Eating Healthy and Allergy Friendly In Disneyland

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Disneyland does have healthy snack carts scattered throughout the park

Is it possible to eat healthy in the Happiest Place on Earth? Well, after spending 6 days at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA, I am happy to report that yes, it can mostly be done as long as you have a good strategy in place. Did we eat as healthy as we do at home? Well, no, not quite. However, we ate well enough while enjoying all that Disney has to offer. And, we didn’t get sick from the food which was a major bonus! Here are 4 ideas that worked well for our family.

Idea #1: The best place to start your journey is by calling Disney Dining (714.781.3463) which is open 7am to 9pm, 7 days/week. You can also email the chefs at Disney and ask questions; they will get back to you within 2 business days. The Disney representatives will patiently answer all your food allergy questions. Conveniently, dining reservations can be made 60 days in advance. I spoke to 3 different people at Disney Dining, and they all were super helpful. They pointed me in the direction of which restaurants would be the best for our family and they said helpful things like “don’t bother with the breakfast with the princesses, you will be paying a lot of money and not get much food in return”. I appreciated their candor. I also emailed a chef, and a chef got back to me within 2 days. Very promising!! Everyone reassured me that they deal with our food allergies all the time. I wish I could report on the dining experience at the nicer/pricier restaurants, but I didn’t end up eating at any. Unfortunately, I messed up one night….we were having too much fun and we didn’t make it to our dinner reservation at Storytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian (my bad). The other reservation we made was for lunch with the princesses at Ariel’s Grotto. We actually did arrive (and arrived on time with kids fully dressed as princesses, go me!!), but when we got there the restaurant had some sort of problem and was closed. Luckily, the Disney princess characters were still there and we got to spend some time with them and take some great photos. Then, we went back to the hotel for lunch. Interestingly, the families immediately ahead of us and behind us in line both complained about how terrible the food is at Ariel’s Grotto, so they were thrilled that lunch was cancelled and we all got to meet the princesses for free!

Idea #2: Choose accommodations that have a kitchen. We chose the Residence Inn (Anaheim Maingate), which is a pleasant 10 minute walk to the park entrance (Disney Dining recommended us to look into the Residence Inn). The rooms have full kitchens…and get this…FREE GROCERY SHOPPING SERVICE!!! If you give them a grocery list by 9am, the food will be in your room by 1pm. This worked great. They also serve a complimentary breakfast but there was absolutely nothing there for us to eat…nothing offered was healthy or allergy friendly. That was OK, because they made up for it with the amazing grocery shopping service! We ate most of our meals in the room which saved a ton of money too. By the way, NONE of the Disney properties offer a room with a kitchen or kitchenette. Grrrrrrr!

Idea #3: Get a locker inside the park! Right when you enter Disneyland or California Adventure, there is a room full of lockers. We rented a small locker every day ($7/day payable by credit card) and stored a backpack full of waters and snacks. That was well worth the $7 for us (a snack in Disneyland can be $7!). You are allowed to bring in bottled water and food, which is a great service for those of us with food allergies. There are no restrictions on what foods you can bring in the park, but they do search your bags as a security precaution.

Idea #4: Before you leave your house, decide which Disney restaurants you will visit on an as needed basis (ie: the many restaurants that do not require reservations). Realize that no matter how hard you plan, you will still end up with starving family members while in the middle of some grand adventure in the parks. What to do? Don’t lose hope, I found a few great options. First, there are healthier food carts (pictured above) throughout the park. They had fruit, hummus, and some gluten free potato chips (daddy loves the pineapple spears!). Next, there are 2 restaurants that worked for us in Disneyland: Rancho del Zocalo and the Bengal Barbeque, both in Frontierland. Rancho del Zocalo serves a wide variety of Mexican food. The Bengal Barbecue serves kebabs (meat and veggie).

We really enjoyed the outside dining on the patio here. It was beautiful and relaxing too.

Veggie, chicken and beef kebabs at the bengal barbecue.

Here is what Disney dining told us to do every  time we wanted to order food at a park restaurant…and guess what, it worked!! Tell the Disney cast member that we have food allergies and we would like to talk to the chef before ordering any food. The restaurant workers gladly obliged and the chef was always very accommodating and knowledgeable about food allergies. We enjoyed 2 meals at Rancho del Zocalo and 2 meals at the Bengal Barbecue. We asked for the chef when it was our turn in line, told them our allergies, and they not only recommended choices for us off the menu but the chef made custom meals for us based on their menus.  Very accommodating! Is it health food? No, not really…but it was pretty tasty and all my starving Mouseketeers were satisfied.

