Saturday, April 28, 2012

First Farmers Market of the Season

We have been CSA members for 2 years now but unfortunately ours is taking a break this year. The rising cost of fuel and farming supplies has hit them hard, along with some illnesses so it was time  for them to re-evaluate their business.  They are still growing their delicious fruits and veggies but are instead going to have Saturday Markets at the farm and Pick Your Own days.  I am excited to take the girls to see where our veggies have come from these past couple of years, and to let them pick some of their own foods.
Since I am a firm believer in supporting my local farmers and eating organic whenever possible, we researched a few other CSA's in the area.  We found one and almost signed up but changed out mind at the last minute.  The pickup location was at one of our local farmers markets and we thought if we had to be there every week anyway, we might as well pick and choose what we want then.  In May there will be 4 we can visit between Wednesday and Sunday. They all happen to be at our favorite locations around town and that will offer even more variety.  
Yesterday one of them opened up for the first time this season so my Mom, my oldest daughter, and I headed over there in the morning to see what goodies we could find.  

 Since it is still April there aren't a lot of vendors out there yet.  As we get into May there will be many more.

My helpful shopper was on a mission: She wanted to find the special dog treats we used to get for our beloved Golden Retriever, Fenway.  She thought that Bruin, our new dog, would love them too.  

Found what we were looking for!  We bought Bruin a box of peanut butter treats- and he loves them!

Our next stop was at the Virginia Gourmet booth.  We found some really interesting goodies here!  All of those pastas shown are flavored and totally dairy free!  Most of their sauces are dairy free too!  They really seem to cater to people with food allergies, or those that lead a Vegan lifestyle.  We spent quite a bit of time here taste-testing and chatting with the owners.

I found this new and interesting little treat there:

  I am going to make this into a dessert pasta salad with raspberries and chocolate sauce- yum!

I also found picked up this bottle of Merlot Vinegar:

We got to taste this and it is amazing!  I foresee some very tasty salads in our future!  They also have a Chardonnay vinegar that I will probably get next week.

Of course my little helper found a few goodies for herself too. She loved this carbonated fruit juice - Fruit 66, so much that the owners took a picture of her drinking it to put on their Facebook page.  They made her feel very grownup!  (We also walked away with more than one can of this- it's great for kids or adults)

We  hit up the produce vendors last.  I was very excited to see my favorite farm from last year's market.  They always such a great variety, and their produce is so fresh. 

We spent some time chatting with the owner about CSA's, his business, and other farmers markets he is helping to start up.

During our conversation he was chatting with Cat and she told him that tomatoes were her absolute favorite food.  So he gave her this pint of gorgeous tomatoes as a gift.  I've never seen a child so excited about free tomatoes before- but that's my girl!

And who could pass these beauties up?  They were picked that morning, still had the dirt on them from the field.  These babies are going into my strawberry pie very shortly!

After a very successful trip we walked away with: zucchini, tomatoes, white potatoes, 2 pints of strawberries, chocolate fettuccine, Merlot Vinegar, Fruit 66 drinks for the kids, and special treats for Bruin.   Not a whole lot this time around, but we didn't need any greens this time since I am growing my own.  

Do you visit your local farmer's market for get your summer fruits and veggies from a CSA?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! This has become my favorite post of the week to write.  I love picking out new things at the grocery store and then sharing what I find with you all. This week was no exception:

Beanfields Nacho Flavored Chips
This company contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me to try these and write a review for the blog. I will be sharing that  review  in another post, but for now I will say that they are my new favorite chips to snack on. As you can see they are allergen free- made from beans and rice.  And they taste amazing! Visit their website for more information on where to buy them.

 Gardenburger Veggie Burger
I am not usually a fan of veggie burgers- I have tried several and I am usually disappointed.  But I decided to  give these black bean chipotle ones a try this week and I was very pleasantly surprised!  They make a great lunch for me or my toddler, or dinner when my husband has a meeting.  Just be cautioned- not all veggie burgers are vegan or dairy free.  You really have to read the ingredients!

