Right Sized Relish Tray

Curb the food waste when you use these products to create a right sized relish tray! I recently cleaned out my refrigerator and threw away open jars of green olives, Kalamata olives, sweet pickles, and dill pickles. I hated to do it, but they had been open way too long. When you live alone, it’s easy to tire of something before it’s used up.

Many of my get-togethers are impromptu. I like to be able to reach in the cupboard and refrigerator and quickly assemble a relish tray. The problem with that is that many of these gatherings are just two or three people including me. A full-size jar of pickles, one of olives, and one of banana peppers is waaaay too much for 3 people especially when you add some carrot sticks & celery or nuts & fruit. The result is that jars get opened, but not emptied.

I’m always attempting to right size my purchases which requires constant reevaluation. Buying yogurt in single servings is not cost efficient because I can consume a larger container in a few days. Buying two peeled boiled eggs in a package also makes no sense because I use eggs often. I may as well buy a dozen and boil a few here & there. On the other hand, a half gallon of any kind of milk is way too much for me to consume before it spoils.
Immediately following a refrigerator purge, I’m especially uneasy about refilling pantry space with things I just had to throw away. The other day, I was walking slowly by the pickles in Natural Grocers trying to decide whether or not to purchase anything when I happened upon a great solution. Sitting right in front of me were small packages of olives, gherkins, and marinated cauliflower!

The packaging bills these as snacks. Each resealable bag contains 3 to 4.5 servings without liquid which makes them great for snacking, but I immediately saw the potential for solving my relish tray waste problem! I love it when a solution is just a matter of paying attention!

The Gaea cauliflower and gherkin snacks are vegan, gluten-free, and contain nothing artificial. The cauliflower is marinated in extra virgin olive oil and lemon essential oil. The mini gherkins are marinated in extra virgin olive oil and vinegar enhanced by salt, garlic, and coriander. A serving of either one equals a half serving of vegetables and has 5 (gherkins) or 10 (cauliflower) calories.

All of that sounds good. How do they taste? I like the crunch of the cauliflower. It leaves a lemony aftertaste on the palate. The gherkins are teeny tiny and adorable. They are not the traditional sweet, crunchy gherkins you’re used to. The most prominent flavor is salt and the texture is less crisp. Both of these would benefit from a pairing with something to balance the saltiness.

The Mediterranean Organic olives are pitted, organic and non-GMO. A serving of green olives has 20 calories and is flavored with salt, parsley, basil, and thyme in addition to olive oil, sunflower oil, and white wine vinegar. The Kalamata olives have 40 calories per serving and are flavored with salt, red pepper, oregano, thyme, and cumin in addition to the same oils and vinegar.

Both olive selections are more traditional in taste, but have an oiliness not found in jarred olives. I don’t mind this so much because it keeps the olives feeling moist. It might be a bigger issue if I were eating these as a car snack. I’d have to be sure to have a napkin handy.

As far as packaging goes, I wasn’t very successful using the tear tab on the olives. I either ended up ripping the entire side of the package rendering it unsealable or I pulled so lightly that I had to use scissors just to get the thing open. The pull up tab on the Gaea packages was much easier to use.

If you prefer to have more flexibility, you can also choose PearlsR Olives to Go. Four individual serving cups per package allow you to customize the ratios of black pitted, pimento stuffed green, and pitted Kalamata olives on your relish tray. The flavor selections have recently expanded to include Sriracha, Taco, and Italian Herb infused ripe olives.

It’s been awhile since I’ve eaten Olives to Go and I’ve only tried the sliced black olives. The flavor was exactly like jarred olives, but they were drier. I don’t mean dried out, just drier. I have not tried the new infused flavors. The Olives to Go cups cannot be resealed, but they are easy to open.

Have I found a right size relish tray solution? I have made progress. Keeping the Gaea cauliflower and Mediterranean Organic Kalamata olives on hand gives me two good small serving choices. The Sriracha Olives to Go sound like something interesting to add as well. I like the idea of having a spicy choice on the tray.

At this point, I’ll probably stick with a sweet, crunchy gherkin. I may not use all of them in a reasonable amount of time, but at least I’ll have accomplished my goal of keeping relish tray ingredients on hand while reducing my food waste. I feel good about that.






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.”

Let Yourself Be Surprised

Sometimes it’s best to let yourself be surprised! I write a lot about planning, being prepared, and managing expectations. When you have to follow a specific dietary plan, those are important concepts. It’s hard to stick to a gluten-free regimen without preparing in advance. While that’s a reality, sometimes it’s nice to drop the preparation and let the universe provide.

When circumstances require us to focus on what may be missing, lacking, detrimental, or dangerous, it’s easy to slip into a perpetually defensive posture. For some of us this will feel like hopelessness, futility, or defeat. For others, it may feel like anger, stress, or frustration. Whatever its manifestation, the more time and energy we devote to seeing what’s wrong, the less we see what’s right. This can eventually erode our sense of safety, well-being, contentment, and happiness.

Perhaps it’s an innate desire to protect ourselves from this eventuality that leads patients newly diagnosed with celiac disease to respond in overwhelming numbers to the diagnosis as if it were worse than cancer. That brief glimpse down the road of constantly being on guard every meal of every day for the rest of your life – that’s overwhelming. To top it off, often while you’re still trying to get your mind around the idea, some medical professional is telling you it’s hard to follow a gluten-free diet.

Holy crapoly! How are you supposed to deal with all this stressful news when you’ve just been told to eliminate your favorite comforting cookie, doughnut, brownie, cinnamon roll or cupcake?