Even though we had good success at Disneyland, I really think Disney could do a lot better. They need to have one healthy food restaurant. They could easily put it in Tomorrowland and chalk it up to cuisine of the future. The restaurant could focus on gluten free, vegan, nutritarian cuisine. I am confident that they have many chefs that would jump at this opportunity. I have had multiple friends return from Disneyland and complain loudly about how horrid the food is…and they aren’t even the nutritarian types! People come back complaining about the high fat content, too much butter, and how the food was so gross and so overpriced. Even people who eat unhealthy on a regular basis find the food at Disneyland unhealthy and untasty!! So what do they have to lose by trying out one healthy restaurant?

Sadly, as it stands right now, overall, the food at both parks was expensive and unhealthy. It is a food desert. Its better to book some time at the Residence Inn and make use of the kitchen there until Disney augments its food service. With that said….with a little planning, it is easy to eat well while enjoying the Happiest Place On Earth!

The Mama

(PS: One last tip! Take  your own food into the park and enjoy a picnic lunch on Tom Sawyer’s Island! There are a few picnic tables and the views are amazing!)

On The Road Again!

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In order to see wonderful and remote places like this….

…..and this….you need to be able to take your healthy food on the road!

Sorry for the brief hiatus from blogging, but we have been on the road a lot during the last 8 weeks. During that time, I was forced to figure out how to take my healthy food roadshow, well, on the road! I will get back to developing new recipes soon, however the last 2 months of travel have honed my skills in creating healthy food to go.

Here are some helpful hints:

  1. I found out that my pesto recipe freezes well and travels well. It works great for a camping dinner too!
  2. Finding a really good cooler is key to success, otherwise you are dealing with melted ice daily. We had a basic cooler that was really more trouble than it is worth. We also had a good cooler that keeps things cold for a long time. It worked great for car camping and it worked great for car road trips. Get the largest most insulated cooler that you can find-keep in mind that a bag of ice takes up a lot of space. Here is a link to the cooler we have been using.
  3. Menu plan and precook food before hand. Freeze all the food possible, and load it into the awesome cooler mentioned above. Yes, it is more work during the pre trip frenzy. However, it is so nice to roll into a hotel or campsite and have 80% of your food already made. Aaaaah, now that is a vacation for me.
  4. Keep the menus simple. There is so much to do on vacation, that my family didn’t need elaborate meals and I didn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen!
  5. Take an extra box of Ziploc bags for leftover storage.
  6. Take as many snack foods as you can find. I go to Whole Foods a week before the trip and buy a whole bunch of snacks including: dried fruit, freeze dried fruit, raw nuts, raisins, raw cookies, Lara Bars etc. I usually make my own trail mix and store it in a ziploc. Snacks are very handy to have for a long car ride, a lunch on the trail and for all those times when you are having too much fun to stop for a full meal.

And here are a couple of quick recipes:

  1. Homemade Apple Sauce freezes well and travels well in a cooler! It is so easy if you use a pressure cooker, that even my husband could make it! Apple Sauce is tasty as a snack or after dinner treat, but it also works well in morning oatmeal. Apple sauce seems to vanish within 2 days around this house. This is so simple and quick. It is also easy to do while packing for a trip. Family members can help by cutting up the apples!
    1. Ingredients: 10 cups of cored apples (no need to cut into little pieces), 1 cup of water and a couple of dashes of cinnamon
    2. Directions: place the apples and water into a pressure cooker. Cook for 2 minutes at high pressure. Quick release the pressure. Stir the apples and then stir in the cinnamon. Let cool, then puree in a food processor till smooth.
    3. Notes: Store in the fridge. It also freezes well!
  2. Buttered Noodles With Peas. Not that Earth Balance is health food, but this is the best recipe to make when you arrive late at a destination. Frozen peas and a tub of Earth Balance both travel well in a cooler. And my cashew parmesan also travels well. All you need to do is to cook up some brown rice pasta, mix in as many frozen peas as you like, then add some Earth Balance, salt, pepper and cashew Parmesan. Everyone liked this one and we went through a whole bag of peas in a couple days. Note: I only use the minimum amount of Earth Balance necessary to achieve a slight buttery flavor. It is so tempting to overload the pasta with the Earth Balance, so beware as it is still just adding oil fat to your diet.
  3. Pesto Pasta: Here is a link to my pesto recipe. It is easy to make and freezes well. Serve it with brown rice pasta and cashew parmesan, and you are good to go!

