Holiday Treats for All!

holiday_treats
holiday treats

Who doesn’t enjoy a holiday treat like cookies, candy, fudge or cake?  Well, those of us with celiac disease typically can’t indulge since it’s rare to find a gluten-free item included.  It’s really hard to manage this, as well as other food allergies, during the holidays when all of these goodies show up at work, friends’ homes, and at family dinners.

I think we’re all at least somewhat familiar with celiac disease these days.  It’s become much more common than it used to be and is all over the news and social media.  We likely know someone with either a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease itself.  According to the Celiac Disease Foundation:

“Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.  It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide.  Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.”

If you or someone you love is affected with celiac disease, this is one of several amazing resources.  They offer information, product suggestions, recipes, etc.

Since it’s become more publicized, it’s become both easier and more difficult to manage.  You would think that with the additional publicity, resources, and additional gluten-free food offerings, both in the store and at restaurants, it would be easier to eat gluten-free.  It is, in a way.  However, there are so many foods being offered as gluten-free that truly aren’t, it’s frightening to me as a consumer.  At this time, manufacturers are not required to test their product in order to label it as gluten-free; it’s up to the individual manufacturer to ensure that they meet their labeling requirement.   In restaurants, you have to be cautious as well.  Just because they use a gluten-free crust or gluten-free pasta doesn’t ensure that your pizza or your meal is safe.  The preparation, the tools, the surfaces, and the pasta water must all be separate and gluten-free as well.   As much as I appreciate the extra effort by companies and restaurants to accommodate our needs (even though we pay much more for the privilege) it’s not fair to me, as a consumer, to be told something is gluten-free when it’s really not.  It IS up to me, however, to verify this information to my own satisfaction and to then decide whether I will purchase from them or not and choose whether to eat there or not.  Personally, I’m sticking with those brands that are certified or Celiac Support Association-approved (another great resource for lists, resources, and info.) and those restaurants that are diligent in their preparation.

It’s hard enough to manage a gluten-free diet on a regular basis and make these decisions.  To do so around the holidays is the worst!  We are faced with these temptations daily and, as much as we want to give in, we can’t!  It’s not just a matter of gaining a pound or two; it’s a matter of getting sick and setting off an internal process that damages our body and hurts us.  In consideration of your gluten-free friends and family that will likely be with you around the holidays, please honor their restrictions without making them feel guilty or embarrassed by it.  Please feel free to ask questions and we would be happy to provide information on brands or ingredients, etc.  We’re happy to talk about it and share information and awareness.  If you would like to provide something for your guests to enjoy (especially kids), there are lots of gluten-free grab-and-go boxed cookies and cakes at the grocery stores.  Please remember to store and serve these separately!  Fresh fruit or vegetables (with a g-f dip?) are great. There are also so many more things that we can cook and bake such as Chex mixes, candied nuts, fudge, and baked goods with gluten-free flour and ingredients.  I use Progresso cream of mushroom soup in my cooking without issue.  We have lots of resources and we must rely on the information provided to us.  Trust me; we are no happier than you are about this.  We need to make sure that, when it says gluten-free, that it actually is.  Please help us stay safe throughout this holiday season.

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

fall creeping in
You fall creeping in

Fall is here to stay!  Nothing signals the change of seasons like bringing out your crockpot and making a big batch of soup!  I’d like to share my favorite recipe for taco soup.  I always make a double batch and freeze individual portions in freezer bags. It makes a great quick dinner or lunch at work.  When you have fall sports every weekend, you can have a quick bowl of soup on the table in a few minutes!  For moms that need to sneak in a few veggies, this is the perfect soup to do that!  I don’t remember where I first came across this recipe a few years back, but it remains at the top of my recipe box.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 16 oz. can chili beans or kidney beans (light or dark)
  • 15 oz. can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 15 oz. can corn, drained
  • 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 12 oz. beer
  • 2  10-oz. cans diced tomato w/chilies
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 3 chicken breasts

Place the onion, chili/kidney beans, black beans, corn, tomato sauce, beer, and diced tomatoes into a slow cooker.  Add the taco seasoning and stir. Lay the chicken breasts on top and press down just until covered.

Set on low and cook, covered, for 5 hours.

Remove the chicken and let it cool slightly.  Shred it and put it back in the crockpot.  Continue cooking, covered, for another 2 hours.

Some toppings that you might to add are shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, etc.  Enjoy!

 

Breakfast Tips

breakfast coffee
breakfast coffee

Did you ever think about how much less money waitresses make in the morning versus working the dinner shift?  I feel bad for them.  They have to get up earlier than most of us to be there all wide awake and friendly in order to greet us first thing in the morning.  They have to be cheerful to those of us that most definitely are not that fun to be around early in the day.  They have to make sure your food is delivered to you as soon as it’s out because who likes cold eggs or pancakes?  They come to the table a lot more than a waitress does at dinner…at least for me, who likes my coffee refilled pretty much every time she walks by.

So what do they get for all of this?  They get a fraction of the money that waitresses earn later in the day. Lunch waitresses get ripped off a little bit too but they, at least, get to sleep in, still are home at night, and still make more money than breakfast waitresses do.  In fact, most lunches are getting to be as expensive as some dinners.

Let’s figure this out.  Let’s say that you are going to breakfast and dinner with 3 friends.

  • If you order a full breakfast, let’s say your bill comes to $10.00.
  • Add on a 20% tip, which is $2.00.  For your table of 4, the waitress gets $8.00.
  • Let’s say she waits on 15 tables that day.  That gives her a tip total of $120.

 

  • If you order a full dinner at a moderate price, let’s say your bill comes to $25.00.
  • Add on a 20% tip, which is $5.00.  For your table of 4, the waitress gets $20.00.
  • Let’s say she waits on 15 tables that day.  That gives her a tip total of $300.

That’s significantly less money that the waitress earned for breakfast while waiting on the same number of people and tables.  Multiply that times 5 days per week and it adds up to $900 less for the week!  Now, I’m not saying that any server doesn’t deserve what they get.  They most definitely do.  They have to deal with all kinds of people for their entire shift and I’m sure not all of their experiences are pleasant.  I’m just not sure that the nice people serving our breakfast deserve so much less than those serving us later in the day.  I know that standard tipping is 20-25%, but maybe we could throw in a little bit extra for those angels of mercy with the coffeepot first thing in the morning.

Happy Taco Day!

taco day
Taco Day

I LOVE LOVE LOVE tacos!  There are so many ways to fix them that it can work for everybody.  As a busy mom, you can throw these together in seconds.  I always keep 1# packages of taco meat in the freezer.  You simply thaw and heat, add the toppings and you’re ready to eat.

Depending on what you put in them and how you fix them, it can be a gourmet meal (think lobster and melted butter or prime rib) to casual (ground beef, turkey, shrimp, etc.).  You can fix the base of the tacos (shell, meat, cheese) ahead of time and let people add to them if they want or set it out as an all buffet meal. Nothing gets easier than that, especially for a team dinner or family get-together.

An added benefit to tacos is that you can sneak in some healthy ingredients without anybody being the wiser.  For years, I used a half-and-half combo of ground beef and ground turkey for all my recipes and nobody ever knew it.  You can shred some veggies and add them to your tacos.  One of my very favorite ways to eat now them is to saute some red, orange, and yellow peppers and some onion in coconut oil, add some black beans and seasoning, and roll it up into a corn tortilla.  YUM!

Any way you fill them, roll them, or eat them, tacos are a great thing. Happy Taco Day to you!