Hunter. Gatherer. What's for Dinner???

I don't know if it is true, but I feel like I have spent the majority of my Monday with food. Thinking about food. Planning about food. Searching food out. In my house and then again in the store--Make that storeS. Pulling junk food out of my begging children's hands. Loading food into my cart. Unloading food on to the conveyor belt. Loading food again into my cart. Only to unload in my car. Reload. Unload. Dating food (as in writing the date on the package of food and not engaging romantically with my groceries. Although...I nearly fell head over heels for a carton of ice cream back in the freezer section). Storing food. Cramming food into the deep dark recesses of my freezer, fridge, and storage room. Handing food to starving kids. Cramming food into my own mouth...

Two weeks of meal planning, four different grocery stores, and $200 later...

...I was ready to pay a restaraunt to make dinner tonight. Which I did. Shame, shame.

Alright, alright. One last hurrah before two weeks of cooking all that food I so diligently secured in my home.

I am hunter-gatherer. Hear me roar.

This meal planning business burns time like politicans burn money. But man oh man, do preparation and planning ever preserve me from nightly pain. In feeding a child who is allergic to milk and another child with Celiac Disease, weekly meal planning is vital. I have found, through a great deal of trial and an even larger amount of error, that if I am prepared, I shall not fear when dinner time rolls around every night.

Anyone need some ideas? I'm sharing my two-week meal plan and linking up to the wonderful websites that give me new and spectacular ideas when it comes to feeding my family gluten and dairy free. My current favorites are Cooking Gluten (& Dairy Free) and EZ Gluten Free. There are even a few of my own recipes (adapations made where needed to keep my little family safe).

Monday (30): Gluten/Dairy Free Beef Stroganoff Eat Out as a Family Night
Tuesday (1): Gluten/Dairy Free Beef Stroganoff
Wednesday (2): Chicken Noodle Soup (I just use my own homemade recipe. When it comes to the point of adding the frozen egg noodles, I ladle some out into a separate pot and add gluten free noodles for Elle. The rest of us get to slurp down those delicious darn-near-as-good-as-homemade noodles.)
Thursday (3): Chicken Ranch Tacos (Dairy/Gluten Free)
Friday (4): Steak, baked potatoes, roasted asparagus
Saturday (5): Date Night <---A girl can dream...Nachos (Feliz Cinco Day Mayo!)
Sunday (6): Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches, homemade potato salad, watermelon

Monday (7): Chicken Chimichangas
Tuesday (8): BLTs, fresh fruits and veggies
Wednesday (9): Oven Baked Chicken Parmesan, green salad
Thursday (10): Beef Stew, homemade cheddar biscuits
Friday (11): BBQ Chicken Pizza
Saturday: Wild Card (leftovers or popcorn)
Sunday: Impossible Mini Bacon Cheeseburger Pies (Dairy/Gluten Free), oven fries, veggies

To all you moms/hunter-gatherers out there...Good luck and may the fork be with you!


Three for Thursday: Birthday Edition

Three things I need to let off some steam about:

Ahhh...Now that I feel a tad better...

Three things I did instead of the Yoga workout I was supposed to do today:
1. Took my girls, along with two other little Kindergarten friends, to the park for Happy Meals and play time.
2. Read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
3. Ran on the treadmill. Believe it or not, that actually seemed more appealing than 90 minutes of contorting my body in erratic ways.

Three favorite birthday happenings:
1. Feeling all the Facebook love.
2. Having my sister show up to decorate my house, feed my kids, do my dishes, bring me cheesecake, give me the coolest plate I was eyeing in an antiques place weeks ago, and generally just keep me company on my special day when my husband was out of town. Sisters are the best!
3. Attending a temple session.

Three things I accomplished in my 30th year:
1. Overcame my fear of cooking raw shrimp.
2. Lost 80 pounds.
3. Single-parented four children for long amounts of time without flushing any of them down the toilet.

Three things I plan to do in my 31st year:
1. Complete a half marathon.
2. Become debt-free.
3. Travel somewhere I've never been. Where? I don't know yet.