Happy Travels! The Mama

 

Fruit Cobbler

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Use fresh summer or frozen fruit!

Here is a fairly easy recipe to make that is definitely worth the effort. Right now, I am inspired to make this every week when I see all the summer fruit at our farmers market. But don’t get overwhelmed…. you can easily make this with frozen fruit and it tastes just as good!

I recently made this on a family vacation- I simply premixed the dry ingredients in a ziploc bag before I left home, bought frozen fruit once I arrived, and then cooked the cobbler one night at dinnertime. It was very quick and easy to make. As an added bonus, it makes enough for an additional 2 nights of leftovers. I think it is a great way to serve healthy dessert while on vacation.

While it is baking in the oven, whip up some vegan soft serve ice cream. The plain banana version (or banana plus vanilla bean) works well as a vanilla ice cream substitute and people can decide if they want the ice cream on the side or on top of the warm cobbler. (Note: I have found that giving your family lots of food combinations/choices will greatly increase their satisfaction with their meal!)

Enjoy the end of summer, The Mama

Fruit Cobbler

Ingredients for the fruit

  1. 6 cups of fresh or frozen fruit (I use 3 cups sliced peaches, 1 cup blueberries and 2 cups sliced apples)
  2. 1/2 cup water, 4 pitted dates and 1/4 tsp cinnamon pureed together in Vitamix

Ingredients for the topping

  1. 1.25 cups of hemp milk
  2. 4 dates, pitted
  3. 1/2 cup raw pecans
  4. 1 tsp lemon juice
  5. 1 vanilla bean, ends trimmed off
  6. 3/4 cup gluten free old fashioned oats ground into flour
  7. 3/4 cup gluten free old fashioned oats (not ground)
  8. 1/4 cup teff flour
  9. 1/4 cup millet flour
  10. 1/2 cup of ground nuts (walnuts, macadamia nuts or a combination)
  11. 1/4 tsp salt
  12. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  13. 1 tsp baking powder
  14. 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and find your 8 by 11 glass pyrex dish. (No need to grease the pyrex dish, the cobbler will not stick!)
  2. Put the 6 cups of fruit into the pyrex dish.
  3. Puree the water, dates and cinnamon in the Vitamix. Add it to the pyrex dish and combine it well with the fruit so that the fruit is well covered.
  4. In the Vitamix, mix together the wet ingredients (hemp milk, dates, pecans, lemon juice, vanilla bean).
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (oat flour, oats, teff flour, millet flour, ground nuts, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon).
  6. Add the contents from the Vitamix into the large bowl containing the dry ingredients and mix well.
  7. Spread the topping mixture over the fruit using a large spoon.
  8. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Check in the center to make sure the topping is done. The fruit should be bubbling and the topping should be well cooked throughout.
  9. Let it cool a bit before serving. It tastes best served warm.

Notes

  1. Frozen peaches are pre cut, and work well in this recipe. Frozen blueberries work just as well as fresh ones. Any type of apple works great. No need to peel the apples.
  2. Serving the cobbler warm with vegan soft serve ice cream elevates this dessert to a whole other level!

Vegan Soft Serve Ice Cream

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Simple. Easy. Delicious.

I have tried many vegan ice creams and the best recipe I have found thus far is also the easiest and healthiest – and it contains zero added sugar! Everyone loves this in our house and lately we have been eating it every night at dinner time. It is perfect for the summertime.  It is so simple to make. It can be made in a Vitamix or a food processor, and you do NOT need an ice cream maker! The texture is perfect and is similar to soft serve ice cream. Plus, it is a GREAT way to use those over ripe bananas that are doomed for the compost pile. We really can’t ask for anything more.

What is the secret here? Frozen ripe banana chunks. Have your kids peel ripe bananas, break them into small pieces and put them into ziploc bags. Then you freeze them. When you want to make the ice cream, you simply put the bananas into your food processor or Vitamix, and off you go.  Throw in some add-ins for a variety of flavors, and you are done (Well almost done. Be sure to sit back and enjoy a zen moment when your kids are all full of smiles and giggles while eating the ice cream!). Plus, your kids will be so excited asking “are these the bananas I made?”.

