend special. And remember, every day that you get to spend with those you love is a special occasion!!!!
The Never Ending Skin War….
My kids tend to have a slew of issues with their skin, as does my husband. Mine is sensitive as well. When my husband and I were dating, he had mentioned that he breaks out in these little red dots if he uses the wrong detergent. So he explained to me how he would find a detergent and fabric softener combo that would work for a while, and then they would come back and he would have to find something else.
Over the years, we have gotten used to lots of things. Then, when we had the kids, we noticed the same thing, even with us using the specially formulated baby detergent. So, we had to play the game all over again.
Unfortunately, no one has ever been able to pinpoint what causes these little rashes, usually localized to their upper arms. So, we just deal with it the best we can.
You can imagine how elated I was when we had finally come across a combination of things that worked. And it was something we have been successfully using for the last few years…. YEARS!! And just when I let myself start thinking, “wow, I think we have finally figured this out”….BOOM! The rashes were back.
So, we went back to scouring the supermarkets and health food stores to try to see what we could come up with. When I say that we have tried everything, I literally mean everything…..we have made our own, used vinegar, used essential oils, used commercial products…. and every combination of those things. And we spent days looking for something new, all the while the laundry kept piling up.
That’s when I had decided I had enough guessing and called my naturopath. He knows our history and everything that we have tried. I asked him to recommend something new for us to try. That is when he mentioned All Free and Clear. He asked us if we had ever tried it, and I was surprised when I checked our list (yes I keep a list) and found that we hadn’t. So, we went out to get some and while we were at the store, also came across Downey Free and Sensitive Fabric Softener. We bought that as well, since we had not tried that one either. Imagine, both these things right under our noses and how stupid we felt that we had never noticed them!
We began using them just a bit ago and so far so good (knock on wood for me though, would ya?)! I am hoping that for now, we at least have this at bay.
If anyone else has had any experiences with this, I would love for you to share them with me!
Need A Quick Breakfast?? Look to these awesome muffins from Udi’s!
**Disclaimer: Udi’s provided me with these muffins free of charge in exchange for providing you with ideas on how to use their products. All ideas are my own and I have not been financially compensated**
So I know I’m not the only one with kids. And I also know I’m not the only one who has hectic mornings with those kids. Half the time we are lucky to get out the door on time with a quick snack, let alone have a decent breakfast. So I’m always on the lookout for something that will help us out in the morning.
That’s where these great muffins from Udi’s come in.
Now, they are pretty awesome on their own but…
I always need to feel like I participated in putting meals together so I do this…
Take that can of cranberries and toss it in a saucepan over low heat and stir. Let it break down and cook down a bit until it becomes warm and thick. I promise this doesn’t take long! Right before its ready, wrap those muffins in a damp paper towel and pop in the microwave for a few seconds. Definitely helps you get that fresh homemade feel. Then break the muffin in half if you have littles like I do (or keep it whole for yourself!). Drizzle a bit of that warm cranberry amazingness over those nice warm muffins and watch everyone happily dig in.
There’s one morning crisis solved! Now on to the next….getting them to dress in clothes that match! Wish me luck!
Getting Ready For The Nice Weather
YAAAAAAYYYYYY!!! Awesome weather is back… again. And this time it seems like it wants to stay around. We are already planning on all of the awesome things we can do. It helps the kids get excited and be motivated to spend more time outside, and it also helps me make a nice little mental list of all the new things we will need and all of the things I need to be prepared for.
So, I would like to share with you, a quick little run down of how we prepare for summer, and hopefully it will make your summer a bit easier too.
First, we all know that the return of summer brings the return of sun, and sunburn. Over here we are all almost clear, so we are huge fans of sunblock. As in industrial strength SPF as high as it can possibly be, reapplied every hour sunblock. We use Coppertone WaterBabies SPF 100+ ( see? I wasn’t kidding). Make sure to do your research and verify that the brand you are using is gluten free.
Second, with nice weather come the bugs. Not only the pretty and interesting ones, but those nasty, biting, stingy ones. Don’t forget to make sure you are using some form of protection against those little brats. Slice a lime and push some cloves in it, it helps keep the biting insects away. Also, if you prefer to wear your protection, find a natural based safe alternative. Gluten can hide in bug sprays too. I have a friend that makes ours. You can also make your own, if you are so inclined.