Three pictures:
Homework is so hard! I need a break.

What is it with boys and shaving their heads?! It's not my favorite look for my guys, but it sure makes them happy.

Everyone's got one of these shots in their baby book, right?


How to Preserve Leftover Easter Candy and Other Goodies

Last week I shared the success I had with preserving our leftover Easter candy. A few people asked me how I did it and, lucky you, I'm more than happy to share!

First, a disclaimer...I have no idea if this is the "right" way. There are actually several methods out there to dry packing and preserving food. This is just the way my sister and mom showed me how. They are pretty darn smart and resourceful women. I think we are in good hands.

You are going to need a few supplies to do this:

Leftover Easter candy (or Halloween or Christmas or chocolate chips or pretzels or cookies or whatever! Sky's the limit! Just nothing powdery; It gets sucked up in the tubing and out the lid and prevents sealing.)
Canning jars (Kerr, Ball, Mason are the best. I stock up on these at 50 cents/bottle every time I go to my local thrift store.)
Canning lids (You can find these at Walmart, other grocery stores, online, etc.)
Canning rings (They often come with the jars, but if they aren't look at Walmart and other stores. These aren't absolutely necessary, but they satisfy my obsessive compulsiveness, they double protect the sealing, and they just look nicer.)
A hair dryer (You can find this is in your local bathroom.)
A Food Saver/Ziploc Vacuum Pump gadget (I will explain how to rig this together.)
Tubing*** (Look at your local medical supply store or pharmacy.)

The Food Saver contraption (white lid looking thing) is actually an attachment for a bigger, more expensive machine. It would be awesome to have that machine, but my budget doesn't exactly allow for that right now. Fortunately, you can use a Ziploc Vacuum pump along with the Food Saver attachment to dry pack canning jars. Really!

My Food Saver attachment was a gift from a wise mom. Word on the street is that the Food Saver attachment is available at Walmart. I looked for it the other day and only saw the big machines. You can find the attachments for sale online, try the Food Saver website or Amazon.com. They come in wide mouth and regular mouth size.

You can find a Ziploc Vacuum Starter Kit at your local Walmart or grocery store.

To rig up your custom Food Saver/Ziploc Pump you need to take off the bottom rubber piece from the Ziploc pump that is used to vacuum out bags. Grab a milk jug lid off of an empty gallon milk jug and poke a small hole in the top, just big enough for the Food Saver tubing to fit snugly inside. The milk cap will fit perfectly over the end of the Ziploc pump.

Now use medical tape or duct tape or whatever you have to secure the milk cap on to the pump. Be certain that no air can leak from the hole in the lid or the edges of the lid or pump.

Stick the free end of the tubing*** into the Food Saver attachment and it's ready to use.

Clear as mud? If you have any questions just ask and I'll see what I can do to help!

Now, you need to prep your canning jars.

They need to be CLEAN and DRY. I wash mine with a bottle scrubber and a sink full of hot soapy water. A good rinse and a towel dry later, I use my blow dryer to make absolutely certain they are dry. Water could cause food contamination problems, so remember: A dry jar is a happy jar! Even if your husband laughs at you for blow drying jars in the kitchen...

After letting your jars cool completely (think melted chocolate if you don't), you can dump in whatever candy or goodies you have, leaving an inch of space from the top. Make sure to tap and twist your jar a few times to let the contents settle.

I had some really great coupons for these M&M candies that I wanted to use before they expired. But I had a ton of Easter candy that I just preserved. Normally I would have passed up the good deal on the M&Ms since I already had a bunch of candy sitting around, but by preserving them, I don't have to worry about them getting stale in the cupboard. (But between you and me, really...When have M&Ms ever been in the cupboard long enough to become "stale"? I know, I know. I'm laughing too.)

That's the beauty of this whole preservation thing! You can buy the holiday candy after the holiday, catching all the good deals, dry pack them at home and use them next year. They won't taste old and you will have saved money. Awesome, right?

Carefully place the canning lids on the jars.