Full disclaimer: I’m not a huge banana fan, and I detest ripe bananas. However something magical happens when you freeze them. They lose that smell and flavor that turns me off. Yes, the ice cream does taste like bananas but in a good way. If “plain banana ice cream” is too banana-ish, then you can add in anything you like to dull the banana flavor. For instance, add in raw cacao powder and you make a mildly chocolate ice cream. Add in frozen strawberries, and you now have a cute pink strawberry ice cream. You could also add in the nut butter of your choice. Many people like matcha green tea powder in it, but I have not tried that yet. Better yet, scrape the inside of 1 vanilla bean into any of the flavors of ice cream to make it even more flavorful. The flavor possibilities are endless with this banana based ice cream.

Trust me, the kids will be so excited to eat ice cream a few times a week at dinner! And, give them the choice of strawberry, chocolate, yellow peaches, etc., on any particular night, and they will feel they are having a special desert customized for their taste.

Enjoy, The Mama

Banana Ice Cream

Ingredients

  1. Frozen banana chunks (3-4 bananas) (see notes)
  2. Optional add ins: scrape the inside of 1 vanilla bean pod, 1/2 cup or so of frozen strawberries (or other frozen fruit), 1/4 cup of raw cacao powder. Or just make it plain!

Directions

  1. For the food processor, fit with the S-blade: Put the frozen banana chunks  into the food processor and turn it on. It takes about 15 minutes in my food processor to make the ice cream. The food processor works pretty hard and makes a bizarre noise or two. You will have to stop it a few times and scrape down the sides but don’t loose hope! When the ice cream is almost finished, put the add ins into the food processor and continue until finished.
  2. For the Vitamix: Put the frozen banana chunks into the Vitamix. Use the tamper to push them down into the blades. It takes 2-3 minutes to make the ice cream. When the ice cream is almost finished, put the add ins into the Vitamix and process until finished.
  3. Serve the ice cream immediately. It does not stay frozen very long at room temperature. If you aren’t going to serve it immediately, store it in the freezer.
  4. It keeps well as leftovers too. Just remove it from the freezer for 10 minutes or so, then stir it with a spoon and serve.

Notes

  1. How to make frozen banana chunks: (Hint, this is a great job for little kids!). Peel the bananas and break them into 3-4 chunks. Then put the chunks in a ziploc bag and put in the freezer. It is important to make them small chunks, or it is more difficult to use in the food processor and Vitamix.
  2. The first time I ever tried this recipe, I was a huge skeptic. In fact, while watching the frozen bananas almost work my food processor to death, I almost gave up. Don’t give up! Creamy soft serve ice cream is within your reach.
  3. If the bananas are ripe, the ice cream is sweet enough on it’s own-there is no need to add any sugar to it!

 




Pinto Bean Patties

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Got leftover quinoa and pinto beans?

Most weeks, I make some quinoa and pinto beans to eat for lunch. It is really yummy when you put some guacamole on it, and the kids seem to like it. Very simple and easy. However, after eating it a couple of times, we are bored of it and need to move on. This is how these pinto bean patties were created. It is a fabulous way to use leftover cooked quinoa and pinto beans. The kids don’t recognize the patties as leftovers. Instead, they see them as a totally new meal. This is important…that they are not forced to eat the same thing over and over again just to use up leftover food. That is not a battle I want to get involved in.

So, basically, you put all the ingredients in a food processor, form the mixture into patties and then bake them. They keep well for a few days. They work well as finger food for the kids. The adults like them with guacamole and tomatoes on top, but the kids want everything separate and then pick the patties up with their hands.

The patties also contain cilantro and some veggies, so it is an easy way to have them eat veggies without really knowing it. People have asked me if I am hiding veggies in things. No, I’m not. I let the kids know what is in there, so it is not deceptive. However, by chopping veggies into little bits and putting them in patties, the kids are more likely to eat it. On the other hand, if you give a kid a few sprigs of cilantro and ask them to eat it…it is just not going to happen.

