Archive for ‘Tips’

September 12, 2017

Pare Your Kitchen Down to the Basics

You can pare your kitchen down to the basics and still prepare great food! I love looking at houses online. Of course I pay special attention to the kitchens. For me the primary considerations are a gas stove, functional cabinets, and countertop workspace followed by cuteness.

Cuteness includes what the countertop workspace is covered with, the flooring, paint, backsplash, hardware, and cabinet style. I hate the unimaginative gray that currently dominates new houses and many remodels. I love clean, classic subway tile, European style small refrigerators, hardwood floors, and interesting countertops like wood or recycled glass. With these items in place I’m ready to fill the cabinets with necessities and fun china, pottery, and serving pieces.

What is necessary for food prep?

Let’s be real. Most of us don’t need all of the gadgets that fill our cabinets or clutter our countertops. It’s fine if you want to have them, but if funds are limited or you don’t have much space you can forego the additional purchases and pare down to the basics.

Here’s a list of basic cooking tools:

Durable, sharp knives.
A set with a carving knife, chef’s knife, paring knife, and serrated bread knife is sufficient. Keeping my knives sharp is a constant battle, so a handheld knife sharpener is also useful.

Cutting board.
Using a cutting board protects your countertop surface and keeps bacteria from meat, fish, and poultry contained. You may want to dedicate one cutting board to proteins and another to everything else. I like to use plastic for proteins because I can wash it in the dishwasher. I use wood or bamboo for vegetables, fruit, chocolate, cheese, bread, etc.

Measuring cups and spoons.
With adjustable or multiple quantity cups and spoons, you may only need one of each. I’d probably have two of each handy — one for wet ingredients and one for dry. Even though they take up more drawer space, I actually prefer separate measuring cups and spoons. Collapsible silicone sets minimize the space used, but hard plastic and metal also serve the purpose.

Mixing bowls.
Unless you do a lot of baking, a basic set of 3 bowls — large, medium, and small should be sufficient. Glass, metal, pottery and plastic choices are all readily available. If you rarely cook or need additional capacity, serving bowls can double as mixing bowls. You can use a cereal bowl to whisk an egg or dissolve yeast and a roasting pan to combine larger amounts of ingredients.

Baking pans.
The most commonly used baking pan is a 9 x 13 rectangular pan. It works for cakes, biscuits, casseroles, lasagne, oven fried chicken, chicken spaghetti, bar cookies, cobbler, bread pudding, and even your Thanksgiving dressing. It may be all you need, but you’ll probably want a cookie sheet or two, a loaf pan (with extra tall sides if you make gluten-free bread), a roasting pan with a lid, a muffin tin, a pie pan, and at least one casserole dish. A square glass baking dish can double as a casserole dish by using aluminum foil when you need a lid.

Stove top cookware.
Every kitchen needs at least one cast iron skillet. Okay, you can live without one, but you’ll have much better cornbread, pineapple upside down cake, seared steaks, country-fried potatoes, fried chicken, blackened Brussels sprouts, and stovetop burgers if you have one. Cast iron can be used for any dish you start on the stove top and finish in the oven.

Also essential are a large pot for cooking pasta, and at least one saucepan. Most kitchens will need an additional saucepan or two in order to cook multiple dishes at the same time. You may want to invest in a good skillet and a sauté pan.

Utensils.
A spatula, slotted spoon, large regular spoon, whisk, grater, can opener, colander, small and large funnel, and dough blender plus a hand crank beater will give you what you need to prepare a meal, bake a cake, and top it off with homemade whipped cream. You can add a basting brush or potato masher if you feel you need them.

Small appliances.
The only small appliances I would recommend are a food chopper, a slow cooker, and a waffle iron. I find a chopper sufficient for the chopping and puréeing I do, and a slow cooker comes in handy at parties. My antique cast iron waffle iron leaves something to be desired. A modern, electric version is definitely preferable.

On the other hand, I don’t need a coffee maker — a French press or pour over coffee maker can make an incredible cup of coffee. I don’t need a toaster — toast can be made in the oven. I can make whipped cream with my hand crank beater in less time than it takes to get out and set up a mixer. I don’t use juice in large enough quantity to justify a juicer. Two cast iron skillets will make a panini. A saucepan will heat water if I don’t buy an electric kettle. I can cook rice in a pan. Poached eggs don’t require a poacher. Popcorn is easy to pop on top of the stove. I don’t drink soda so I have no use for a soda maker. Pressure cookers scare me. I am happy buying dried fruit from Nuts.com and ice cream from the grocery store. And even though that orange nonstick skillet looked really tempting at 2am in a hotel room, I can’t think of any reason I’d need to fry hardware. That’s about a dozen kitchen specialty items I don’t need when I pare down to essentials.