Push the Food Saver contraption over the top of the jar with the lid on.

Turn once to secure on tightly. Pump a few times. If you hear a clicking noise and see the Food Saver moving up and down, you are doing it right. This is the sound of the lid sealing on to the jar. If you don't hear that noise, readjust the lid and Food Saver until you do. Make sure your jar top doesn't have any nicks or cracks or try a different lid if it still won't seal.

Pump 15 to 20 times total to make sure the lid is sealed. Remove the Food Saver and gently pull on it with your hands to double check.

Screw on canning ring. Write the date on the top.

Stare admiringly at your freshly "canned" goodies...

...And sleep well knowing you saved another bag of holiday candy from being mindlessly wasted. Be secure in the fact that while the rest of the world is looting grocery stores after the economy collapses, your family will be dining on the freshest 5 year old gummy worms you ever tasted. ;)

Post Post: I forgot to tell you...You can unseal and reseal your jars over and over again! Pretty cool, eh?

***Post Post Post: I ordered another food saver lid for myself after writing this post and there was NO plastic tubing in the box! I had assumed it came with the contraption. When I questioned my mom about this, she told me she had actually purchased the tubing from a medical supply store and that it does NOT come with the food saver lid. I'm sorry to complicate things, but add one more step: Go to your local medical supply store and purchase a short length of medical tubing (Ex: nasal cannula, oxygen tubing, IV tubing, etc.)

Post Post Post POST: Here's a vlog Jeigh and I made to show you how to drypack!


A Meal in the Life of a Food Allergy Mom

Saturday was a busy day of  lawn work, paying bills, paper work, traveling to watch my younger brother compete in a college track event, laundry, and a dozen other odds and ends. Before I knew it 7 pm was breathing down my neck, along with a herd of ravenous children wondering if Mom was ever going to feed them.

Oh, right. I'm usually in charge of that.
Let's see...

As I've whined related before, whipping up dinner at my house isn't the easiest task. With one son allergic to milk in any form and a daughter with Celiac Disease, coming up with a dinner for everyone is...complicated.

Saturday, after a few moments of panicked brainstorming, I alighted upon a dinner solution: The good ol' classic, Mac n' Cheese!

Crowd pleasing.


Putting all four burners to work: 1- Gluten-free mac n' cheese, 2- plain elbow noodles, 3- regular Kraft mac n' cheese, and 4- steamed broccoli. Four separate spoons to avoid cross contamination. Two timers and one clock to time each one out. Two parents working together to make sure nothing gets burned or spills over.

Say "CHEESE! and macaroni!"

Well, at least we got "crowd-pleasing" down.

I'm not whining again. I promise. We're getting our system down as we make everyday adjustments to keep everyone safe, healthy, happy, and well-fed.

I just have to laugh and record these moments. Moments where an "easy" dinner like mac n' cheese turns into a carefully choreographed dance around a busy, hot stove and a mountain of dirty dishes afterwards.

All in the life of a food allergy mom. 


Happy "Will You Marry Me?" Day!

Nine years ago today...

...he showed up on my doorstep wearing his Sunday best. It was almost nine o'clock. I had on my baggy, blue and white striped pajama bottoms and my favorite green sweatshirt. He asked if we could go for a walk. I looked into his eyes and I just knew.

I begged for a moment to dash upstairs and change. There was no way on this green earth that I was going to be asked the biggest question of my life while wearing gnarly pajama pants. This occasion at least called for a pair of jeans.

Jeans on, we walked out of the house I shared with four other girls to "our" bridge. The one where we had walked many times before sharing memories from our childhoods, complaining about unjust college professors, discussing what we would change about our future lives, laughing at stupid jokes, planning the size of our families. ("Fifteen children", he had said. I just laughed and fell even more in love with him, hoping I could be the one to "help" with those fifteen children.)

That night we stood close together on the bridge. Three and a half months earlier we had stood a little farther apart, sharing our first dance on New Year's Eve, just as the countdown to midnight had begun. During that timorous dance, he trembled so badly that I couldn't help wondering if he was going to fall over in a dead faint right there on the dance floor. Now, he was steady and I was the one shaking.