Enjoy, The Mama

Pinto Bean Patties

Ingredients

  1. 2 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
  2. 2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
  3. 1/2 cup of onion, coarsely chopped
  4. 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  5. 1/4 cup chia seeds
  6. 1 tsp unrefined sea salt
  7. 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  8. 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  9. 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  10. 1/4 cup brown rice miso (or tahini)
  11. 1/4 cup quinoa flakes
  12. 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  13. 2 cups cooked pinto beans
  14. 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
  15. For garnish: guacamole and cherry tomatoes

Directions

  1. Put the celery, carrots and onions into the food processor fitted with the S-blade. Process until veggies are minced.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients except cilantro, beans and quinoa. Process well.
  3. Add in the cilantro and pulse chop. Don’t puree it and don’t leave it stringy.
  4. Add in the beans and quinoa. You will need to stop the machine and scrape down the sides with a big spoon a few times.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  6. Using your hands, form the mixture into 12-16 patties.
  7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Turn the patties over gently, using a spatula. Bake in the oven for an additional 30 minutes.
  8. Serve with guacamole and chopped cherry tomatoes on top or on the side.

Notes

  1. The leftover quinoa should still be moist and sticky. If it has sat too long in the fridge, then it gets dry and the patties will not stick together very well.
  2. The patties store well in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Pink and Purple Princess Milkshakes

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These milkshakes are perfect for little princesses!

Although my kids aren’t overly obsessed with princesses, their little eyes and ears light up upon seeing or hearing anything princess related. My almost 6 year old enjoys creating tea parties all over the house with all of her stuffed animals. The parties can get fairly elaborate, and I often wonder if I have a future event planner in the making. My 4 year old happens to be interested in anything Disney right now, but Cinderella and Tinkerbell are her favorites. Multiple times a week, they often say things like “When are we going to Disneyland?” and “I want to be a princess for Halloween”.

One day, my daughter asked me “Mom, what do princesses drink at tea parties…tea tastes terrible, so I know they don’t drink tea. I think they give the tea to the mean people”.  That moment became my inspiration for creating pink and purple princess milkshakes. My daughter was right, princesses need a drink worthy of them in every way…the drink must  be the perfect color, must taste divine and must be healthy.

This recipe uses the same milkshake base (raw cashews and hemp seeds plus water) and then adds two different fruit combinations to make two totally different milkshakes. They will both keep in the fridge for 3-4 days, so they can be enjoyed over multiple tea parties. If the kids are not hungry in the morning, I find that they will drink this shake for breakfast. This has been a lifesaver for me, especially for the days when we need to leave the house before the kids are willing to chew anything. I like the addition of the raw hemp seeds, as they contain omega-3 fatty acids. I make mine on the less sweet side, only adding dates until the milkshake is just sweet enough. Sometimes I throw in a couple of leaves of lettuce, especially when I have sweet fruit available.

Here is a quick hint. Since it is still strawberry season, head down to your local farmers market and buy all the strawberries you can carry and then freeze them. The strawberry milkshake tastes much better with fresh and ripe strawberries. If you need to use store bought frozen strawberries, you will need to add a few more dates to make it sweet enough.

Wishing you many memorable tea parties, The Mama

Pink and Purple Princess Milkshakes

Ingredients for the Pink Princess Milkshake (aka Strawberry Milkshake)

  1. 1 cup raw cashews
  2. 1/4 cup raw hemp seeds
  3. 5 cups of frozen strawberries
  4. 1 vanilla bean, ends trimmed off
  5. 4-6 dates, pitted
  6. 4 cups of water

Ingredients for the Purple Princess Milkshake (aka Blueberry Milkshake)

  1. 1 cup raw cashews
  2. 1/4 cup raw hemp seeds
  3. 1 cup frozen pitted cherries
  4. 1 cup frozen pineapple
  5. 2 cups frozen blueberries
  6. 1 banana
  7. 2 cups of water
  8. 2 cups of ice
  9. 2-4 dates, pitted

Directions

  1. Combine everything in your Vitamix. Use the tamper. Blend until super creamy.
  2. Store the leftover milkshake in an airtight container in the fridge.

Notes

  1. I sometimes add a few leaves of lettuce, especially if the fruit is really fresh and sweet. Shhhhh. Don’t tell the princesses!

A $5 Sugar Experiment

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Look what $5 can buy you at the county fair!