If you love grapefruit and want a grapefruit knife, you should absolutely have one. If having a potato peeler makes you feel better about peeling potatoes, there’s nothing wrong with buying one. If you weigh ingredients when you bake, investing in a good quality scale makes sense.

The point is that you will not be limited to mediocre food when you choose to keep your kitchen simple! Knowing that can help you stay within budget and reduce clutter in your home. It feels good to me to know that I can prepare scrumptious meals and baked goods and still be mindful about kitchen purchases.

In this day of advertising bombardment, I think it bears repeating…you can pare your kitchen down to the basics and still prepare great food!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

September 5, 2017

Gluten-Free Hurricane Emergency Kit

The recent devastation from Hurricane Harvey and the imminent approach of Irma have me thinking about a gluten-free hurricane emergency kit. Of course, every time a disaster happens, I feel like I need to develop a plan for that type of emergency. When cars drove over the edge of the damaged I-40 bridge into the Arkansas River in 2002, I developed a list of procedures I will follow should I ever speed over the edge of an unexpectedly missing bridge. I always feel better when I have a plan.
hurricane
If you’re gluten-free or on any sort of specialized eating plan, preparing an emergency kit is extremely important. If you should lose access to grocery stores, restaurants, and delivery services, it can be extremely difficult to avoid gluten and other allergens. If you end up in a shelter, choices may be limited.

Hurricanes are not the only type of emergency your kit can be used for. With slight variations, it will be appropriate for wildfire evacuations, tornado displacement, ice and snow storms, and dam overflows or other flooding. No matter what event leads to your displacement, a handy backpack filled with basic water, food, and supplies will make your life less worrisome.
collapse
Water
Water is the most important consideration. Your body will require water before it requires food. How often have you heard interviews with disaster victims who have been waiting and waiting for water? It’s a common problem in catastrophic circumstances.

Bottled water is the most readily available option, but it’s heavy and hard to carry. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to consider a water bag, portable filtration system, or filter straw.

Food
Gluten-free foods that do not require preparation or cooking, have a lengthy shelf-life, and can be served without the need for special utensils are ideal for inclusion in an emergency kit. At my house, we like to include gluten-free beef jerky, individually packed peanut butter, raisins, dried pears, and dates. We also pack individual cups of applesauce and mandarin oranges. I carry some Starbucks Via® instant coffee in my suitcase as well as the emergency kit. If we have them handy, a bag of pretzels, and some raw almonds may go in the pack as well.

Of course you may have different preferences. Protein bars are a good option. Baby food or applesauce in pouches is easy to carry. If you prefer full meals, you can buy 12 gluten-free MRE‘s for $97.95. MRE stands for Meals-Ready-to-Eat. They are used by the military. We used to buy them from the Army surplus store to carry on canoe trips. Those were not gluten-free and many MRE’s still are not. Be sure to check before you buy.

According to the MRE Star Website, each gluten free single complete MRE meal contains:
1. Main Entrée
2. Toasted Corn
3. Nut and Raisin Mix
4. Dried Fruit Mix
5. Drink Mix (Fruit Flavored from 5 varieties)
6. Spoon
7. Napkin
8. Wet Nap
9. Coffee
10. Sugar
11. Non-Dairy Creamer
12. Salt
13. Pepper
14. Candy
15. Hot Sauce
16. Flameless Ration Heaters

You get all of that for $7.32 per meal. It may not be as cheap as cooking at home, but the cost is less than many restaurants, the meals are easily carried, and they come with their own heat source. That’s a lot of value for the money.
MRE
MRE meals…
contain a fully prepared and ready-to-eat entree.
are packaged for long-term storage.
have no preservatives.
require no refrigeration with up to a 5 year shelf life when stored at 70 degrees or cooler. Higher temperatures will reduce shelf life.
should not be frozen.
are manufactured to military specifications.
are fully cooked and ready to eat, cold or heated.

Medicine
Another important consideration is medication. If you have medicine you need, make sure to pack a generous supply in your go bag before any threat is imminent.

Supplies
Of course, you’ll want to keep your food, medicine, telephone, and a change of clothes dry. If you canoe, you probably already have a collection of dry bags. If not, you can purchase document bags (great for stashing some $1 and $5 bills), cell phone bags, small dry bags, dry duffels, and dry backpacks from sporting goods or specialty retailers. Many of those outlets will also carry compact flashlights, first aid kits, rain suits, waders, lightweight towels, hand wipes, no-rinse bathing wipes, disposable toothbrushes, and travel toilet paper perfect for emergency kits.

