Tag Archives: gluten free food

Back To School: the brown bag

26 Aug



Most of the school districts in the country have just finished with their first week of school.  As a first year teacher I am relearning what it means to need to bring your lunch to school everyday.  I know that teaching isn’t the only profession with an almost non-existant lunch break. So, what do we grownups do about lunch?  We need to revert back to a childhood strategy: the brown bag.

Being active in the field of public health has exposed me to many health conundrums that individuals must work to overcome despite the fact that the real answers to these problems can only be solved by city planning and public policy.  One such problem: food deserts. The food scenes in these deserts are dominated by fast food restaurants and mini-marts.  You can drive for miles without seeing a healthy food option.  These food deserts impact the health of lower-income, both urban and rural, communities across the country.  For a Celiac, the prevalence of food deserts are exponentially greater because options that are typically considered “healthy” are  often unavailable to us. A gluten-free-food-desert is an area with very limited GF options.  Maybe it is near where you live. Maybe it is where near you work. Either way these GF deserts make planning a necessity for any successful Celiac.

My current job happens to be in a food desert.  When my school had a faculty meeting we had to pass up six proximal pizza places because none of them had a salad option.  We ended up picking Lido’s pizza which was much further away than the other six pizza options near my school.

The lunch break for a teacher can more accurately be called a lunch moment.  We have about twenty minutes to take care of anything personal (eating, restroom, making phone calls, organizing, grabbing something we left in the car, etc.), then it is back into the trenches.

This is where the brown paper bag comes into play.  I don’t have time to run out to a local fast food place to grab lunch.  To boot, none of the places near me have viable GF options.  My school is surrounded by a buffalo wings place, Chick-fil-A, a couple of pizza places and a supermarket whose buffet is made up of chicken strips, mac n’ cheese and fresh baked bread.  The only viable solution to daily hunger-induced grumpiness (grumpy teachers aren’t good for the children) I could come up with is packing my lunch.

my lunch bag

So what should we put into these brown bags?  I like to pack a combination of nutritious and filling foods.  For example, blueberries are great for you but if you are hungry they really aren’t going to do the trick. That being said, opting for filling or calorie laden foods at the expense of nutrition will eventually wear your health down, breaking down your immune defenses and daily stamina.  If your job requires interacting with lots of people then you really need to make sure your immune defenses are at their best.

Here are some of the things I will have in my lunch this week.  Keep in mind that packing a lunch often requires either planning and prepping the night before or getting up a little bit earlier than you would like.
MONDAY

Using my favorite tupperware from Target, I pack the tupperware full of dark leafy greens, leftover meat (did you make chicken or steak this weekend? Save leftovers!) and grilled eggplant.  I do not like dressing.  It is messy, it makes the salad limp and the ingredients always make me nervous. Instead of dressing, I use other components like meat or grilled veggies to compliment the salad.  I think of it like a breadless sandwich.

Grilled Eggplant Recipe:

1. Slice eggplant vertically


2. Heat up a grill-pan or sauté pan

3. Cover both sides of the sliced eggplant with a light coating of olive oil

4. Season with salt and pepper. Feel free to spice up your seasoning by using onion powder, chili powder, paprika etc.

5. Let the eggplant cook on each side for about a minute and a half.  When the sides look dark (they will turn from off-white to an olive green) they are ready!

Once your salad is ready pack an apple, a bag of baby carrots and a yogurt.  Don’t forget utensils! If you don’t finish everything that is ok! You can nibble what is left on your commute home. Your goal should be bringing the perfect amount of food but if you have to miscalc on that you would way rather have too much than too little.
WEDNESDAY

Wednesday I am packing a good old fashioned sandwich. The best GF sandwich bread is Udi’s whole grain loaf (the one with the green label!). It stays together really well, it isn’t too dry/crumbly and it has a nostalgia-inducing classic sandwich bread taste. 