I often get comments from non-nutritarian people, warning me of the dangers of NOT giving my kids sugar. That is right: people seem to be very concerned that my kids are not eating enough sugar. People warn me that the moment the kids can eat all the sugar they want, many evil things will happen such as: the kids won’t be able to stop eating the sugar, they will go crazy with excitement, their bodies will go crazy because they haven’t built up a tolerance for it, and they will only want to eat sugar once they taste it. Interesting, it sounds like sugar is a drug or something.

I attended at least one county fair every summer during my childhood. Besides ingesting all the sugar, I remember all the different types of animals and rides (who knew there were that many different breeds of rabbits?). I remember exploring the fair all day, wondering what was going to turn up around the next corner. It was fun and produced some great memories. Of course I was going to take my kids to the local fair! Ours isn’t that huge, but it has all the requisite parts: animals, shows, carnival games, rides, face painting…and of course…sugar in any and all shapes and forms (we also had Chinese Acrobats which were incredible!). So, I devised an experiment: I would buy the kids some form of sugar filled junk food and see what happened. The kids are too young to read so they had no idea what is at all the food stalls. Therefore, I decided that I had to pick the junk food of choice. My only requirements was that it was full of sugar and it was free of the kids’ allergens….after a bit of debate…the final choice was…..a $5 Cherry Flavored Hawaiian Shave Ice!

Before reading the rest of this post, take a bet with yourself..what do you think happened when I gave 2 nutritarian kids more sugar than they have had in a couple years?

We sat down on a patch of grass with the “small” shave ice, which they kindly split into two cups for the kids. The 2 kids (ages 5.5 and 4) had no idea what shave ice was. They had never seen it, so they approached it with great interest. Of course the portion sizes were much bigger than I had ever thought possible…I guess small doesn’t mean small anymore. They tried it slowly at first, but within 2 bites they knew this was good. However, after eating about 1/4 of it, the 5.5 year old proclaimed “this is too sweet”. I encouraged her to eat a few more bites, but then she emphatically decided she just didn’t want to eat any more of it. Then she passed the shave ice to daddy. Daddy has a huge sweet tooth. I thought for sure he would inhale the shave ice, since he hasn’t had anything like this in a long time. Oddly enough, after eating about 1/4 of it, he too proclaimed that he couldn’t eat any more – too sweet! He mentioned the sweetness was overwhelming. Then, we reminisced about Slurpees and snow cones from our youthful days. Specifically we thought “whoa, we used to eat a slurpee a day, and now can’t even finish half of this shave ice”. I too tried the shave ice and actually liked the taste, but after eating a bit of it I just couldn’t eat any more either. I probably enjoyed it the most, as it reminded me of the cherry Slurpees which were my favorite when I was young. The 4 year old was the one who liked it the best. She didn’t go crazy with excitement, but she definitely liked it and probably would have finished it if I let her. But I didn’t. After eating about half of it, I asked her if I could have the rest. She gave it up quickly and easily, then asked if she could eat the fruit salad and dried fruit that we brought with us. Both kids went to sleep easily that night…no sugar highs or lows occurred.

It has been about 3 weeks since we went to the fair. I ask the kids what they remember about that day, and neither of them brings up the shave ice.  They talk about the Chinese Acrobat show, how they got to pet all sorts of animals, and how they got their faces painted like a kitty-cat. Contrary to other people’s beliefs, the kids didn’t ask for more sugar after the fair. They didn’t become addicted to it. They didn’t obsess about it. It really was no big deal to them. We have kept on eating nutritarian like we always do.

So, now I have my answer the next time someone questions my choice to remove sugar from my kids diets. I know exactly what happens when they are exposed to a huge dose of sugar: nothing exciting.

Hope everyone is enjoying the summer season, Kim

Camping Food: Tacos

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View from our campsite, not bad, eh?

Easy to prepare, tacos make a great camping meal!

Here is the last in my recent series about camping. This post is about what we eat for dinner while camping. Tacos are so easy to pre cook before heading out for a weekend of camping. I usually serve them for both nights of dinner. Everyone loves them, and it is easy for me to pre cook one meal yet serve it for 2. It takes a lot of work to pack up the car plus 2 toddlers to go camping, so I will take any shortcut I can find. After a long day of fun in the sun, trust me, tacos are just the thing to serve!