This is my new favorite dairy free item!  This container is actually my daughter's, I drink the little shots.  I start everyday with a serving of Goodbelly now. This company has also contacted me and there is a review and a GIVEAWAY coming soon!!

So Delicious Coconut Milk
We have switched from soy milk to coconut milk and my 2 year old LOVES it!  My two oldest ones do too- this is our second carton this week.  We use it in our overnight oats, and the little one drinks it straight.  We are now officially converts to coconut milk.  

This little bag actually came out of a much larger bag that had 8 of these.  It's perfect as a side dish with dinner, or as a movie night snack.  

So  there you have it, this week's Friday Favorites.  And a mention of an upcoming giveaway!  

What kind of non-dairy milk do you prefer?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Raising a Dairy Free Toddler: Meal Ideas

 Growing up I did not have any food allergies or intolerances so when my dairy issue came up as an adult it was completely uncharted territory for me. It took me about 4 years to really get the hang of a dairy free lifestyle after being totally addicted to cheese for the 27 years before that. Luckily I am now prepared to deal with our youngest's lactose intolerance.
She didn't really show signs of lactose intolerance until close to age one.  She had no digestive issues, other than mild spitting up.  But there was no acid reflux or pain with it, just typical baby spit up, and my 2 older daughters had done the same thing.  We did make the decision to not give her cow's milk ever, so once she was off formula she went straight to soy milk (at the recommendation of our pediatrician). She was actually on regular formula, which contains milk products, but we could only use a certain brand or it wouldn't sit well with her.  Around 14months we tried a few items that had dairy- Goldfish crackers, organic yogurt, very small amounts of cheese. This was at the suggestion of our doctor. At first it did not bother her, but then she started to have nasty diapers and diaper rashes after eating certain foods.  After one particularly tough day I decided to eliminate all dairy from her diet for a couple days- all her tummy troubles cleared right up.  Now whenever she has any sort of dairy she has stomach upset ( and other issues that do not need to be described in detail).  Over the past several months we have been very careful about keeping all dairy out of her diet,  and that's not easy with a toddler who tries to eat anything she can get her hands on.

So what do you feed a toddler who can't have dairy? Definitely no premade toddler meals! (those are gross anyway) I have looked and they all contain some kind of dairy.  With a toddler you need easy, fast, and healthy. Here are some ideas that my little one loves:

Scrambled eggs with toast 
Overnight oats with coconut milk - this is her favorite breakfast
Cinnamon toast with fruit ( we use Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
Vans Organic Gluten and Dairy Free French Toast Sticks 
Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (Yes, they are dairy free!)

Grilled "cheese" bites made with dairy free cheese (she likes veggie shreds and Daiya)
Quesadillas, again with DF cheese
Veggie Dogs ( cut up into small, non circular bites),  veggies, and fruit
Veggie and rice bowls- organic mixed veggies over rice with Daiya cheese on top
Hard boiled eggs, avocado slices, and a slice of wheat bread

Dairy free cereal bars
Graham Crackers
Ritz Crackers
Animal Crackers
Banana or other sliced fruit
Apple Sauce
Dry Cereal 

She eats what we eat, and all our dinners are free of dairy.

These are just a few ideas and a small list of what my Dairy Free Little One eats.  She will eat just about anything we put in front of her so it's been pretty easy so far.  We try to keep her diet full of fruits and veggies and there aren't many she won't eat.  I am sure it will be a bit more challenging as she gets older and hits the inevitable picker eater stage that every single child goes through around age 4-5.  (Trust me, even the very best eaters have a picky stage!)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Friday Favorites ( On a Monday)

I realize it's Monday, but I did not want you all to miss out on last week's Friday Favorites.  I had to go out of town unexpectedly  at the end of last week to help out a friend so I didn't have the chance to post this on Friday.  I have a few favorites from last week's shopping trip that I wanted to share, even though it's few days late.  There will still be a Friday Favorites at the end of this week too.

