Where Whine Meets Wine

Embracing My Inner Foodie

So, the hubbyman and I have been talking. About living healthier, mainly, but that’s not just food, it’s a lifestyle. In fact, last night, he whipped up a batch of homemade shampoo. And has plans for soaps, lotions, and a plethora of other household essentials. Because just as we believe the foods we eat and put into our bodies are very important, we also believe that the things we put on our body are equally as important.  We’ve long been using cleaning products that are more organic, more environmentally friendly (both the earth’s environment and my children’s). But now we’re going the extra steps. My kids (unfortunately for them) come from grandparents (and me) on both sides that have a long list of allergies and sensitives, both for foods and products you use in the house or on your body. So that gives us the extra incentive to go as natural as possible. Plus, it’s pennies on the dollar when you make it from home. Who doesn’t like when an added bonus is less money?! So we’re jumping in!

We’re also planning a weekend on helping some friends with their cooking. I’m not sure if they’re hoping to go GF or just homemade, but I can help with both! This was prompted when I ran into our natural food store this weekend. I went in to grab some easy GF things to send with the big kids who were doing an overnight with their Aunt and Uncle (and their newborn baby goat). Turns out they were having an anniversary sale, and you could hardly walk through the aisles. It was a good sale and I grabbed a few things (like GF noodles for over 50% off! Yes, thank you!). As I was looking through the noodles, and grabbing a variety of them. A lady next to me was looking over all the boxes and bags and seemed a little lost. I must’ve been audibly excited when the vegetable noodles (you know, the colored spirals of red-tomatoes-, green-spinach, and plain- rice). Because she turned to me with big, help-me-I’m-lost eyes and asked, do your kids like those? I smiled and told her, yes, they really do. And they like the colors. And this is a really good deal on them. She nodded and looked back at all the noodles. Then she said, people told me that diet, and wheat really could make a difference in my son. I didn’t believe them, and just fed him what I wanted. And then I paid attention. And I could see the visible difference in his behavior when he ate wheat. And now I just feel so guilty that I didn’t make those changes earlier, and I have no idea where to start. She let a couple of tears escape and I just wanted to hug her! I told her my daughter has Celiac and we struggled for a year trying to find out what it was that she was intolerant of. (The longer she ate things with wheat- the more things she became intolerant of. Since going GF, we’ve been able to add the other things back in, without reactions.) She asked questions like, What can you make with the noodles? I laughed, even though I completely understood her feelings -and was there myself not so long ago-, but because I make everything we used to eat. Just a little different. And in quite a few cases, even better than it was before. I gave her some ideas, things I do for my kids that they like (and are quick and easy). And I told her that in times of babysitters, or when you just don’t have the time, they do have some things that are premade. So there are options. She heaved a big sigh and said, I came here to get noodles and things, I just didn’t know how lost I would be. Thank you so much. And it reminded me of why I started this blog in the first place. To share. To help. At the time I started it, I was getting lots of requests for GF meals and ideas, and how to go gluten free, and how to go more homemade. And how to do it all on a real-life, family-friendly budget.

Over the last few months, I’ve gotten away from that side of this blog. But I am hoping to pick up the slack, at least a bit. I’m by no means an expert and nothing near a GF Martha Stewart. But I am a mom, who’s in the throws of it all. So maybe we can commiserate. Maybe I’ll have some ideas for you. Maybe you’ll have some ideas for me! So if you have questions or ideas, please- pass them my way! Don’t worry, you’ll still be getting regular doses of my wonderful personality and thoughts, I’ll just be throwing in some foodie posts along the way!


I Make Donuts. Call Me WonderMom.

So…. I’m pretty behind in posts in general, I know. And food posts, I’m sure I’m behind by like a month. Whoops. I have another confession- this is not going to be one either. Well, not completely. Even though I haven’t been doing posts about food, we still have been cooking, and even eating. Shocking, right? Really, there’s been lots of foodie stuff going on here… for Christmas I got a pasta extruder (you have no idea how happy this made me!).

I’ve made lots of yummy pastas, some new pasta sauces (including a pink garlic sauce- so good), sugar cookie cut outs galore, and donuts. I bought a specialty cookbook (for gluten free) specifically because it had a donut recipe in it. And I’ve been looking longingly at the donut making machines over the holidays… and then, during some post-holiday shopping, I found a set that had two donut trays. One for your regular circle donuts, and one for long john style donuts!! I was practically giddy. Ok, there’s no practically, I was giddy. You see, January marks one year of us being gluten free. It feels like it’s been much longer, but a year it’s definitely been. And we have come a long way since those first weeks. We were given a lot of discouraging advice, encouraging advice, and a lot of mixed signals. Thankfully, we were able to weed out the good and the bad and trudge on through. We did have some things going for us already. We already ate little to no processed foods, and I was already making/cooking most things… so I ordered some all-purpose GF flour on-line (because you can get it WAY cheaper and in bigger quantities) and just kept on cooking as usual. I really lucked out. This all-purpose mix is still by far my favorite. We thought it might be a fluke that the first brand we tried was so awesome, but I have not been impressed with any other brand we’ve tried.  While we still have our areas that we could improve upon (I need to make and freeze more pasta sheets on a regular basis, so they’re always available in a pinch. I also need to get back into making bread on a regular basis.), but we have certainly come a long way. We now know so much more about the little changes we can make to keep gluten out of the house and home and tummies. We have found new family favorites and ventured into foods we never otherwise would have. Plus, we feel better! We made “Mexican pizzas” (tostadas), we have sandwiches made out of waffles (the kids’ absolute favorite), we make our own pasta, we make our own sauces, we double our recipes so that we can freeze half for an easy/quick meal another night, and we do lots of experiments!