Here is the basic formula for tacos:

  1. Store bought gluten free tortillas-100% corn tortillas or rice tortillas. My family prefers the corn, which we do not eat very often since one of us is allergic to corn.
  2. Pre cook refried pinto beans (see recipe below). Store them in an airtight container in your cooler.
  3. If desired, pre cook some chicken and then slice it up. Store it in an airtight container in your cooler.
  4. Pre make a salsa: 2 tomatoes (diced), 1/2 a red pepper (diced) and 1 small can of sliced olives (rinsed). Store it in an airtight container in your cooler. (Yes, this salsa will keep well for 2 days in the cooler).
  5. At dinner time, put 1/2 of the refried beans and 1/2 of the optional sliced chicken into a small sauce pan. Add 1/4 cup of water or so. Heat over low heat on the camp stove, stirring often, until it is heated through.
  6. Once the beans are heated thoroughly remove them from the heat and then heat up the tortillas in a frying pan over your camp stove.  Coat the fry pan with non stick oil spray. Heat them one at a time. Bring a pair of tongs to make turning them over easy! (This is NOT a job for toddlers!)
  7. If desired, cook some ‘boil in the bag’ brown rice in boiling water in a medium sized sauce pan on the 2nd burner of your camp stove. We use 2 bags of rice to feed the four of us for 1 meal. Drain the rice well and then toss with some salt, pepper and onion powder.
  8. While things are cooking on your camp stove, make our easy guacamole recipe (flesh of 2 avocados, salt/pepper/onion powder to taste, and then mash with a fork). I usually have my 5 year old do this part.
  9. Now that you are done with the cooking….Let the kids help you by hosting a “Taco Assembly Party”. First, put a tortilla or two on each plate (great job for my 4 year old). Then, “paint” the guacamole onto the tortilla (my 5 year old does this well!). Lastly, add the beans/chicken mixture and then top with a few spoonfuls of salsa (my husband does this job OK). It’s a fun little taco assembly line and everyone feels they have done their part. The kids get to boast that they “made tacos all by themselves”. LOL
  10. We serve the tacos with a side of rice plus hot sauce for the adults.

Refried Beans

Ingredients (makes about 4 cups)

  1. 2 cups of pinto beans, soaked overnight then rinsed and drained
  2. 1 medium onion finely diced in the food processor
  3. 1.5 cups of water
  4. 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  5. 1/4 tsp mild chili powder (I use new mexico chili powder)
  6. 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  7. 1 tsp unrefined sea salt

Directions

  1. Saute onion with a few TBL of water in the pressure cooker.
  2. Add in the spices, stir well, and saute for an additional minute.
  3. Add the water and beans. Be sure to mix well.
  4. Cook for 7 minutes at high pressure in the pressure cooker. Let the pressure come down naturally before releasing the lid. Let cool to lukewarm.
  5. Mash with a potato masher.
  6. Add salt to taste.

Notes

  1. You can mash these beans well so they look like refried beans, or you can leave some whole…whatever will encourage your family to eat them! If you really want them smooth, then I would put them in the food processor.
  2. Could also be used as a bean dip, just add a bit more water.

Camping Food: Red Potatoes with Chickpea Guacamole

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(Not the best photo, but hey…I was camping!)

I find myself wondering: Are my kids the only kids in the world that dislike potatoes? McDonalds has to deep fry the potatoes and cover with salt to get kids to fall in love with them. Neither of my kids like them. Period. Until, that is, I used a pressure cooker to cook them. I have found that the pressure cooker cooks some veggies amazingly well. Red potatoes are one of them. The potatoes come out tender and full of flavor. The texture is perfect and they are moist. Best of all, you do not need any oil and they cook up quickly!  They are perfect for camping too, as they store well in an airtight container in the cooler filled with ice for 3-4 days. Since I was already bringing macaroni salad camping, I was not about to make potato salad. Yet, I figured that cooked potatoes would travel well and would be worth bringing. And I was right, serving pre cooked potatoes at room temperature makes for a hearty lunch for hungry campers.

Around the same time, I had started combining chickpeas with various veggies in my food processor. Why did I do such a thing? Well, I really wanted the kids to eat more garbanzo beans and I figured there must be a way for me to make them into something else besides hummus. Unfortunately, I made a lot of gross concoctions that will not be seen on this blog (or anywhere else!). Then I combined the chickpeas with our standard guacamole recipe, and served it on rice cakes…the whole family ate it up! I then happened to read one of my favorite food blogs Straight Up Food and saw that Cathy loves to combine her chickpea-avocado spread with potatoes. I tried the combo, it worked great, and I knew that it would work great for our camping adventures! (Note: My spread is much more basic than hers is. I often find that my kids like very basic flavors with minimal spices.  Many of the recipes I find online are not directed at kids taste buds).

