Perpetual Menu

So my latest foray into menu planning is with a “perpetual menu.”

That is, instead of doing an entire month (which worked twice just the way it was supposed to, but never again—in the two years since).

Don’t get me wrong– I’ve used all the menus, and having a whole month (or several) of gluten free meals in front of me is a HUGE confidence-booster when I am depressed or tempted to freak out or eat what will hurt me…

But I’d still prefer a system I don’t have to maintain, or even hours of time when I don’t have to wonder where the next meal is coming from.

Doh– ME! Why did I wonder?

So in honor of the new year (and a few days off that gave me a taste of not being responsible for every. bite. of healthy, edible food that five humans eat), I’m alpha testing a perpetual menu.

Family Meals (Click on that if you have Excel and want your own high-tech boxes to fill-in ^^) This image gets more clear when you click on it.

perpetual menu image

So you can see I color-coded it per kid, and gave my husband the job he does better than me (dealing with multiple input– including children– while pursuing an output-goal.)

How we did it:

  • Passed out paper to each kid, insisted on no talking or comparing notes till it was done.
  • Determined the number of evenings we need to be out of the house by a certain time (3 or 4)
  • Gave kids the nights without that deadline
  • Negotiated where chosen food overlapped (M & E both wanted to make pizza– They’ll make it together with Daddy. E & N both wanted to do salmon– I asked the 10yo to let E have the easy fish and take on the more-complex Chicken and Rice. Which she loves, so it was win-win.  Whew.)

I should pause here to say for the folks that don’t know that I don’t eat gluten. And I actually do way better when I don’t eat a lot of grains. There are grains on this menu, but except for the Cinnamon Rolls (yes, they deserve to be capitalized), everything, even the bread that I’ll happily feed anyone is GF.

This is why the Chix&Rice is a multi-step process. We don’t have to go back as far as plucking the chickens, but we do have to make our own “cream-of” base for the casserole.

So this is the plan.

If enough people are interested I can make an effort to photograph and record recipes as we go along. I’m not a typical GF blogger (there are lots in my sidebar if you need to find those), but I do feed my family what I’m eating, and any company. And I think I strike a pretty manageable balance between easy and esoteric in this whole-foods endeavor.

Cheers, and Happy New Year!

Homemade Pumpkin Granola Bars {Guest Post}

Today I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Swap. You’ll find me posting over at Whole Foods on a Budget, telling some of my story about entering the “whole foods” (not the food store chain) lifestyle. It wasn’t a graceful (or entirely willing) transition…

At the same time, I’m pleased to welcome the talented Danielle from Mostly Food and Crafts to Serendipity ScrapNook. I’m excited about this recipe because it’s a chance to make a recognizable snack safely gluten free (Be sure to start with GF ingredients to end up with a GF product.  In this recipe the only thing you need to be careful of is the oats. All other ingredients are naturally GF.)

My Name is Danielle and I blog at Mostly Food and Crafts I blog about cooking and crafting with and for my two kids. We love finding recipes and projects that we can do together. Today I am going to share a quick recipe that my kids really enjoyed.  The recipe is for Pumpkin Granola Bars, I chose to share this recipe because I wanted to show you how easy is can be to make healthy treats for your kids.  And not only are these healthier than the bars you find in the stores but they taste better too.  They are so easy to make and you can customize them to your or your kids taste preferences.  

 I participate in a fun group called the Secret Recipe Club – and this is how I discovered this tasty treat. My kids actually asked me to double the recipe next time I make them – I guess that’s better than a two thumbs up – right?  Enjoy!!


What you need:

2 1/4 cup oats
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of allspice
1/4 tsp of ground cloves
1/4 tsp of salt
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
3/4 cup of pumpkin puree
1/4 cup of honey
1 tsp of vanilla extract
What you do:
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray 8×8 or 9×9 pan with cooking spray.

While the oven preheats, combine the oats, spices and salt together in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin, honey and vanilla til smooth. Mix your wet and dry ingredients together until all of the oats are moist.

Evenly press the mixture in to the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
Let them cool before cutting them with a sharp knife.

(Click through for a “bonus” craft project from Danielle: Clay Pot Critters.)

Salmon Noodle Casserole

Made this for lunch today.

It was not on the Menu.

All the left-overs were either eaten, left at a friend’s house earlier in the week, or left out (*sniff*) because they weren’t in a see-through container. So for lunch I had to make something from scratch.

Back in the summer when we got our massive amount of salmon from Chitna I learned how to can fish.

I was impressed at how well it went, and hope to can a higher percentage this year. Everything we like best– like this dish– is ready to put together so fast with the canned stuff.