When you buy sandwich meat at the grocery store make sure it is GF! Giant market (this is an east coast thing) has GF meat at their deli (it is labeled and everything!).  I have been using honey-roasted turkey, sharp cheddar cheese, mayo, dijon mustard, cracked pepper and (of course) I sub out iceberg lettuce and opt for dark leafy greens. Don’t forget to pack up snacks likes carrots, berries, yogurt, rice chips or a banana.

FRIDAY

Let’s say it is the end of the week and your groceries are running low.  What do you do?  One of my favorite lunches is leftover chipotle burrito bowls.  Chipotle (or Qdoba) has all GF ingredients for their burrito bowls.  Chipotle is notorious for overstuffing their bowls. I can never finish them! So, to facilitate the leftover lunch making process, I divide the bowl in half before I start eating.  By dividing it in half early on, I guarantee that I will have enough leftovers to make my lunch the next day.

Don’t have any leftovers like this?  You can make a salad with dark leafy greens but instead of using leftover meat or eggplant, make your own dressing.  My personal favorite is an orange vinaigrette. You should make this the night before because there is no way you are going to be down to supreme oranges early in the morning!

Here is how it works:

1-2 oranges

1 tablespoon minced shallot (sweated with a splash of rice wine vinegar)

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

chopped herbs of your choice (dill, tarragon, basil etc)

salt and pper to taste

splash of olive oil

Instructions:

Remove the peels from the oranges using a sharp knife, cutting all the way through the pith. Section the oranges into supremes by cutting between each membrane. Click here for a “how to” on cutting out supremes. Squeeze each membrane of its juices into a bowl (save this for dressing!). Corasely chop the orange sections and place in the bowl with the juices. Then add the sweated shallots, vinegar and herbs to the bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the splay of olive oil.

You can make this fancier and more complicated by adding diced cucumber to the dressing OR you can make this recipe simpler and quicker to assemble by taking out the shallots and/or herbs.

Unlike dressing you buy at the store, this dressing is made of 100% fresh ingredients, no preservatives AND it is nutritious. Fresh oranges and herbs are great for you!  Instead of adding empty calories to your salad you end up adding vitamin C, antioxidants and phytonutrients.

As for kids, a lot of my ideas are for a grown-up palate, although I do find that Celiac kids have pretty sophisticated taste for their ages!  When it comes to packing a kids lunch try and do things that will look like what all the other kids have.  Again, I recommend Udi’s bread because it really does look and feel like classic glutinous bread. Udi’s also has cookies that look and taste great.  I would try and stay away from GF products that…look like gluten free products. Being GF can be very isolating which is difficult for children to cope with. Making sure to buy products that are similar to what the other kids are having is a great tool for any Celiac of GF parent.  Kinnikinnick has delicious products for kids like their graham crackers.  These don’t look exactly like what the other kids will have but they really are delicious. They even have an animal cracker that will work well with school lunches!  In addition, for kids, you can always stick with the basics.  A PBJ with some baby carrots and string cheese.

Enjoy your lunches! If I get bored with these, as I am sure I will over the next few months, I will post my new creations!  This way we can keep our palates and our bodies happy and healthy throughout the year.

-CC

Wheatless in Seattle

19 Jun

I travelled north to Seattle, Washington to promote CC Gluten Freed at the  The Gluten Intolerance Group’s Health and Wellness Event on June 16th.  Seattle is incredibly gluten-free-friendly (GFF).  I experienced a lot of great food and great customer service.  I have been to many of these GF conferences in the past and, I must say, the GIG’s Health and Wellness Event was one of the best gluten free conferences I have ever attended.

Even for people with Celiacs, the gluten free diet is only one, of many, components to a healthy lifestyle.  The GIG event really brought this point to the forefront of their conference by providing all attendees with free health screenings including Bone Density, Blood Pressure, Type I Diabetes Testing, Spinal Health Screenings and more.

My Dad prepping for the conference

In addition to the free health screenings, GIG also had a ton of great vendors at the conference including brands like Udi’s, Triumph Dining, Glutino, Canyon Bakehouse amongst many, many others (including CC Gluten Freed!!).  I was lucky enough to be in a booth next to Brazi Bites, a company that makes a Brazilian cheese bread that is naturally gluten free.  Before the conference, I had never encountered Brazi Bites before.  They are one of the best GF snack foods I have ever had!  Check them out online.  They have the taste of Cheez-its and a dual texture: crispy, crunchy on the outside and gooey and light on the inside.