Honest Tea 
I love to have these around  instead of soda.  

Crispy Rice Cereal Bars 
 I bought these for my two year old as a grab and go snack.  They are like rice krispie treats, but fluffier and larger.  She LOVES them! ( and so do I!) 

Ground Flaxseed with Mixed Berries
This has actually been a favorite for a while.  I always have a bag of this on hand to use in my overnight oats, on cereal, in baked goods, or sprinkle in the kids' pb&j's.  My kids love it because of the dried berries in it- I love it because they'll eat it!

 Flat Bread
I found these at my local grocery store last week.  If you can find them I highly recommend them! We used them in the Flatbread Pizzas.

Daiya Cheese
This is the best vegan cheese I have ever had ( and I have tried several!) It melts great, tastes like cheese, and is soy free.  An all around win!  You'll notice I wrote the date on it- I write the date on everything in my fridge so I know when I opened it.  

And Just Because...
I thought I would add in my favorite beer.  It is baseball season after all!  

Did you miss last week's Friday Favorites?  Check them out for some really delicious dairy free finds!

Do you have some new favorite dairy free finds?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Flatbread Pizza

In case you have not noticed from other posts I love pizza.  It was probably one of the hardest things to give up when I went dairy free. But now that I have found two great dairy free cheese options- Daiya and Veggie Shreds- we make pizza, and variations of pizza,  quite often.  Last night was one of those cool, rainy nights and the kids wanted something fun for dinner. What's more fun for kids than getting to make their own pizzas?  On my recent trip to the grocery store I picked up a pack of flat bread that I thought would make a good pizza crust.

I love veggies on my pizza and so I loaded it up with spinach, yellow peppers, tomatoes, and onion:

My oldest daughter even added some spinach and peppers to hers.  

First things first: Get the bread a little crispy before adding the toppings. I put it in a 350F oven for about 5 minutes. 1 flat bread will feed one adult.

Then I added all my toppings and used Veggie Shreds*

I made the Little One's pizza with Daiya cheese. She LOVES Daiya!

 The Dairy Free Little One's dinner- dairy free pizza with mixed veggies.  She cleaned her plate!

Mine before it was cooked:

Fresh out of the oven:
I have found that Veggie Shreds melt better when they are covered, so I tented a piece of aluminum foil over my pizza.  Daiya melts great without being covered.

This was much quicker than making my own crust, and took half the time.  I think next time we will do these on the grill!  

If you don't like cheese alternatives, try it with hummus.  When heated, hummus gets creamy and has a cheese like consistency.

Other Pizza Posts:

*remember Veggie Shreds contain Casein.  They are great for Lactose Intolerant people, but not if you have a milk protein allergy.

What is your favorite kind of pizza?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vegan Stuffed Shells

Before my dairy free days one of my  favorite meals was stuffed shells. I would always order it when we ate at Italian restaurants, and after I got married I started making it at home quite often. It's been about 5 years since I last had this dish and I have really missed it. I made it last night for dinner using an old recipe but subbing tofu for ricotta and omitting the egg.  My oldest daughter, my youngest daughter, and I loved it.  My husband doesn't like tofu at all under any circumstances so it wasn't one of his favorite meals but he said it was a really good substitute for the real thing. My 5 year old... well she's 5.  And she hates spinach. But she did eat around the spinach so that's a dinner win.

Vegan Stuffed Shells:
1 package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
1 box jumbo pasta shells
Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast ( to add cheese flavor)
3 cloves garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce- I used Bertolli Tomato and Basil

 Press your tofu to get all the extra water out.  I wrap it in paper towels first then place it on a plate and put my cast iron skillet and a heavy cookbook on it.  Works like a charm!