You know what the best part is? Knowing that one year ago, we were trying everything we could think of to help our sweet little girl. Who had awful tummy issues from midnight exorcism-style vomiting, to much less pleasant potty issues that I’ll save you from the details, to hives attacking her face with each and every meal. We’d gone a year trying to figure out what was causing the hives, we’d thrown out processed foods, stayed away from anything with preservatives or food coloring, gave up tomatoes and anything with citric acid… to no avail. In fact, her hives were getting worse. They were no longer just showing up around her mouth with a meal, they were staying on her sweet little face all the time, and spreading to her neck with meals. Now I know there is some controversy in the needing to be tested. But in order to do that she’d have to continue eating gluten for 2 solid months and then undergo a big-deal time of invasion to her body, which is is teeny-tiny. And the test often comes out with a false negative. Yeah, I’m not down for that. Especially, when after being gluten free for only a month, her hives went away. And they haven’t been back. And we’ve been able to add back in some of the foods that we avoided previously. Like tomatoes. Hello, ketchup! She was so excited to be able to have the ketchup that her brother shovels onto just about every food. (Except rice, because apparently that’s gross. But ketchup and anything else is totally acceptable. And I mean anything else.) Really, to me, my daughter feeling better (you know it’s a big deal when you could tell a 3 year old that she can’t have the cookie being offered because it’s one that will make her tummy hurt, and she just says, so what can I have? without getting upset at all. Or when offered something she’ll ask, will this make my tummy hurt? She feels that much better, and that’s sayin’ something.) And the diet change has caused us to look more closely into the things we’re eating and to become more intentional with the things we eat along with where they come from. Plus, now I make my own donuts. My life is now complete.

See that, a real, homemade (by me!) donut... Gluten free, and it's vegan too!

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The Flip Side

So the two questions I’m finding that I get asked the most is how can we afford to cook everything homemade and natural/organic, and how do I have the time? …but basically the REAL answer to both questions is that I can’t afford NOT to. My little MissE is allergic to… a lot of things. Food coloring, preservatives, tomatoes, citric acid, MSG, wheat… and those are just are “for sure” ones. It was to the point that no matter how careful we were or what we didn’t give her, she had hives with every meal. Eventually they were just always present around her mouth. So we gave up. We gave up over-processed, over colored, and over preserved foods. We started making things from scratch… like really from scratch. What we filled in it’s place was fresh, tasty, healthy food. We are healthier for it, and so are our children. And for the first time in MissE’s little life, she is hive free.

It started with when we moved from the apartment (affectionately dubbed “the little house” by my children) to “the house.” We started a garden and we practically have a farmer’s market in our backyard (I know, how great is that?!)… and so we made the decision, for both health and financial reasons, to go scratch. Threw out all the boxes and over-processed crap, and never looked back… well, maybe an occasional glance, but only to say, can you believe we ever ate that stuff?! Yes, the initial set up of buying all the cooking and baking ware and goods will cost you something, but we cut our grocery bill in half, therefore quickly recouping the initial costs. And then there’s the, “I wish I had time to cook. You’re so lucky you have all this time to cook since you’re home with the kids.” (insert irritated-by-your-condescension laugh) First of all, because of my daughter, I really don’t have a choice, I HAVE to cook this way, and number two…it actually doesn’t take as long as you think it does. Seriously. I can MAKE noodles/pasta in the amount of time it takes to boil the water. And in the same amount of time it would take you to make a box of hamburger helper, I can make a homemade version. And it will be so much better for you, and it will taste so much better too. Seriously. Plus, since I’m making it all from scratch and have the things necessary to do so at home… I go to the grocery store WAY less. And I LOVE not having to do that so often! Plus, the less you go, the less you’re tempted to buy things that you don’t need! For me, the key to the time I spend cooking, is organization. Keeping my supplies…supplied. And having things that can have multiple purposes. Or doing things in advance. Or whenever you have a few free moments. Already making an alfredo/tomato sauce for tonights meal? Double it and put the rest in the fridge/freezer for next time. (Frozen sauce really take very little time to thaw.) Cooking up some chicken to throw in that alfredo sauce? Cook some extra to go on salad for lunch tomorrow. Easy things like that. And when you’ve done some of these steps, when you have nights where you just don’t feel like cooking…you’ll have something easy to throw together. Or simple enough your significant other could do it! Really. And trust me, hubby cooks breakfast on the weekends…and that’s about it (at least during the winter- during the summer he does quite a bit of grilling, when he’s home before dinner time anyhow), so I make the meals myself, so I know some days we just don’t wanna do it! But anytime we’ve “taken the easy route” and gone out to dinner 3 things happen: 1) by the time we get to the restaurant and receive our food- we could have cooked and eaten a meal at home. 2) we’ve paid for food that in general would have tasted better if I’d of made it myself. 3) we have to deal with the kids in a restaurant.

