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Gluten-Free Mix & Match Meal Bowls

After years of trying to find a solution that worked for meals on busy nights, when the family doesn’t always eat at the same time, I think I may have finally found one. I have been playing around with my meals and sharing them on Instagram and my Facebook page for the past few weeks. I have received several requests for the recipes, but that’s the thing…I haven’t been using recipes! The meals are simple, quick and healthy, cooked with limited ingredients. 

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Sliced sirloin with sautéed sweet potato and frozen green beans

I simply choose a protein, a carbohydrate and a vegetable and get to work. To help simplify things even more, I use frozen vegetables (many come in packages you can pop right in the microwave). Fresh vegetables are another great option, though prep can be time-consuming, so do all of your prep on the weekend or a day when you have the time. As far as prep for the protein, there are several different options. When steak, chicken or pork is on sale, I will buy it and either prep or freeze right away. For prepping my protein, I will trim and slice into bite-size pieces and then freeze in individual portions. This makes it very easy to pull as many servings out as I like and the meat cooks faster when it is sliced in smaller pieces. Leftover protein (pulled pork, ribs, salmon etc) also work great and only need to be heated and tossed in with the rest of the ingredients. Depending on which carbohydrate you choose, there are different ways to prep. Sweet or white potatoes can be cut up, partially cooked in microwave and then sautéed to finish off. Rice can be cooked in bulk and then refrigerated or frozen in individual portions. Pasta can be cooked in bulk and the refrigerated for up to 5ish days. 

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Brown rice, chicken breast and fresh spinach topped with avocado

As far as cooking goes, I choose the ingredient that will take the longest and start there. I use a little bit of EVOO or grapeseed oil and cook until desired doneness. Sometimes I remove the single ingredient while I am cooking another and then add back together for seasoning at the end. My basic seasonings are sea salt and fresh ground pepper. This can be tweaked per individual based on likes/dislikes. 

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Leftover BBQ ribs, coconut brown rice and green beans

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BBQ pulled pork, brown rice w/mixed veggies and green beans topped with avocado

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Coconut brown rice with black beans and green beans topped with tomato and avocado

Suggested options:

Protein

  • Salmon
  • Chicken breast
  • Pulled pork (leftover)
  • Tilapia
  • Steak
  • Tuna
  • Beans (black, pinto, kidney or a variety)

Carbohydrate

  • Potato (sweet or white)
  • Gluten-free pasta
  • Brown rice (I love to cook mine in canned lite coconut milk for extra creaminess)
  • Quinoa (again, love to cook this in canned lite coconut milk)

Vegetables (fresh or frozen)

  • Zucchini
  • Green beans
  • Roasted carrots
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Okra
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Kale
  • Tomato
  • Corn

Toppers

  • Avocado
  • Salsa
  • Pico de gallo
  • Marinara
  • Soy sauce 

The key to success with Mix & Match Meal Bowls is to choose the ingredients that you (or your family) like and will be easy for you to prepare. There is no shame in cutting corners and using frozen, canned or pre-cut food. We have cut back significantly in the amount of take-out meals since I have been doing this. Not only is this saving us money, but it is healthier, too. Don’t get me wrong, there are still nights when everyone is eating something different and eating at different times, but there are always staples around to make a Mix & Match Meal Bowl, even if the picky kids don’t put all of their food together in one bowl. 

Resurrecting the Menu Plan

It has been a long time since I have sat down to plan out our meals for the week. Things have been busy for us between Jon finishing up his first year of college, Hannah finishing up seventh grade and our working with a trainer for our dogs. This is all in addition to our “normal” life, of course. There has been more take-out meals than I like, but what is done is done and today is a new day. I have been slowly trying to get back into the swing of meal planning and feel I have laid a good foundation for this week. Here is the plan:

Monday – Tacos and/or taco salad, refried beans, corn

Tuesday - Pulled pork (sandwiches, wraps, salads, etc), sugar snap peas

Wednesday – Leftovers or breakfast for dinner (fried eggs on toast with avocado and sea salt), fresh green beans

Thursday – Gluten-free pasta with marinara and salad

Friday - NY Strip steak, baked potato, sugar snap peas

Here is the taco salad I had this evening for dinner. It was the first one I have had since going dairy-free (started about 8 weeks ago) in addition to gluten-free. 