Maybe it was the blowing wind...Maybe it was the jitters... Maybe I couldn't hear him over the sound of my teeth chattering (that was definitely one detail I had never included every time I had fantasized about this moment) but none of his words really registered in my head. I only remember him pulling out the ring box and looking at me, expecting a reply.

Ever true to my awkward and floundering nature, I made some goofy comment about, "Shouldn't you be on your knee or something?" 

On his knee he went, more words, and after another impetuous hint from me that he should slip the ring on my finger it was official. We were engaged.

(Never mind that my mom had already called the temple to tentatively reserve a wedding date.)

April 15th.

While the rest of the world dreads "Tax Day", I affectionately remember the day my husband asked me to be his wife.

I love you, Joe! Happy "Will You Marry Me?" Day!


Dirty Magazines

My dirty magazine came in the mail today.

I'm going to go stuff it under my mattress so I can drool over it in peace later tonight.


Vlog, She Spoke: How to Make a Picture Frame Wall

Here's the link for my picture frame intervention.

And here's the link for the vlog from a year ago.

And one more link for my favorite vinyl dealer in case you're looking for someone.

Have a great Friday ya'll!


Three for Thursday

Three things I think people don't understand about me:
1. I'm not a drama queen. I'm just a little sensitive.
2. I really REALLY REALLY hate talking on the phone. For reals.
3. I like being alone sometimes.

Three things I did yesterday:
1. Bought my first pair of real running shoes!
2. A really good pirate impression.
3. Cleaned my local thrift store out of pint canning jars.

Three things I (not so) secretly enjoy:
1. Drinking diet soda every now and then.
2. Wearing spandex.
3. Playing Lego Harry Potter on the Wii. By myself.

Three things I plan to conquer eventually: 
1. My food addiction.
2. Debt.
3. My fear of food storage and emergency preparedness.

Three songs I'm lovin' lately:
1. "Tonight" by FUN
2. "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye
3. "Safe and Sound" by Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars

Three pictures:
This poor girl inherited her mom's sense of balance. She was jumping from cement park bench to cement park bench and missed. At least with her feet. This is Day 3.
Isn't she a beaut?! And I don't have small hands!

Trouble. She can find it. And very quickly.


What do you do with all that leftover Easter CANdy?

I know the Easter Bunny's name.

It's Melanie.

More specifically my husband's Aunt Melanie. Every year she hosts the most spectacular Easter Egg Hunt I have ever seen. The kids (almost) get tired of picking up the hundreds of eggs she lovingly stuffs with candy and money each year. Her annual labor of love is amazing! Every year we head home with bags and bags of candy in tow.

And man, do I love candy!

Too much.

So when I have bags and bags of it sitting in my house I'm more inclined to "love" it than is healthy. My kids love it too. Like most kids (and adults) they don't know when to say "enough" until they have tummy aches and other *ahem* issues. I finally wised up this year and figured out what to do with all that leftover Easter candy.

It's kind of silly how proud I am of these jars full of goodies. You'd think I planted those gummy bear seeds myself.

Seeing those freshly sealed jars makes me giddy for several reasons. Nothing was wasted. No one feels obligated to eat all the candy all at once. And some night in July we can pop open a jar of jelly beans (Vintage April 2012) wafting in the heady scents of Easter, savoring each soft, sugary bite, while reliving the good old days of Spring.

I had so much fun packing the Easter candy that I began looking for more things to preserve. I had a bunch of gourmet candy canes leftover from Christmas. I crushed them up with the intention of adding them to hot chocolate next winter. Brilliant, no?

And now I just might be getting carried away...

Chocolate chips, Oreos, more leftover Christmas candy, gluten-free noodles, gluten-free cookies, and gluten-free pretzels. All sealed and saved for another day. Nothing wasted. Nothing wanted.

HAPPY Easter indeed!

HERE is a blog post on how to dry pack.

And HERE is a vlog on dry packing.