Now, how do we afford to do this? (Again, really no other option, but…) There are lots of helpful hints. Buy in season. Buy in bulk. (we ♥ Costco and on-line… lots of good deals there, and lots free of charge shipping) Buy local. Freeze, dry, can, store… figure it out. And do it. You’ll never regret it, and as it is with lots of things, you will be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is. Seriously. And make the most of what you have. Yogurt on sale? I’ll buy a ton and make frozen yogurt popsicles (my kids prefer them to actual ice cream or regular popsicles, which they can’t have anyways!), or fruit roll ups. Also a great idea for when you have yogurt that is about to expire and you don’t want it to go bad- freeze it! We try to waste as little as we can, so if I have a bunch of tomatoes about to go bad- I make tomato sauce, and freeze it or can it. Spices I’ve boughten fresh over the winter and don’t use up- I dry it. Which basically saves you twice. Because you got the fresh spice and then when cooking you don’t have to buy an expensive bottle of anything, because you’ve already got the fresh/recently dried, better tasting stuff anyhow. Another great tip that I’ve learned is stocking up on things that are naturally (or regularly) made gluten-free. You’ll be surprised by how many things there are (Trader Joe’s even has a list in it’s store -that you can take home- that has all of it’s products that are gluten free). We were so thankful that our favorite (as a household) snack is chips and salsa. Bread (for sandwiches and toast) is the thing we miss most. In the beginning I was pretty good about making bread weekly, but haven’t been so good about it lately. Although we’ve learned other tricks, like PB&J roll ups on corn tortillas. Add a little nutella and they think it’s a special treat!  PS. trader joe’s is a GREAT find! Things are so reasonable that you’ll want to buy everything! And they have a great selection of gluten free things (including one of my favorite things- Almond meal… double the amount of what you’d find at the store for less than half the price! Score!).

Another thing that really helps -that’s SO simple- is: make friends! Farmer’s markets are great for that! We (truly) go every week, so by the end almost of the summer almost every stand would have some little treat waiting for my kids every week, because they knew we’d by, and they’d come to know us. We buy our beef from a hobby farm (which is a great money saver on organic, hormone-free, icky-stuff-free beef) that’s owned by a friend of my mother-in-law. We get eggs from *a guy through hubbyman’s work who raises chickens. We get corn from a friend of my Grandparents who farms. Seriously, people are willing to share- if they know you’re interested. Our neighbor knows we love veggies and such and so whenever people give her things from their gardens- she brings it over to me! So reach out- post a facebook status that says, who knows where there’s a crop share available? Or who has extras from their garden? I bet you’d be surprised with the responses, I know I have been. Farmer’s markets are my favorite way of buying produce, and the cheapest as far as buying organic and pesticide free go too. Yes, organic food stores (and even organic in your neighborhood grocery store) can be spendy, so you should figure out what’s in season (it’ll be cheaper) and stick to the most important ones to go organic on. They’re commonly referred to as “The Dirty Dozen.” (think- celery with no protective “skin” against pesticides vs bananas with a peel you don’t eat anyways.) Another thing, make cyber friends too! I was amazed with how many blogs and sites I found with people with similar ideas and lifestyles as my family. Support and good ideas all in one! Plus, real mom recipes are the best kind- you know, ones a real person has actually made. Someone who maybe has a bunch of kids running around and a husband and a life and still cooked a meal, and was willing to share it… chances are, it’s gonna be a good one. (plus that takes so much of the guess work out on your side!)

When we first started making things from scratch, and then again when we went gluten-free, we got lots of comments about how much time it would take, how hard it would be to find anything to eat, and how expensive things would be. We muddled through anyways. And through intentional shopping and eating, we’ve found it to actually have been a really good experience. And we believe our kids will be healthier for it. Which in today’s society, is unfortunately becoming more and more rare. I have a lot more to say about intentional eating, and living… but I’ll save that for another day. Monday Funday means no TV/DVDs/Computer Games for my kids and so… it’s interactive, which requires my participation!

Maybe later I’ll let you in on our afternoon’s adventure- making cannoli! I loved when my mom would make it growing up, and so now I’m continuing the tradition! Plus, my kids love cooking along side of me! I love traditions and getting my kids involved- so it’s a double bonus for me! And them!


*we now get beef, pork, and hopefully soon- chicken from him too!