Third, what would nice weather be without cook outs and get togethers? Word of warning…those grills…cross contamination issue!!! While it may not be for some, for those that are very sensitive, it can be a source of concern. So, how to remedy that? We went and bought one of those table top charcoal grills. They are pretty inexpensive and easy to transport. Any grill party that we go to we just toss it in the trunk and we are good to go. This way, we know that there is no way bread or gluten containing meats or what have you have been near it, and we still get to have all the yummy grilled food.
And who can forget about all the great carnivals, festivals and street fairs that happen while the weather is at its best? So… what’s the best way to navigate those potential gluten havens? First, look for information about the fest. More often than not, if community restaurants are going to be present at the fest, it will be listed on the flier or other paper work advertising the event. You can then call the different places and find out what will be served and how it’s prepared to make your safe list. If you do not see places listed, call the city or village where the event is being held. They can give you more information about the type of vendors that will be showcased. If you find out that there will be no safe options while you are there, pack yourself a nice picnic lunch and bring it along. There are a lot of great fair type foods that you can make gluten free. Look for a post containing some of those great recipes coming soon.
This is the basic way that I try to plan out our summer, and some of the tips that I have found to make our lives easier and more manageable. Hopefully this has helped some of you. I welcome your tips as well. And don’t forget to let me know if any of these help you out!
I can’t help but to be frustrated right now. I have several friends that have children that are similar in age to my kids. And of course, my kids love getting together and being able to play. Recently, we had some time to spend with a friend who I have not seen in a very long time and her three little ones. We had a great time. But…..
She knows that my kids are eating gluten free. She knows that it is because of an issue they both medically have. She knows how much I struggle trying to make my kids feel like they fit in.
When she invited us over, she mentioned that we should come for lunch. I began to explain to her my hesitation…and went down the whole list. The foods contents, the cross contamination issues, etc. She still insisted. I offered to bring our own food, that I knew would be okay. I even offered to bring enough for everyone to share. She still insisted everything would be fine. But, if this lifestyle has taught me anything its to be prepared, so I brought food anyway.
And its really a good thing that I did! We got there, and the kids played for awhile, which was awesome. But then I noticed that she had thrown in a pizza. I knew immediately that it was not going to be anything safe for my kids. So, I asked her. I wanted to know why she was making a pizza when she had offered to provide a safe lunch. She then said, well it is a favorite of the kids, so I was going to give them that, and I have salad and fruits and veggies for your kids. I was appalled.
I, luckily, brought a nice hearty lunch for the kids. But, still not the point. She knows that I do everything I can to NOT alienate my kids. Sorry, but eating something that they can not have right in front of them is awful. To top it all off, she even offered me the pizza. I remained calm during the whole thing, but shortly after lunch my kids were getting tired and had asked to leave. I was more than happy to oblige.
While I did take the time to explain my frustrations to her, I still can not help but to be upset to this day. Please do not take medical issues, especially those revolving around kids, lightly. It is hard enough for the kids to feel like they fit in, try not to make it any harder.
Lizzie’s Gluten Free Cinco de Mayo
Annie’s post inspired me to follow up with our own version of a Cinco due Mayo menu. Gluten free of course!
For breakfast try cinnamon sugar corn tortillas…which are a huge favorite of the kids. What we do is take melted butter and mix in equal amounts of cinnamon and sugar. The amounts vary and are really just based your taste preferences. I also add a few drops of vanilla. Brush each tortilla generously while flat on a grill top and roll up to serve. Beat up a bit of heavy whipping cream sprinkled with cinnamon for dipping.
For lunch try some of our awesome nachos! We love making a nacho bar. I grab some safe corn tortilla chips and put them in a large bowl. I then put out bowls of tomatoes, onions, avacados, various cheeses, lettuce, sour cream, olives, and cilantro. I make up some black beans seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin and cilantro. I’ll also grill up some chicken with onions and squeeze lime over the top. Toss out some hot sauce and hot peppers for the adults and everyone is happy and can personalize their plate.
For dinner try out our favorite and easy pick for enchiladas. Find it here. This was a winner from day one and I have found even the pickiest eaters love it!
And of course we all need a nice beverage to go with dinner. And here is where some awesome pomegranate mango margaritas come in. Start with this recipe. Then add in some fresh unsweetened pomegranate juice. Its super easy to find in just about any store. Amount will vary based on taste preferences. Experiment!! But always start with a little, you can always add more!
Hope everyone has a great day!