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I used Romaine lettuce, chopped Roma tomatoes, corn, avocado, taco meat, refried beans and tortilla chips. I drizzled a little bit of Kraft French dressing over the top before I dug in. So good! 

Hope you have a good week! 

PS…Head over to Celiac-Disease.com to enter to win a box of Qrunch Veggie Burgers

The Game

Are you all set for the big football game tomorrow? Some people are more excited about the commercials than the game itself. Some people may not care about said game or commercials. What about you? Do you watch from home? Go to a friend’s house? Head to the closest sports bar that serves gluten-free food? If you watch from home or are going to a friend’s house, there are all kinds of different gluten-free food ideas. Some people like to make chili and serve with cornbread, chips and adult beverages, while others prefer pizza, subs or a variety of appetizers. 

Crunchmaster, America’s #1 selling brand of gluten-free cracker, has some great party appetizer and snack recipes and ideas. Check out the two recipes below for some mouthwatering appetizers.

White cheddar stuffed mushrooms

White Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

By: Amie Valpone 

Ingredients

  • ½ cup Crunchmaster White Cheddar Multi-Grain Crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 28 large white button mushrooms, stemmed 

Directions

1.      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large baking dish with nonstick baking spray.

2.      Stir the Crunchmaster Crackers, Pecorino Romano, goat cheese, garlic, parsley, sea salt and pepper and olive oil in a large bowl; mix well to combine.

3.      Stuff the filling into the mushroom cavities and arrange on the baking sheet.

4.      Bake until the mushrooms are tender, approximately 25 minutes.

5.      Serve warm.

Chicken meatballs

Chicken Meatballs

by Carol Kicinski 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Crunchmaster Sea Salt Multi-Grain Crackers
  • 1 pound ground chicken1 one-inch piece fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
  • 2 small garlic cloves, grated or finely minced4 scallions (green onions), finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1 large egg, lightly beaten 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with gluten free, non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Grind the Crunchmaster crackers in a blender or food processor to fine crumbs. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix to combine. Shape into small balls using about one tablespoon of mixture per ball. Place on the prepared baking sheets and spray the meatballs lightly with gluten free, non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes or until the meatballs are browned and feel firm to the touch. Remove the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any extra fat. Serve with your favorite gluten-free barbecue sauce or Thai peanut sauce. Makes about 30 meatballs.

However you prefer to watch the big game (or spend your Sunday evening) and whatever snacks or meals you decide to enjoy, have fun! 

*Recipes provided courtesy of Crunchmaster. Look for Crunchmaster crackers in stores across the US

Mental Shift

When I first began exercising as an adult, I was doing so for all of the wrong reasons. Maybe I shouldn’t say, “wrong” reasons, but not for the right reason(s). We are told to exercise to lose weight, lower cholesterol, increase bone density, etc, but I feel that one of the most important reasons isn’t mentioned often enough – and that is our mental benefit. More on that later.

I have been pretty lucky most of my life in regard to weight, in that I haven’t ever really been overweight, but that didn’t mean I was healthy. I have suffered from an eating disorder (anorexia) on and off for decades and that was, at times, my motivation for exercise. My disordered thinking convinced me that the more I exercised, the more I could eat or the more weight I could lose. I didn’t see that as wrong, as I wasn’t technically starving myself. As I have journeyed through recovery, instead of using exercise as a means to lose weight, I have come to understand that it is much more about what my body is capable of doing…running marathons, lifting weights, etc. 