And the best part is any bones left in the fillets are mushified by the canning process. (Not so with the commercially canned stuff, or maybe they just start with bones that are too big.)

This is my GF version of the tuna noodle casserole I had growing up, so if you don’t have a pantry full of salmon you can use a couple cans of tuna, or any other cooked meat you’re wanting to use up.

  1. Start by heating your noodle water (I always forget to start here and lunch takes that much longer. Planned right this all sorta finishes at once.)
  2. Make your cream-of sauce
  3. Add 5 or six cups GF pasta to the water whenever it’s hot & follow directions/your preferences to tell when it’s done (I do about a cup dry per person, since I don’t like left-over GF pasta)
  4. Mix the cooked noodles with your meat (I use a 1 pint jar salmon or two cans of tuna), one cup of the sauce (save the rest for another recipe)
  5. Stir in 2 cups shredded cheese

Yes, this is just glorified macaroni & cheese.  And it’s one I feel much better about serving my kids than the dayglo orange variety.

And no complaints from their end either.

“You can serve this is me *any* time, Mom,” Natasha gushed. “Even breakfast.”

“Me too!” Elisha agreed.

So I’m pleased to confirm another winner.


Real Life Menu (a new series with recipes)

Need some specific ideas for a gluten free attempt?

This is the menu our family is currently eating from.

If you want to print it out on one page, specify landscape orientation and under scaling choose *Fit all columns on one page.*

It is a five-week grid of real food, mostly from our freezer/pantry, mostly recipes I have made before (One exception include a page number so I know where to find the recipe).

Over the following (many?) weeks I plan to share the recipes for my staples (at least 10-12 basic meals, remember?), and maybe some general stuff about being comfortable in the kitchen.

Expect it to be  a slow process, but we’ll get through the elephant eventually.

~ ~ ~

Here are the recipes from this menu written/referenced already on the blog:

Because we’re already part way through the menu not everything will be posted in order, but since some things are just simpler or more familiar than others, they may get used (and therefore photographed and posted) out of order.

Just think of it as a real-life example of how a menu/meal plan can be used: a guideline, a suggestion, a gift not to think about one. more. thing.

Gluten Free Stopgaps: options to replace glutened recipe elements

More foods are gluten-free than contain gluten.

But most foods we eat on a regular basis are either based on gluten-containing foods (spaghetti and meatballs), made from recipes that have gluten-containing ingredients (cream-of mushroom soup in green bean casserole) or both (Soft tacos: the shells are made with wheat, and most taco seasoning contains flour as a thickener).

Eventually I hope you make peace with your kitchen and discover the joy of learning new recipes, but I understand that can be too much to ask for  in the  beginning.

At this point in your journey the most manageable thing may be learning how to make your familiar recipes without gluten.

Here are a few ideas that may help with that.

Continue reading

Meal Planning – Gluten Free

GF meal planning is pretty much the same as any meal planning, but I’ve found it very important for staying ahead of hunger that would lead to poor decisions (that I will regret later) so I’m including it here and early as part of an effective GF transition.

If you need more detail, that’s fine too. I’ll have the basic forms this week, and more specifics from my own menus next week.

 To Begin

First of all, download my  menu worksheet (my loving gift to you).

Second, make a list of all the meals your family currently eats: Spaghetti? Meatloaf? Mac and Cheese? Chili? Sloppy Joes? Big Mac?

Don’t worry yet whether they have  gluten-containing ingredients.  The point at this stage is just to write down all the meals you know.  Meals you need a recipe to make are fine, as long as they’re familiar enough for you to make at the same speed as the recipes in your head.

Once they’re on paper to look at you can consider what favorites are worth creating substitutions for.

Optional-but-recommended third-step: divide your your collected meals into categories (and it’s okay to put the same meal into  more than one category).

Any category-designation is fine.  I use main-protein (Salmon, caribou, chicken) and/or format (soup, 9×13 casserole dish, slow cooker) depending on the needs of the menu.

Having categories allows you to simplify your planning by narrowing the options of any given day.

Continue reading

Gluten Free Pancakes

We had a power-outage last night.  Lasted something like four hours. [Okay, I checked with Jay and he says it was more like 2.5 hours. {shrug} still the longest one we’ve had. I think.]  So we got to see how prepared we were/n’t for emergencies.

We have our woodstove, so heat wasn’t a problem, and our kitchen stove is propane, so we have the cook-top at least (the oven requires electricity).

With everyone clambering for food, I decided (feeling clever) to make pancakes for dinner.

But then was thwarted by not being able to find my scale

It was in a back corner.  Someone else must have put it away.  (Silly person.)