An emergency cell phone charger should be included to make it possible to contact rescue crews and family after a loss of power. Other useful supplies include pliers, a Swiss Army knife or all-in-one tool, and a plastic bag for trash. In the event of floods, floaties for the kids will easily fit in your emergency kit. Floating coolers can also be used to carry extra food or water.

Comfort Item
It’s amazing how comforting a small symbolic item can be. When you do the final check of your emergency kit, have each member of the family place one small comfort item in the bag. It could be a favorite photo, crystal, rock, ball, stuffed animal, heirloom necklace, poem, toy car, doll — anything that brings a smile or feeling of warmth.

In my part of the country, tornadoes and ice storms are the biggest ongoing threats to life as usual. Some nights each spring are designated as watch-the-radar nights. Those can be scary. Last summer a windstorm knocked out power for several days. It was over 100º in my house in a matter of hours. I was quickly exhausted. It is at that moment of exhaustion that a comfort item can remind you of good experiences. A brief glimpse of better times will remind you that you can feel good again.

No matter how prepared you are, a major flood, hurricane, or tornado creates a lengthy ordeal if you are its victim. The physical and emotional toll can take exhaustion to a whole new level. Sometimes the best thing we can do is help ourselves by allowing others to help us, by asking for help when we need it, and by being patient with ourselves.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is let you know our hearts are with you. Our hearts are with you!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

http://lifestraw.com/

https://ortliebusa.com/product-category/ortlieb/water-transport/

https://www.rei.com/c/water-treatment?r=c&origin=web&ir=category%3Awater-treatment&page=1

https://nuts.com/driedfruit/pears/premium.html

https://dolesunshine.com/products/fruit-bowls/organic-diced-nectarines

https://www.target.com/p/mott-s-snack-go-natural-applesauce-4ct-3-2oz/-/A-14779763

http://www.jif.com/products/snacks/to-go-creamy-peanut-butter

https://www.oberto.com/spicy-sweet-beef-trail-mix

https://www.oberto.com/faq/

http://www.snydersofhanover.com/products/wholey-cheese/mild-cheddar.html

https://mre-meals.net/mre-meals/product/gluten-free-menu-case-of-12-mre-with-heaters-m018hgf/

https://www.target.com/p/babyganics-hand-and-face-wipes-30-ct/-/A-16397526

https://www.rei.com/product/708776/no-rinse-bathing-wipes

http://therestroomkit.com/

https://www.rei.com/product/722282/charmin-to-go

http://www.seatosummitusa.com/paddle-accessories/?sub_paddle=1

https://www.seallinegear.com/packs-duffles/urban-backpack-10

https://www.seallinegear.com/catalog/product/view/id/16908/category/49/

https://ortliebusa.com/product/document-bag/

https://www.froggtoggs.com/the-frogg-toggsr-ultra-lite2tm-1704/

http://onlineshoptech.com/portable-power-banks/ultra-slim-lipstick-external-battery-power-bank-with-portable-carabiner-keychainsitlos-3350mah-mini-charger-for-iphone55s66s7plusipadandroid-phoneswindows-phones-and-tablets-gray/

http://www.speedousa.com/kids/kids-accessories/kids-flotation/begin-to-swim-fabric-arm-bands-style-7570525

https://www.swissknifeshop.com/shop/swiss-army?gclid=CjwKCAjwlrnNBRBMEiwApKU4PJRxXNtnT0fWeZuE1UYTyRnzswH7I2A7bR5iH7_3wcm0lBcW64gpAhoCmt8QAvD_BwE

August 28, 2017

Is It Safe to Graze on These Snacks?

If you must be gluten-free to be healthy, you always have to ask: Is it safe to graze on this? In order to answer that question, I always start with the label. I recently purchased a Graze Dark Chocolate Cherry Tart snack. I was in a hurry, so I saved the label reading for later.
graze
I liked the natural looking package and I absolutely LOVE dried cherries, almonds, and chocolate. These are ingredients that can easily be gluten free and that I often use when I prepare dessert. The only noted allergens on the label are soybeans and tree nuts. Buying this didn’t seem like too big a risk.

When I got home and had time to read the label, I saw that the chocolate buttons include something called “cocoa mass”. I didn’t know exactly what cocoa mass was, but I recognized that it needed to be further investigated. I visited the Graze website.

After visiting the site, I still don’t know what cocoa mass is, but I found this statement located next to the list of ingredients:
“allergens
Graze is not suitable for people with allergies. All of our food is packed in the same place, so cross-contamination between any of our ingredients is possible. Our snacks may contain traces of gluten, eggs, peanuts, soya, milk, nuts, celery, mustard, fish and sesame.”