I would have expected that by this point in my life (personal trainer + running coach), I would recognize and understand the benefits of exercise. I do – don’t get me wrong – when it comes to the facts. But bring in the personal, emotional side of all of that and it adds a new level of complexity. During marathon training season, I follow a training plan, which basically schedules my workouts for the week. I add in a strength training session or two, plus core class, and there is really nothing for me to think about. I do the workouts, feel great, and go about life. Once marathon training season is over (usually May/June and November/December) with no training plan and no set workouts, things get complicated. My body is recovering from the training and race I just completed, and that recovery is sometimes more challenging than the training itself. I sleep in, maybe squeeze in a couple of runs and a strength training session and attend core class sporadically.This is all well and good. Until it’s not. 

The less I run and the less I work out, the worse I feel. My legs are stiff, my back aches, my brain is cloudy. I want to sleep more, but can’t figure out why I am so tired, as I am not working out nearly as much as I had been a month or two earlier. I know what will make me feel better, yet I can’t bring myself to do it. From past experience, I know that I have the best chance of getting my workout done when I exercise in the morning. When I try to sleep in and head out for my run late morning or early evening, I find every excuse in the book to not do it. I am busy. My head hurts. Homeland is on. Something has to give…I have to change something. 

I figured out that I was making a couple of critical mistakes that needed to be corrected in order for me to get myself out of this rut. First of all, I realized that I had been beating myself up for some decisions I made. If I woke up and decided not to run in the morning, I berated myself for the remainder of the day. I made a decision (with the help of my therapist) to live by and accept my choices. Move on and find something else to occupy my mind. I cannot begin to describe to you how much of a difference this has made for me! By giving myself permission to accept my choices, there was no further self-abasement or rationalization. No questions, no arguments, no berating. It is like I flipped a switch. 

Additionally, I had been of the mind that if I didn’t get in a certain number of miles or lift weights for so many minutes, it wasn’t worth the effort. I always tell my clients that something is better than nothing, so why couldn’t I follow that advice? It was high time for me to start! In an effort to keep myself accountable, I began scheduling workouts with my friend, Sue. One morning I didn’t have time to get in much of a run before we lifted weights, but I decided to take the time when I otherwise would have surfed Facebook on my phone and hopped on the treadmill. I managed to squeeze in “just” a mile, and the difference it made in my mental state was totally unexpected. It seemed as though I had run more like 4 or 5 miles, judging by the way I felt mentally. After that brief one mile run, I had a fabulous weight workout, and my whole day gained a much brighter perspective. 

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Sweaty and happy after a treadmill run and weight lifting session.

Since that day, I have applied these lessons to my workout plans. At the beginning of each week – usually on Sunday afternoons –  I schedule every workout for the entire upcoming week.  And while I used to enjoy running alone, that approach isn’t working for me right now. So I run with friends. I went back to core class on Sundays. I lift weights. I go to hot yoga. The difference in how I feel today from how I felt in December is like night and day. I wouldn’t have believed such an outcome was possible unless I had experienced it myself. With my new perspective, I took all of the pressure off and focused on just moving. If I found I didn’t have “enough” time or if I only felt like doing so much, fine. The mental benefit I have gained from even 10 minutes of exercise is priceless. I feel good. I feel strong. I am exercising to get that mental benefit more than anything else right now, and because I am focused on that, the rest of it all falls into place. 

I had to make the mental shift. Our bodies were made to move. Exercise is the best medicine. The key is finding what works for you. When in doubt, work it out.

Stayed tuned for my upcoming post on how I am fueling gluten-free for my workouts these days. I have a fun new toy that has allowed me to make some fun new post-run drinks. 

National Gluten-Free Day

Happy New Year! Enjoying any new gluten-free products I should know about? According to P.F. Chang’s, yesterday was National Gluten-Free day. Have you ever eaten at P.F. Chang’s? It is a favorite of mine, though I don’t get the chance to go often enough. 

P.F. Chang’s has 19 different gluten-free menu options ranging from Lettuce Wraps and Fried Rice to the amazing Flourless Chocolate Dome. 

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P.F. Chang’s has locations across the US with a few new locations that just opened or will be opening soon. They take reservations online or over the phone, so make those reservations to celebrate National Gluten-Free Day!