And while that should scare me into transitioning my recipes into dry measures (cups), I think I’m just motivated to buy extra batteries for my scale. You see, having learned the variation possible in each batch of flour (the 70/30 version at least) I prefer the consistency of weights.

So we had pancakes for breakfast instead. I took pictures 😉

Continue reading

Avoiding Gluten

One of the few things eating advisers agree on is the value of eating foods without labels.  Foods that look the same (or nearly so) when you prepare them as when they were grown: vegetables, meat, dairy, fruit, even fats. Everyone may quibble over the best kinds of these, or the “correct” ratios, but all will agree you will be stronger and healthier if these dominate your food-choices.

None of these whole foods contain gluten in their original form.

In point of fact, very few “real foods” contain gluten at all.  Gluten is a specific protein that only appears in a limited number of grains: wheat, spelt, barley and rye.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

If you have a “whole foods” approach to eating– the type where you maximize label-less foods– you are well on your way to going gluten free “the easy way.”

Shirley Braden of gfe (gluten free easily) writes about this all the time. I heartily recommend her blog for food ideas and encouragement for the newly shell-shocked GF transitioning, especially her (PDF) tip sheets that include such hope-inspiring titles as 50 GF foods you can eat today, and 50 meals that are gfe

GO. Benefit. Be encouraged.

The difficulty in going gluten free, then, isn’t the limited number of foods available. The difficulty comes down to relearning.  New basics. New habits. Too many of our go-to food are contaminated, and most of the ostensible replacements are prohibitively expensive (if we’re being sensible) and/or a huge disappointment pleasure-wise.

Eventually, if you want to be happy as GF-for-life (GFFL), you’re going to have to make peace with your kitchen, and the amount of time you will spend there, for the rest of your life.

The food you make, the skills you will master, will strengthen you.  You don’t have to embrace it right away, but prepare your mind for it.  Anticipate it. Look forward to the time when the work that is hard now will become the invisible step to your new favorite meal.

Continue reading

Starting Gluten Free — Sandwich Bread Recipe

If you learned you needed to drop gluten, chances are you froze.

You are a capable, resourceful person and have mastered many challenges in your not-too-long life. And there’s a part of your mind saying No big deal. We can do this.

Then there’s the other part.

The tired part that probably is the reason you even considered taking on this extra burden (and it is a burden) of learning-under-pressure.

When I began, I felt like I was one ripple from drowning (of course, that was about the same time I discovered depression), but that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

At this minute everything seems huge and you just want something to feel normal.    

Well, as long as you don’t expect it to be *the same* I do want to offer you a recipe that will at least give you something useable to replace sandwich bread in your life. Then you might be able to feel a little more normal. If you’re a sandwich family.

Just make sure the fillings you choose are gluten free. Some sandwich meats have gluten-laced “natural flavors” added, so check your labels!

This is the way I make Amy Green’s Perfect Bread, once or twice a week.

Continue reading

The Twisting Track of my Mind.

So, it’s funny to me how my mind really compartmentalizes.

I can be really tired (or excited) in one area, and it can affect any other area.

And I can think of something else and completely shift my focus, and I forget what was weighing on me before.

For example:

Last couple of days I’ve been working out the next month’s menu

Somebody remind me to tell you about menu-planning for the month, rather than the week. Would you believe it’s easier?! (Maybe not faster, though.)

Then today I let a corner of my mind loose in The Novel, and 30-minutes on the treadmill flew by in a storm of delightful speculation and investigation.  I came back to the house more energized than when I left (which is good, because my body’s not used to the renewed demands yet.

So I was all keen to shift off the menu and work on the novel for a while.

Then I saw the time, realized the lights would be going out soon in the rabbit/hen house, and I had to decide if I wanted to bring my angora doe back to in finish plucking her

I got her back plucked clean Saturday night; need to finish the rest.

No, it doesn’t hurt, she sits quietly in my lap the whole time.

But I decided I wanted to write *something* so I framed a thinking-outloud email about the story ideas, to untangle them, then another to a local group that’s doing a “wool expo” in April.  Asked if they’d consider rolling angoras into the event {grin}.

Then, as I considered what I next wanted to put up here at the scrapbook (more M-B? GF cooking?  Lotso links to my fav recipes or foods of my own?) I got an email from a friend who is in the process of switching over to GF for her whole family.

And I thought of the other folks in recent months who have announced (or whispered) to me that they are embarking on the scary unknown path of Gluten Free and with each story I remembered my strong overwhelm, and I wished I could bring them home and cook them a simple dinner and tell them it doesn’t have to be scary (forever).

So, in dearth of clambering requests for more M-B talk, I’ll shift gears for a while.  We’ll squeeze into my little kitchen, and I’ll show you what I know, and how I made it not-scary for me.