A large number of patients choose to ignore the diagnosis, or partially comply with a gluten-free diet. While this may alleviate some of the immediate stress, it ultimately creates more misery as the autoimmune system continues to assault and damage the body. It is especially important for patients who do not experience or attribute their symptoms to celiac disease to recognize that by the time they understand the importance of being gluten-free, they may have developed irreversible damage and/or have shortened their lifespan.

But what about those of us who feel so much better without gluten that we’re not tempted to cheat, but sometimes get weary from always trying to stay one step ahead?

Having to round up a snack hours in advance to make sure you won’t get too hungry if your after work event doesn’t serve gluten-free food can affect your sense of well-being on an already overbooked and stress filled day. By itself, packing that snack is no big deal. On top of a series of pressing deadlines, that snack can mean the difference between feeling content and feeling overwhelmed.

One way to help balance, and even offset, the weariness of wariness is to occasionally let your guard down and trust the universe to provide. The risk is that you’ll miss a snack or a meal. The advantage is, you may discover a new restaurant, convenience store, or product you’d otherwise miss.

I just finished two back-to-back road trips. Although I had a night in my own bed in between, I was home less than 24 hours. Because the second trip had come up suddenly, I had little time to prepare. I threw a banana, some almonds & some raisins in the car and headed out.
Three hours into the trip, I was hungry. I needed something more substantial than a banana. I stopped at a convenience store resigned to the possibility I might just need to finish off the almonds. I walked over to the refrigerated cases looking for water, and discovered an unfamiliar gluten-free snack – CHEESEWICHTM.

All four CHEESEWICH options contain one piece of salami sandwiched in between two pieces of cheese. A 2.5 oz serving has 0 carbs, 16 grams of protein, and 210 – 260 calories depending on the cheese flavor chosen. The product comes vacuum packed in a peel apart plastic package that’s convenient for travel or packing a lunchbox. Ready to eat as is, the combination can also be put between pieces of bread or placed on top of a cracker.

The salami is paired with your choice of Mild Cheddar, Colby Jack, Provolone, or Pepper Jack. I saw the cheddar first, so that’s what I grabbed. I ate it on the road because it was late in the day and I didn’t want to be too tired before I arrived. The CHEESEWICH was easy to hold with the package and eat without any mess, and the protein gave me plenty of energy.

Not only did I feel reinvigorated, I felt provided for. It was a great reminder that I often find what I need when I quit worrying about not having it. Reflecting on this makes me feel safe, positive, and calm.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. I once flew into Canada spur of the moment. We parked the plane, rented a car, and headed out with no food, no hotel reservation, and no Google. About the time I thought we’d be sleeping in the car, we happened upon Pond’s Resort. There was dinner with a prominent New Brunswick resident, a room, and world class fly-fishing awaiting us. And that’s not the only time travel flexibility has delivered a great experience.
Even with this recent reminder that I can relax my efforts, I won’t stop planning altogether. That’s not the way I’m wired. I do intend to carry forward the good feeling that comes with letting go of expectations then being pleasantly surprised…at least until I need another reminder. Then I’m sure the universe will provide.


A Great Snack? It’s Like Butta!

nutbutterThese snacks aren’t just like butta, they are butta! When I get hungry between breakfast and lunch, I usually need protein so I’m always on the lookout for easy-to-carry, protein-filled, gluten-free snacks.

You may immediately think of protein bars, and of course there are some gluten-free protein bars. My favorite are the KIND Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew flavor, but let’s face it, they contain 14g of sugar, 22g of carbs and only 4g of protein so they aren’t ideal for frequent consumption. I have to treat them more like candy bars.

James likes to point me toward beef jerky, but I’m not a big fan. I find it tiring to chew. Rolled up slices of sandwich meat and cheese require refrigeration, so I can’t just throw them in my purse or car. I do sometimes carry a container of raw almonds and golden raisins with me, but they require a bulky container that I don’t always have room for.

While wandering through the store the other day, I finally studied the nut and seed butter squeeze packs standing upright in a variety of boxes near the powdered peanut butter. I’ve seen them before, but have never taken time to really investigate. After studying the packets, it became clear that these are a great option for me.

These single serving squeeze packs can be eaten right out of the pack or smeared on some gluten-free crackers, apple slices, or celery sticks. They don’t require refrigeration. They’re small enough to fit in my purse. And the butters come in an amazing array of flavors – almond, cashew, pecan, hazelnut with chocolate, and sunflower to name a few.  

There are many brands available. Some contain only 1g of sugar or less. Once Again Organic Cashew Butter contains no sugars, 5g of protein, and no sodium. I would prefer a little salt added for flavor, but a salty cracker is sufficient enhancement for this light flavored nut butter. Once Again Organic Sunflower Seed Butter has 95mg of sodium, 3g of sugars, and 5g of protein. The flavor leans toward the sweet rather than salty.

Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter reflects a well-known flavor combination. It contains 4g of protein and 7g of sugars in a 32g serving. You may be more familiar with this flavor profile in the form of Nutella which has 2g of protein and 21g of sugars per 37g (2 tbsp) serving. Justin’s has a more defined flavor of hazelnut and the hint of bitter you’d expect from dark chocolate. It does not taste like dessert, but it is pleasing on the palette and nutritious enough to put on your child’s toast in the morning.

I have a couple of favorites already that I’ve thrown in a plastic bag in my purse. (Having witnessed an exploding foil packet of mayonnaise shoot 8ft across a restaurant, I wouldn’t recommend carrying these without the added protection of a plastic bag unless you want a nut butter mess in your purse or briefcase.) Before I tear them open, I’ll knead the packets to distribute the oil evenly.

It feels comforting to know that without having to plan ahead, I have a high-protein, low-carb, gluten-free snack on hand when I need it.

Problem solved…like butta!

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.”