Of Separation Anxiety

We just finished up a very lovely Spring Break week. I pulled out all my best "fun mommy" tricks. We went to the park, to the zoo, to the grandparents, to the kids' favorite restaurant. We watched movies and ate bowls of popcorn. We played and read books and stayed up late and slept in and traveled and ate junk food and played some more. It was a glorious week, but it had to end sometime.

I was dreading Monday with its return to schedule and school more than my kids were.

Well, maybe not more than the kids.

Monday morning, as I pulled up in front of the school to drop Dee and Jeigh off, it was revealed to me just how much my son wasn't ready for the new week to start. Both the kids had complained of phantom stomach aches during the morning's preparation hoping to delay the end of Spring Break just a little longer, but Jeigh spotted her friends near the school and happily hopped out of the van to greet them along with the new week.

In contrast, Dee shriveled even farther into the back of the van. He whined, "I don't wanna go, Mama. I don't wanna!"

And then he began to cry.

He sobbed as he told me he didn't have any friends. That he was scared. That kids teased him.

His tears thickened as he begged to go back home.

It was terrible. What was I to do? I remember grade school. Kids do tease. It is scary. There were times I felt like I didn't have a friend in the entire place.

I wanted to shut the van door and glide off into the sunset, sheltering him from the big bad school and world. It was what I wanted to do, but that didn't seem right. If I let him go home today what was going to happen tomorrow? And the day after that??

I knew this was something my little son had to do. But try telling him that.

As I did try his crying only increased. He refused to get out of the van. I got out and walked around, afraid that I would have to physically remove him from the vehicle. Afraid of being manhandled he jumped out himself, but then stood on the sidewalk with huge, slushy, wet tears rolling off his red cheeks.

This was tragic. There couldn't be anything harder to parenting than this, could there?

I tried to lovingly talk to him and convince him that he needed to be in school, that it was the law, that it would be okay, that he could call me if it wasn't. But love and logic and talk were not cutting it.

Eventually I had to get tough. Woodenly, I pried his clinging arms off of my legs, firmly told him to go to his class, and walked away. He cried out after me but I kept walking. I got in the van and drove out of the school parking lot. As I watched him from my rear view mirror, standing there, falling apart on the public school sidewalk, I felt my heart shattering.

Did I just do the right thing? This can't be right. If it was "right", would it hurt this much?

I had abandoned my little son to the world and to himself. I am his Mommy. I am his protector. His big person. His guardian. And I just left him.

What have I done?

I circled around and parked in front of the school where he couldn't see me, but I could watch him. He stood by his line, but hiding behind a tree around the corner from his classroom door. He was still crying, intermittently peeking to see what his class line was doing. I imagined him pondering what to do, whether to obey his mom and follow his peers to class, or to make a break for it.

I admit, I sat in the van, watching him, pondering myself. Do I let him be a big boy and learn a life lesson or do I sweep in and rescue him?

He made the decision for both of us as he followed his class into the building, but I drove away reeling from the entire plight.

Nothing felt "right".

The entire morning I fretted about him. Was he crying in class? Were the kids really being mean to him? Was my happy little son as friendless as he claimed to be? Or was this just a case of too much fun during Spring Break and the difficulty of his dad leaving town again?

It was so difficult to know. And I thought labor and delivery was the hard part of parenting. Nobody warned me about how insanely grievous it would be to drive away from your distraught first grader.

In an effort to make his day a little brighter and more positive, as well as to allay my own worries by seeing how he was faring, I picked up some McDonald's Happy Meals (one of his favorite treats) and surprised him at lunch time. He ran to me with a huge smile and an even bigger hug.

For all his tears, for all my heart break...he was perfectly fine.

He was so fine that he could hardly acknowledge my presence in the lunchroom as he happily chatted with his buddies (no friends, huh?). After about 5 or 10 minutes he asked if he could go to recess, leaving behind half of a Happy Meal and a mother who was wondering if she had wasted the energy, money, and gray hair on him.