In addition to the great vendors, there were some very interesting people there including Mrs. Alaska (Brandy Wendler), promoting her pageant platform for Celiac Awareness and Kyra Bussanich,a gluten free baker and the winner of the Food network Channel’s Cupcake Wars!

My favorite part of the conference was definitely talking with the local Seattle gluten free community.  What a smart city!  I had incredibly interesting conversations with almost everyone who stopped by to chat at my booth.  For example, Junea and Cameron (creators of Brazi Bites/my conference neighbors) and I discussed the important distinction between foods that are naturally gluten free and foods that are created to replace glutinous foods e.g. Brazi Bites vs. GF penne or GF sandwich bread.  You can expect a future post about the issue but, in short, I really do prefer foods that are naturally gluten free like Brazi Bites both in a philosophical sense and from a culinary perspective.  Another chat I had with a local was about how to get groups to adapt to the GF diet.  For example, the person I spoke to is part of a group at her church and always has trouble when they have their monthly potluck.  I also heard that Doritos are going gluten free!  I always learn so much at these conferences.

Many people asked about where to buy CC Gluten Freed t-shirts, so I created a webpage to order the shirts.  From what people said at the conference, they just love the logo!  My grandfather, Ernest Marquez, was a cartoonist for years.  When I created CC Gluten Freed, he drew this logo for me and had it framed (and put on a jump drive) for me for Christmas.

I will definitely be attending the conference next year and I encourage my readers to make the trip out to Seattle as well!  For more information about GIG go to http://www.gluten.net

What else did I do other than attend an all-day GF conference?

A lot.

My Dad and I went to the Mariners Vs Giants game for Safeco Field’s Gluten Free Awareness Night!  I had a hotdog.  My dad asked me why I didn’t wear my CC Gluten Freed t-shirt to the game since we were sitting in the “gluten free zone.”  I told him that I wanted to watch some  baseball, eat a hotdog  and  just enjoy the work of great nonprofits like GIG.  It was a relaxing experience, something I rarely say about dining out!

My Dad and me at the baseball game

We also went to the Flying Apron bakery, a 100% gluten-free, vegan bakery in Seattle.  Pike Place Market  was a great experience too!  I stopped over at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, a famous cheese shop, that sells a GF version of their “world famous Mac N’ Cheese.”  We didn’t just dine around the town, we also checked out the tribute to the movie Avatar and the Jimi Hendrix exhibit at the EMP Museum.  This museum was really fun and interactive!  They have a whole section of the museum for making music: my dad and I took advantage of the practice rooms.  He played guitar and I played drums.

No trip to Seattle would complete without a trip to the Space Needle.  We had a great lunch up at the top.  I enjoyed both the food and the view.  The waitstaff was pretty good about making GF accommodations but their menu items are somewhat limited.  If you are in the mood for a great salad (like I was), head up to the top of the Space Needle but if you are super hungry, I’d stop somewhere else for lunch!

The view from the Space Needle. We were able to see Mt. Rainier 

My Seafood Cobb Salad from the Space Needle, 100% GF

The highlight of my trip was going on the radio with KZOK during their morning show.  I was a little nervous going on air, considering it is a live show with Seattle, literally, listening but I had a great time.  In fact, Im quite jealous of my Uncle Danny’s job.  Danny chatted with my dad and me for a bit on air then, during the news section, Danny let me make an announcement about the GIG’s Health and Wellness Event.

After my jam-packed trip to Seattle, I am quite tired but I am so happy that I went. The conference, like I said, was one of the best I have ever attended and the people I met at the conference were so interesting, dedicated to their health and fun to chat with.  In fact, many of the people that I met at the conference are checking out CC Gluten Freed for the first time right now!  I just sent out the “invitation to follow” email and I hope that some of my new GF acquaintances sign up!

-CC

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