Friday, June 12, 2015

Wholesome Allergy-Free Packaged Snacks… and lunchbox tips!

While I have not been active on my blog during the past two years, I felt inclined to post this list of wholesome, allergy-free packaged snacks.  My not-so-little guy (5 1/2  now!) started summer camp and  with the need for a quick snack that can withstand warmer temps in many cases, I need to resort to some packaged goodies that will keep him full until the next meal but has that convenience factor built in.  I am sure many parents out there struggle with this, and I had to do quite a bit of organizing and research to come up with this list.  With so many camps and schools being nut free (as well as sports teams, etc), this will come in handy for most parents out there!  I strive to keep my list as wholesome and nutritious as possible.  I will add to this list as I discover more!

I built in hyperlinks to Amazon or the company's website where I could!

Brothers All Natural Fruit Crisps Variety Pack (can find at Costco, as well)

Enjoy Life Mountain Mambo Seed and Fruit Trail Mix (Snack size!  I LOVE these!)

Smart Pop Snack Size Popcorn (Costco has large boxes of snack size bags)

Clif Organic Fruit & Veggie Ropes (I would not encourage these as a snack unto themselves - not filling - but a great "treat" to add to a snack or lunch!)

Annie's Gluten Free/Nut Free Granola Bars (new!)
Oatmeal Cookie
Double Chocolate Chip
Berry Berry (NOTE: these are not certified gluten free but my son, with a wheat allergy, has no problem with them!)

Quackers Gluten Free Cheese Crackers 
***this link takes you to a site where you can see stores in MN that they are offered, select your state to find them) - Gluten Free, GMO free, Corn Free, Soy Free Cheese crackers - they taste awesome - great as a sub for the traditional "goldfish" crackers.

Other Snacks:

In addition to these packaged snacks, I also have one of these LunchBots containers that I have successfully used to pack whole foods snacks - particularly apples with Sunbutter (I even blend in a bit of honey and granola (LOVE this brand!) with the Sunbutter to make it special).  I used it once this week to pack one of the Annie's granola bars and some grass fed summer sausage for some protein with his morning snack (it was a non-field trip day and I told him to eat it in the morning, as it is out of the fridge for only a couple hours).

For lunch packing, I am indebted to 100 Days of Real Food for the majority of my ideas.  I just invested in my first YumBox Panino leak proof lunch container and it is awesome and would fit many cooler lunch boxes (I have seen that they definitely fit in Lands End boxes)!!  For Field Trip Days, these PackIt Freezable Lunch Bags (Mini Size is perfect for kids) are amazing - this bag stayed cold all day long in my son's backpack despite blazing heat last week (it was still cool when we got home that evening!)

Inside the PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag, I use the following reusable bags that I love:
Wrap 'N Mat (Best Invention Ever - folds out into a mat for sandwiches, veggies, or whatever you fold inside!)
Neat-O's snack size bags (these are SO durable, they have other sizes but this size works great for crackers, chips, fresh fruit and veggies)
Reuseit Sandwich/Snack Bags (I have had these for years and they are still like new - fit snacks and sandwiches)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fighting and preventing colds and flus naturally!

During the past three years, I have completely changed the way my family eats and I have done a lot of research about building immunity.  The healthier my little guy stays, the less asthma episodes we are fighting with inhalers and nebulized steroids.  With both my kids in a day care center environment, they are exposed to every virus under the sun.  On top of all of this, my son does not get flu shots due to egg allergies.  And, since I have done a lot of research of flu shots as a result, my family does not get flu shots anymore.  (Note: I am not anti-vaccine - we do follow a modified vaccine schedule for our daughter, and she will receive every other vaccine that is required.)  My research has shown that it is absolutely possible to fend off the flu naturally.

With all of this being said, I have a few tips to share with you that will give you insight into what we do in our home to fend off colds and flus.  (This is in addition to our daily multi vitamin that we take!)

Vitamin D

I cannot say enough about the impact vitamin D has had on myself and my family.  Leaving in the tundra (Minnesota), vitamin D is crucial especially during the fall, winter and even the spring.  I would recommend having your vitamin D levels checked in order to get a gauge as to how much you may need.  My son takes 3,000 iu per day (40 lbs), my daughter 1,000 iu (just under 25 lbs) and I take 5,000 iu per day.  This is in addition to fish oil, which has additional vitamin D in it.

Fish Oil

Ever since being introduced to Weston A. Price through our natural health practitioners, my son and I have been taking fermented cod liver oil every day.  I recommend Green Pasture.  My son takes 1/2 tsp. and I take 2 tsp. per day.  This stuff is a bit nasty but the Cinnamon Tingle flavor is tolerable.  My four year old takes it without a second thought, but he is one of very few that would do so (I did not force this on him, he asked to start taking it and we never looked back).  I give my daughter Barlean's Omega Swirl, which comes in a variety of flavors and is delicious!  I highly recommend this brand.  You can find it at Whole Foods or co-ops (it needs to be refrigerated so I would not recommend purchasing online).