Here is the pressure cooker I purchased on Amazon. I’ve been using it every day for 6 months now, and it is well worth the investment.

Cheers, Kim

Red Potatoes with Chickpea Guacamole

Ingredients

  1. 10 red potatoes, cut in half
  2. 1/2 cup of water per cup of potatoes
  3. 2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
  4. 2 cups of cooked chickpeas
  5. 1/2 tsp of onion powder
  6. 1/2 tsp of unrefined sea salt
  7. 1/4 tsp pepper
  8. A few tsp of water to get the mixture to mix well

Directions

  1. Place the potatoes and the appropriate amount of water into the pressure cooker. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Quick release the pressure.
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a food processor fitted with the S blade. Add as much water as is necessary to get the mixture to puree well. The finished mixture should be creamy with some very small pieces of beans remaining.
  3. Put a couple of potato halves on a plate and cut them into pieces for the kids. Serve the chickpea guacamole on top of the potatoes.

Notes

  1. Even in an airtight container, the mixture turns a bit brownish just like guacamole does. I just mix it up with a spoon, and it looks/tastes just fine.
  2. Texture matters here. Be sure to get the finished product creamy, or the kids may not eat it.
  3. This is essentially our basic guacamole recipe (which we eat a few times a week) with 2 cups of chickpeas and a few tsp of water added to it. The kids love our basic guacamole. They will not eat guacamole that contains lemon and spices, which is more tailored to a mature set of tastebuds.Put a couple of potato halves on a plate and cut them into pieces for the kids. Serve the chickpea guacamole on top the potatoes.Put a couple of potato halves on a plate and cut them into pieces for the kids. Serve the chickpea guacamole on top the potatoes.

More Camping Food: Macaroni Salad

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Here is our camping lunch….hearty, healthy and delicious.

One of my fondest memories from childhood was eating macaroni salad while enjoying the great outdoors in some way. Of course my family’s macaroni salad was loaded with hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise and sugar. When I visualized taking my kids camping for the first time, I quickly became obsessed on figuring out a macaroni salad that we all could enjoy.

I make the macaroni salad the day before we leave for the camping trip. I then store it in the fridge in an airtight container. While camping, I store the salad in a cooler filled with ice. It holds up really well for 3-4 days. The veggies and the pasta do not get mushy at all.

A couple of notes about mustard. First, here is an older post of mine, about my favorite mustard in the world. If you don’t buy that particular brand of mustard, look for a mustard that is gluten and sugar free. Second, we happen to have 3 mustard lovers in the family and one mustard hater. The mustard hater can smell a drop of mustard from a mile away.  For this reason, I make the macaroni salad a bit light on the mustard. Feel free to add in some more mustard if your whole family is into mustard.

This salad would also be great at a picnic or at a potluck. It is something that I am willing to  share with non-nutritarian friends, since I don’t think it is too different from the traditional macaroni salad recipe.

I will tell you about the potatoe recipe in the photo, in my next post. Stay tuned!

Happy camping, Kim

Macaroni Salad

Ingredients for the salad

  1. 12 ounces of elbow shaped brown rice pasta
  2. 1 cup diced celery
  3. 1 cup diced carrots
  4. 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  5. 3/4 cup diced cucumber
  6. 1   2.25 oz can of sliced black olives, drained and rinsed well

Ingredients for the dressing

  1. 1 cup raw cashews
  2. 2 cups of water
  3.  1.5 TBL mustard
  4. 4 dates, pitted
  5. 1 tsp onion powder
  6. 1.5 TBL raw apple cider vinegar
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions

  1. Cook the rice pasta according to the directions on the package. DO NOT OVERCOOK! When the pasta is done, rinse well under cold water.
  2. Place pasta in a large bowl. Add the celery, carrots, red pepper, cucumber and olives. Mix well with a large spoon.
  3. Now lets make the dressing. Combine all the ingredients in your Vitamix and blend until creamy.
  4. Pour the dressing into the large bowl and mix well with a large spoon.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Notes

  1. Don’t worry if it looks like too much dressing at first, as it will firm up just like all cashew based dressings do.
  2. Cut the veggies into very small pieces, otherwise the kids tend to pick them out.