But then I saw a grandmother who had the same idea I had. She munched quietly on her McDonald's while her granddaughter jabbered at her friends.

Oh. So my son is normal then? Oh good.

One day I want to speak with him about this day. I want him to understand how traumatic it was to see my little son so sick with worry and fear. How agonizing it was to do something so opposite and repulsive to my motherhood as physically pry his arms off of me. How it took all my might not to cry my own tears as I denied my own desires and abandoned him there.

I want to ask his forgiveness for walking away in his apparent moment of need, but I also want him to know that I did it hoping to make him a stronger man. I can only imagine that this experience is a small stepping stone to other moments that will be like it. Maybe even more grievous and grey than this "trivial" one. In hindsight it is rather trivial, even though it felt so monstrous yesterday morning. But as I replay the image of my small son standing on the sidewalk all alone in my rear view mirror, I can't imagine anything being as difficult in this life as being a parent.


Putting on Airs at the In-Laws

If there is one thing I know how to do well, it is to embarrass myself.

I've had a lifetime of practice and I'm a pro. In fact I've gotten so good at saying and doing dumb things that my mouth is practically foot-shaped. (Get it? Open mouth. Insert foot.)

To give you a recent example...

This last weekend we had the opportunity to spend sometime in Hometown, Idaho with our families. I have a great in-law family that I really do enjoy and feel comfortable being with. Nonetheless, I would still like to make somewhat of a good impression to remind them why their son/grandson/brother/nephew/cousin picked me as his blushing bride.

The morning before we drove out to the family lunch and Easter egg hunt, I spent a fair amount of time picking out a flattering outfit and doing my hair and makeup just so. I left my parents house, where we had stayed the night, feeling confident about my appearance. Woo! I still got it!

And then I snuck a peek in the vanity mirror in our minivan.


Bright purple and unmistakable, there it lurked, begging for any passerby's visual attention... A hickey.

And not just any hickey.

My very first hickey. Ever.

You know, besides the ones you would give yourself when you sucked on your own arm in 3rd grade class out of boredom and curiosity. (Oh, you didn't do that? Well...Umm...)

This was my very first neck hickey.

And this one didn't even come with some amazing amorous affair.

My husband and I were just messing around the night before--STOP! Not THAT kind of messing around. Just teasing each other about something. He wrestled me down and latched on to my neck for .0013 seconds. There he left The Mark of Shame, flashing brighter than any Scarlett Letter.

No makeup, no ice, no nothing was going to cover that thing up.

Oh well, at least my hair--that is looking goooood--will maybe cover it up. My good impression isn't shot...yet.

And then I spilled an entire water bottle. In the worst place one can spill an entire water bottle.

With burning cheeks, a bright purple hickey on my neck, and looking like I had just peed my pants (not "Oops! I giggled too hard!" peed my pants, but "Woah! Buy me some Depends!" peed my pants) I prepared to greet my husband's entire family. Grandma and Grandpa, all the aunts, a few uncles, cousins, everybody.


As you can see, with my amazing sense of fortune and poor timing, I don't need any help in the mortification department. But that afternoon my seven year old son felt free to offer his services anyway.

Later in the day, he and I made a trip out to our van to get him some Benadryl for an accidental milk exposure he had experienced. While we were out there, I felt free to...ahem..."air out". A couple of times.

My son was walking away as I did, but turned quickly when he heard me. He giggled wildly and asked if I had indeed farted.

I confessed, thinking it would be our little secret. Moms fart too. What's the big deal?

He walked back to the house through the back entrance, cackling. I walked back through the front entrance. As I entered the kitchen where my husband's entire family was gathered, they were laughing uproariously about something. They turned to see me and the laughter escalated to another level. Joe's cousin couldn't even talk because he was doubled over, laughing so hard, and pointing...At me.

What I had failed to remember is, to a seven year old boy, farting in and of itself is a mighty big deal and worthy of proper and loud group announcements.

Hickey on neck.
Pees pants.

Guilty as charged. And making the kind of impressions the family will be talking about for years.



Related Posts with Thumbnails