This statement appears next to the list of ingredients for each and every product on the website. It’s interesting to note that there’s not enough of some of these allergens to require a notation on the label, but there’s enough for the company to feel it necessary to note their possible presence in the product. I appreciate the fact that they’ve done so in a clear, visible manner.

Where does that leave you?

It’s always safest to err on the side of caution when you encounter an unknown ingredient. I also avoid products that say they are processed on the same equipment as wheat, rye, and barley or may contain trace amounts of these ingredients. If a label does not list any gluten containing ingredients, questionable items, or cross contamination possibilities, I trust that it’s okay to consume even though it may not be labeled gluten-free.
 
While I like the Graze story of 7 friends who quit their jobs to create better snacks, I cannot recommend these snacks to anyone who is gluten-free. On the other hand, if you’re not limited by the allergens, eat up!

Choose from mixes full of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, superfoods, veggies, and protein. The flavor combinations sound interesting and the packages are easy to carry. Graze has a subscription service, so you can have them delivered right to your door.

If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it’s not safe to graze on these snacks, but you don’t have to miss out on enjoying dried cherries, almonds and chocolate!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

https://www.graze.com/us/shop/dark-chocolate-cherry-tart?format=multipack#tab-ingredient-tab

August 15, 2017

Travel Tip #18 Push the Limits?

Travel Tip #18 Push the Limits is written with you in mind if you suffer from IBS, IBD, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease or other conditions that may lead to a sudden need for bathroom facilities. I just got back from LA. During Sunday brunch I had a sudden reminder of how uncomfortable it can be to travel with a gastrointestinal condition. This travel tip deals with a subject that’s difficult to discuss in public.
cypress
If your guts are constantly in a knot and you can’t predict when diarrhea, gas, or pain may suddenly hit, it can be hard to imagine taking a long trip on an airplane or even in a car full of people. A fear of embarrassment or discomfort can lead to a gradual withdrawal from family outings and vacations.

Reluctance to disclose the real reason for resistance to certain situations often leads family and friends to misinterpret what’s happening. I mean who really wants to say, “I just can’t face the chance that I’ll poop myself during a 3-hour plane ride?” I don’t. It really doesn’t matter how close we are, I just don’t want to discuss that with you.

So, what should I do?

Pretend to be too busy, too sick, or too angry with Aunt Jane to attend?
Insist on a different trip that no one else is excited about?
Wear adult diapers?

Sometimes saying no may be the best choice. If your only motive is to take care of yourself, you’ve explored all the options that might make the journey enjoyable for you, and you still can’t find a way to make peace with attending, then say no. It’s only when you have an ulterior motive or when continual refusals begin to limit your access to a full life that saying no becomes detrimental.

Say yes within limits. If it’s hard for you to take care of yourself, establishing certain parameters in advance can make it easier to decide in the moment when presented with an invitation. For instance, you may want to have a rule that you only agree to car trips in areas with ample facilities. You may want to limit flights to 1 hour at certain times of the day. You could have a rule that you will not stay at friends’ houses so that you have the privacy of your own space. Along those lines, you can have a rule that you don’t share hotel rooms. If you know you usually have fewer problems an hour after eating, join the family after the meal rather than for the meal.
breakfast
Make sure you eat properly and/or take your medication on time. When you’re willing to say yes, there’s no reason to tempt fate. Adhering to the regimen that works best for you while varying your activity can make all the difference. Investing a little time in research and advance planning can make it possible for you to have plenty of medication on hand even when you miss a connection.
It can also mean that you have plenty of tummy friendly snacks on hand when meal times or restaurant options unexpectedly change.
orange tree
Focus on the good stuff. A beautiful view, a warm hug from your favorite cousin, or the smile on your grandson’s face when he meets LeBron James can all mitigate a little discomfort. After all, you may not feel perfectly well at home. If you can feel equally good and add some great memories, it may be worth risking possible inconvenience or embarrassment. If things turn out badly, you can make a different choice next time. If you always stop yourself before you start, you’ll miss out on a lot of good stuff.

Bring the party to you. If you need to be in your own space to be comfortable, make your home the place everyone gathers. Let the travel be someone else’s problem. Instead of missing out on memories and contact with people you enjoy, develop your hosting skills.

That doesn’t mean you have to do a lot of work and throw a party. Just establish that you’d like to see everyone at a certain time and invite, invite, invite. When someone visits, relax and enjoy them. It may take some time to develop momentum, but eventually word will spread that your place is the place to be. Making your guests feel welcome is all it really takes to be a great host.

If you suffer from IBS, IBD, Crohn’s Disease, or Celiac Disease, should you push the limits and travel or should you stay home? There’s no right or wrong answer. What’s right for today may not be right for tomorrow.

The important thing is to always, always take very good care of yourself. For some of us that is in and of itself pushing the limits.