Probiotics and Fermented Foods

In addition to probiotic supplements every day, our family eats a lot of fermented foods.  Check out this post for more insight into fermented foods that my family consumes.  I make my own sauerkraut (I use Pickl-It jars now) - it is SO easy.  It takes about as much time as making a batch of muffins from a preparation standpoint.  However, for really good, probiotic rich sauerkraut, it takes about 3 months of fermentation to get great results.  If you would rather purchase it, Bubbies is a great brand (for pickles, too)!  This is the recipe I follow for sauerkraut.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries have been shown to prevent the flu and shorten the length of the flu.  I find that it works extremely effectively to fight colds as well.  We do not take it every day, as I find it to be more effective to use it only when I know my kids have been exposed to a specific virus/flu bug or if I see signs of either in them.  My 4 year old takes 1 tsp. morning and night if exposed and if I see symptoms I will give him 1 tsp every few hours throughout the day.  During an illness, I give him 2-3 tsp. per day.  My one year old follows the same protocol except with 1/2 tsp.  My husband and I take 2 tsp. when we feel signs of a cold or flu coming on.  We have seen amazing results since adding this to our protocol!

Note:  I purchase this syrup from Whole Foods.  You can make your own, as well.  Please note that this kind has honey in it, so not appropriate for children under age one.

Other great flu and cold fighters...

I always have my freezer stocked with bone broth.  This is a wonderful post about the benefits of the nutrient-packed broth!  I make perpetual broth (link in the post referenced) when we have a cold or flu running through our house.  Otherwise I make a batch (24 hours in the crock pot) and freeze it in jars.

I also love this apple cider vinegar tea.  It makes me feel better almost instantly!  I cannot get my four year old to drink it (YET!) :) but my husband and I agree that it helps soothe a raw throat or cough and move through the cold more quickly.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fast (NOT processed) snacks and more!

Happy New Year!  As we enter 2014, one question that I have received messages and comments about via my personal Facebook page and my new Elevate Wellness Facebook page is this:  I need new snack and meal ideas that are quick, easy and require little to no prep or clean up.  Many say they reach for processed foods to meet all of these requirements, but it doesn't have to be that way!!!  

Here is my family's top five snacks, that could also serve as meals on the go!

Apple Sandwiches
1.  Apple Sandwiches:  A green apple with sunflower seed butter (Sunbutter) is a go-to allergy-friendly snack in our house.  Amp it up by thinly slicing the apple, adding a thin spread of nut butter to one slice and then sprinkling some seeds or granola on top of the nut butter.  Add another slice of apple and repeat.  My four year old thinks this is a fun snack!  You could pack these up with some lunch meat roll ups for lunch on the go!  

2.  Granola and Muffins:  This does take a little prep, but if you take one hour on the weekend and double or triple a recipe and freeze the extras, this makes an awesome quick snack or compliment to a meal with little fuss on a busy weekday!  Check out these granola bars and these granola bites (that can be made grain free using coconut flour!) and this muffin recipe for a good start.

3.  Homemade "lunchables":  Slice up high quality summer sausage (try Thousand Hills or a brand local to you!), organic, hormone free cheese and clean crackers (try Flackers, Mary's Gone Crackers, or a homemade cracker recipe if you are up for some baking) and add some berries or grapes into a reusable bento box storage container and you have a fun snack or lunch with just a little bit of preparation.

4.  Trail mix:  We LOVE mixing our own trail mix.  This is a fantastic allergy-friendly snacks (add nuts if allergies are not a concern)!  This is where the bulk bins at Whole Foods, your local co op or just about any grocery store come in very handy.  We add coconut flakes, banana chips, dried cranberries, raisins, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, mini chocolate chips and other fun add ins to make a filling, nutritious snack.  Mix a large container that you can scoop into small bags when you are on the go!

5.  Fresh cut veggies with dip:  This does take a little prep, but spend 15 minutes on a Sunday afternoon cleaning and chopping broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, etc and keep it in a bag in the fridge for quick snacks during the week.  Add yogurt, hummus, homemade ranch or guacamole to dip (which always makes it more fun)!

Beyond the top 5, smoothies are always an fun and healthy snack!  There are so many smoothie recipes to choose from.  We add greens and bananas to every smoothie we make in our house.  Milk, yogurt and water make up the liquid part of the smoothie and then our frozen organic fruit (peaches and berries - we buy our frozen fruit in large bags from Costco when we can) tops it off.

I'd love to hear about any of your go-to snacks and convenience foods!  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Menu Plan Week of November 4

It was a busy travel weekend for us!  This means that we are going into a busy week without my normal weekend preparation time.  As an allergy mom, this can be especially chaotic!  But between freezer meals and an arsenal of quick and easy recipes, I have what I need to survive with just a quick trip to the grocery store!  I would love to hear from you with tips for dinner and meal planning during  those weeks when you have little time to prepare!  Please share!

Monday - Chicken and rice stir fry (I love using Coconut Secret coconut aminos!  Soy free - check it out next time you are at Whole Foods or your co op!). Check out this recipe.

Tuesday - Crock pot beef stew freezer meal (from this awesome ebook!)