With all of this food talk, it’s a good thing I am back in the swing of running regularly. I am training for the Cap City Half Marathon that will take place on May 2, 2015. I can’t believe this will be my 16th half marathon! 

What is your favorite P.F. Chang’s gluten-free menu item?

Hello! Long Time No Blog

Where did 2014 go? I can’t believe it is December already! I am still posting daily on Celiac-Disease.com, the Gluten-Free is Life Facebook page and Twitter, but as you can see, I haven’t posted here since July. In a perfect world I would be able to keep up with everything, but we all know that is not how the real world is. So what have I been up to? Let’s see…

Jon went away to college and is almost done with his first semester at Ohio University. We thought we were fortunate to have a wonderful gluten-free program in place for him, but it didn’t turn out like we thought. Jon was getting sick on a regular basis and had to get an exemption from the meal plan. He made the difficult decision to transfer to The Ohio State University, which is much closer to home and will help him be able to manage his gluten-free diet better. 

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I completed marathon #2 on October 19, 2014. This marathon went much better than my first marathon in 2010, though I don’t see myself doing another 26.2 any time soon. I love the half marathon and will be focusing on that distance for the foreseeable future. 

Both dogs had a rough month of October. They both ended up hospitalized for 3-4 days (at different times…a week apart). Pippy had gastroenteritis and Chewbacca hurt his back somehow. They both came home on meds that had to be given around the clock and Chewbacca is still on “crate rest”. Thank goodness they are both doing better now. It also helps that they are very cute!

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Chewbacca showing us that he is not a fan of crate rest

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Thanksgiving was done all gluten-free except for the Crescent Rolls. We used HEB Honey Cornbread Mix for our Cornbread Stuffing and it was out of this world! While we don’t have any HEB stores here in Ohio, my step mother was kind enough to send us all of their mixes for us to try. 

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The personal training business is going very well! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoy my “job”. Working with so many amazing women on a daily basis is so inspiring. I even have a few clients who are gluten-free!

Hope you have all been well and have a wonderful holiday season!

Make the Switch for the Fourth of July

Are you ready to celebrate the Fourth of July a week from today? I plan on running a 5K to start the day off and then refuel later with a juicy Jennie-O turkey burger.  Turkey burgers are typically lower in fat than beef burgers, but that doesn’t mean they have to be any less flavorful. 

Tips for grilling the juiciest turkey burger ever:

  • Don’t overwork meat, which can make it dense and tough
  • Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or sautéed onions to ground turkey for a juicier burger
  • Do not push down on the burgers with your spatula (you’ll lose the juices!)
  • Allow burgers to rest a few minutes before serving to let juices redistribute 

If you buy the already formed frozen burgers, here are some tips I use to keep the burger juicy:

  • Pan-fry and keep a lid over the pan
  • Don’t push down on the burger
  • Monitor temperature of the burger so you don’t overcook

It is really important to  make sure to cook turkey burgers to 165 degrees. The best way to do this is with an instant read thermometer or a fancy kitchen thermometer that connects via bluetooth to your iPhone. 

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I can’t even begin to tell you how cool this Mini Kitchen Thermometer is…I am such a gadget geek!  

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My dinner last night. I thought it was a good idea to practice for the Fourth of July and try out my new toy. Simple turkey burger with cheddar, lettuce and ketchup with sweet potato steak fries. 

If burgers aren’t your thing, no worries, Jennie-O has got your covered with their new Uncured Turkey Franks.

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Jennie-O has a list of gluten-free products on their website, but they also clearly label their products so that there is no confusion. 

If you are looking for inspiration, be sure to check out the Jennie-O website for all kinds of recipes. There is even a section for BBQ/Picnics…perfect for the Fourth of July! *Not all of the recipes are written gluten-free, so use caution when preparing. 

How will you celebrate your holiday? Will you make the switch?

*The products mentioned in this post were sent to me free of charge for review purposes. The thoughts and opinions shared here are mine and have not been influenced by anyone or anything.