While that is left to sit for a few minutes, cook the shells according to the directions on the box and defrost the spinach.  Make sure to squeeze as much of the water out of the spinach as you can.  When the noodles are cooked drain them and set  aside to cool a bit.

Make your "cheese" filling.  In a food processor add your tofu and pulse a couple of times.  

Add 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 3 cloves of garlic, 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and process until it has a ricotta like consistency.  Add more olive oil if needed.  
Why yes, that is a box of Pops in the background.  

Add in your spices- basil, oregano, and thyme ( I love thyme and add it to so many things). Pulse to combine them.  Add in your spinach.  I added the entire bag because I happen to really love spinach.  You could add just half a bag and it would be plenty.  Last, add salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to combine all the ingredients.  Once it's the consistency you want, it's ready to go.

Coat the bottom of a large casserole dish with your pasta sauce.  Stuff each shell with about a tablespoon     ( or a little more) of the filling.  Lay them open side up in the pan.  Once they are all stuffed pour the remaining sauce over top of the shells.

Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes.

Dinner was the stuffed shells, oven roasted green beans, and a dairy free french bread, which will be included in my Friday Favorites post.  My oldest daughter had seconds, and my toddler cleaned her plate.  I guess this can be called a kid friendly meal, especially great for dairy free kids.  And it's totally vegan.  I can't wait for leftovers for lunch!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Break Adventures

After our completely insane month of March it was such a treat to get a week off from reality for Spring Break.  The beauty of homeschooling is that we could move around our break to suit that of our friends.  We worked hard to get ahead of where we needed to be in our classwork and then took some days off to hang out with friends, go to the zoo, have movie nights, and just RELAX. It was heavenly!  Now it's back to the grind- but luckily we only have a few more weeks until our summer break starts.    I thought I would share a few pictures and meals from our break so you can see what I've been up to.

The zoo is one of my most favorite places to visit.  I prefer the National Zoo, but the ones near us are good too.  This was our first time visiting this particular one and we had a blast.  The girls are already asking to go back.  

Her first trip to the zoo and she loved it! Oh my how I love that face!

My favorite animal at the zoo- I love Tigers.  And luckily this big guy cooperated for pictures.

You learn something new everyday.

I see her on a Safari someday. She is my eager learner.

The cuteness of these two is blinding!

Mamas and our babies, who aren't really babies anymore. 

Our gaggle of girls.  

Not only did we have a great time visiting the zoo, we also had a few sleepovers with our friends.  What goes better with a sleepover than popcorn? And if you're a kid, the most fun to having popcorn is making it!
We added 3 scoops so each of them got to help.  That made a ton of popcorn!

For some reason popping popcorn never gets old!

The adults got a few pieces before the girls took the rest to eat while watching their movie- The Princess Diaries.  A perfect girls' sleepover. Oh to be a kid again!

Even though we took a break, we still had some of our activities.  Perhaps one of my favorite things about this spring is that my oldest is playing Lacrosse and she absolutely loves it!  I love going to her games, watching her do something she loves.
My girl is in the green.

Of course the kids didn't get to have all the fun.  We ended the week with a grown ups night out.  We took our friends to ZPizza for their first time and they loved it!
I got my favorite- the Berkley Vegan... with pepperoni.  If you have a zpizza near you I highly recommend them!  They are amazing!  And so accommodating.  What better way to end an amazing week than sitting outside eating pizza and drinking a beer with friends.

Hanging with our friends means we have 7 hungry little mouths to feed.  Quick and easy is typically our best bet.  A few favorites with the kids (other than chicken nuggets and pb&j sandwiches) are:
Chicken Spaghetti
Spicy Chicken Tacos made from this recipe 
Asian Chicken Noodle Soup from EatLiveRun
Cinnamon Rolls  for a breakfast treat

Of course we grownups had a sushi night one night, because it's just so good!

I am sad that the week is over but we have plenty planned for the next couple of months to keep us busy.

What are some of your favorite things to do on Spring Break?