Wednesday - Turkey quinoa meatloaf burgers (if you are egg free just omit egg they will turn out fine!). ***i will mix this and then form into burger patties instead of loaves.  I will also double recipe, bake all of them and freeze half for a quick weeknight meal later!)

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - chicken quesadillas with raw veggies (using leftover chicken stir fry - quesadillas with Asian flare, why not?!?  :)

Saturday - out

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Menu Plan Week of October 27th

It was a busy and beautiful fall weekend for our family here in Minnesota.  We spent a lovely afternoon at the apple orchard and jumped in leaves in the front yard while my 11 month old practiced her walking skills. :). I made an apple orchard inspired turkey burger for dinner that was simple and delicious.  Recipe is featured below my menu plan - give it a try this week!  These would be great leftover too.  I love to make double the burgers, grill and freeze the extras.  Defrost and warm in the oven for a quick and easy weeknight dinner!

Sunday - Apple and onion turkey burgers with grilled potato slices and spinach salad

Monday - Pumpkin and Sausage Pasta bake (with GF noodles) from the Real Kids Eat Spinach ebook (so many awesome, healthy fall-inspired recipes!  A great value!)

Tuesday - Chicken stir fry (using leftover chicken from a whole chicken that I baked a couple of weeks ago)

Wednesday - wing it

Thursday - chicken quesadillas (also using the leftover chicken) with guacamole and raw veggies

Friday - Sunday - out

Apple and Onion Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey (I use turkey thigh)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup apple, grated or finely chopped (1 small to medium apple)
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

Mix apple, onion, garlic and spices.  Add oil to frying pan.  Fry apple and onion mixture until soft.  Let cool slightly, add to ground turkey and mix together with hands.  Make into 4-5 patties.  Grill  or fry until cooked through.  Serve with Dijon mustard.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones

As you may know by now, I am a big fan of pumpkin.  I love to bake in the fall so pumpkin treats naturally become part of my repertoire.  I love taking tried and true recipes and making tweaks to put my own stamp on them.  This is a scone recipe that I use frequently during the summer months when fresh berries are in season.  I made some changes to it to make it a fall favorite.  Pair these will my latest obsession - pumpkin buttered coffee - and you are set for a delicious fall breakfast!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones (adapted from this recipe)

1 cup brown rice flour + 1/2 cup sorghum flour
½ cup tapioca flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon sea salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ cup organic palm shortening

1/4 cup maple syrup
½ cup + 2 tablespoons cold non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life mini chips)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the flours, baking powder, xanthan gum, pumpkin spice and sea salt into a medium mixing bowl and whisk together well. Cut in the shortening with your fingers or a pastry cutter until coarse crumbs are formed.

In a separate small bowl whisk together the syrup, milk, pumpkin puree and vanilla. Add this to the dry ingredients and quickly mix together with a fork or wooden spoon until the dough thickens. Fold in the chocolate chips, being very careful not to over mix.

Drop by the large spoonful onto a cookie sheet and bake for about 15 to 17 minutes, depending on the size of your scone.  Ma
kes 6-8 scones.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Menu Plan Week of 10/20

After being very inconsistent with my posting over the past year, I am so thrilled to share that I have made a newfound commitment to be back to writing on the blog on a weekly basis.  I have received so much feedback from so many who use my blog as a resource for recipes and menu planning, it is what motivates me to be back to writing.  I am so grateful to my followers here!!  And I am so passionate about doing what I can to share my tips and tricks to feeding my family a whole foods, allergy-friendly diet.  I speak to friends and acquaintances on an ongoing basis who have struggled with so many of the same things we have when it comes to making dietary changes for their families.  I am here to ease the burden just a little and encourage you to stay the course - it is so worth the extra time and effort!  And I hope I can help you see that it can be easier than you think, with a little planning!

My plan going forward is to share menu plans as often as I can - I have so many menu plans archived now that it can get a little repetitive but I know that this is one of the most valuable tools for my readers!  I also plan to share more recipes and ideas with you to ease the burden of packing lunches, snacks and finding substitutions for processed foods that you are trying to eliminate.  I will also be highlighting my favorite blogs and resources that I use on a daily basis.

Some of the food challenges I have been tackling lately revolve around taking more grains out of my diet and my family's diet and feeding my almost 11 month old very close to grain free and organic, whole foods since we introduced solids at 6 months.  It has been an interesting journey and I am looking forward to sharing my tips with you.  As we introduce simple grains, I have some great ideas and recipes for you!

In the meantime here is our menu plan for this week!

Sunday - Crock pot chili

Monday - Black bean sweet potato quesadillas with kale chips

Tuesday - leftover chili with quinoa macaroni (Chili Mac)

Wednesday - "wing it"

Thursday - Crock pot freezer meal - Honey Apple Chicken Stew
***This recipe is from This awesome mini ecookbook that every mom should have in her arsenal!!!

Friday - Italian meatballs with organic sauce and spinach salad
***after a busy work wheat, a high quality organic marinara sauce does the trick.  I have these meatballs stocked in the freezer - just grass fed beef blended with Italian seasonings, bakes and frozen!

Saturday - out