Long Time No See

Although it seems like I have disappeared, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I promise. It’s summer time and things are hopping. There has been an increase of personal training clients at the studio, school is out, marathon training is in full swing and the puppies take up a lot of my time. I still post daily over at Celiac-Disease.com and remain active on the Gluten-Free is Life Facebook page.  

You may have caught that I am “marathon” training in the paragraph above. I do believe that I said I would “never” run a full marathon again, however, we all know how the saying goes, “Never say never”.  While I could go into great detail about the thought process that went into this decision, I won’t bore you with all of that. The simple fact is that I may just be a little bit crazy. 

As marathon training ramps up, I am experimenting with different products to help hydrate and fuel me along the way. Below is the newest hydration mix I have sampled.

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

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(source)

This is an all natural sports drink.  It replaces both the fluid and electrolytes you lose in your sweat while providing just enough calories to help fuel your working muscles. Flavored with only real fruit and containing no artificial colors or preservatives, our drink mix won’t upset your stomach, leave a bad taste in your mouth, or challenge your IQ with tongue twisting chem-lab ingredients.  It just works better.  Maybe that’s why, for years, top athletes have been secretly replacing their sponsors’ products with drink mix made from Skratch.  You Sweat. We Hydrate.

I tried the Exercise Hydration Mix with Raspberries and really enjoyed the taste. It was not overly sweet like some sports drinks on the market and it really seemed to agree with my stomach, which is the most important thing. All of the Exercise and Everyday Mixes are free of wheat, gluten, soy and dairy. Skratch Labs products can be found in select stores or online

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Review: Mellow Mushroom’s New Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

Last weekend I had the opportunity to try the new gluten-free pizza crust now being served at Mellow Mushroom. The new pizza crust is not just gluten-free, it is vegan, too!

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Ingredients:

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Mellow Mushroom’s original gluten-free pizza wasn’t bad, but it was made with bean flour, which many people don’t care for. The new gluten-free pizza doesn’t have bean flour in it; it’s made with Smart Flour. Smart Flour is a gluten-free flour blend that contains tapioca flour, sorghum flour, amaranth flour and teff flour.

There are many different gluten-free pizza options, including a vegan cheese (Daiya). I chose the Veg Out pizza and was thrilled with the flavor and texture of the new crust.

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The staff at Mellow Mushroom goes to great lengths reduce the risk of cross-contamination. The staff changes their gloves and aprons, the pizzas are prepared in a separate area and then cooked on a screen so the pizza will never have contact with the pizza stone.

Have you tried the new gluten-free crust at Mellow Mushroom? 

*The food mentioned in this post was provided to me free of charge for review purposes. The thoughts and opinions shared here are mine and have not been influenced by anyone or anything.

Soodles Bake Shop – Custom Gluten-Free Cakes

Time flies. As Jon’s high school graduation approached, in addition to trying to figure out what happened to my kindergartener, I began to search for a bakery to make a custom gluten-free cake for the occasion. The last thing I wanted to have to worry about was baking a cake.

It was a good thing that I was able to find Soodles Bake Shop, as I was running around the day before graduation paying unpaid parking tickets and exchanging a graduation gown that was meant for someone an entire foot shorter than Jon.

Soodles Bake Shop bakes a wide variety of gluten-free products, including customized cakes. The facility/products are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, fish/shellfish and peanuts. The customized cakes are available in several different sizes and two different flavors. We went with the 1/4 sheet cake (double layer) for $42. Half the cake was chocolate, the other half was vanilla. 

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The cake was a huge hit and disappeared quickly. I had small pieces of each variety and while they were both very good, I fell in love with the chocolate. That really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as I haven’t met a lot of chocolate things I don’t like. 

Soodles Bake Shop was founded by Amy McCrea after she determined gluten, dairy, egg and soy were triggers for her digestive and eczema issues. Read more about Amy and Soodles Bake Shop here.  Thanks Amy for making our day even greater! 

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