Grab & Go

How can I grab & go if I must avoid gluten, histamine, FODMAPS, and dairy? It’s a great question! And a pertinent one if your family gets hangry like mine.

While it may seem be easier than ever to avoid gluten, the task becomes more difficult as restrictions compound. Some restaurants offer a salad base to turn a sandwich into a salad. That’s great unless the salad contains a significant amount of mushrooms, spinach, or finely chopped tomatoes that are high in histamine. And you’ll probably have to ask them to hold the cheese to avoid dairy and problematic plant-based cheeses. Then there’s the matter of fruit in salads – some are high in histamine and some are full of short-chain carbohydrates known as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols or FODMAPs.

Of course you can eat at home, but grab & go can be complicated there too. Canned tuna & chicken, deli meat, sausage, polish sausage, ham, and hot dogs are typically high in histamine. Pickles are out. Packaged salad toppers with candied nuts and dried fruit are out.

Although it requires a bit of effort, there are ways to mitigate the inconvenience and have grab & go options at the ready when mealtime slips up on you.

Here are some ideas:

Gluten-free instant oatmeal is shelf-stable, filling and easy to carry. Keep some in the pantry to fill in gaps when someone gets too hungry.

Imagine® shelf-stable chicken, bone, or vegetable (contains a small amount of tomato) broth can be heated in the microwave and served in a mug as a satisfying drink to take the edge off of hunger.

Keep some gluten free bread or bagels on hand or in the freezer and nut butters in the pantry. If you haven’t tried peanut butter on warm toast, give it a try. It’s surprisingly good!

Replace sandwich meat with pre-grilled or blackened thinly sliced chicken breasts or steak. Trim away any fat, season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Bake or grill the chicken just until done. Sear the steak in a skillet and finish in the oven. Cook two or three times as much as you normally would. Freeze in daily portions. Thaw a day or two before you run out of easy-to-grab foods.

Chicken can be eaten on a sandwich with lettuce, fresh cucumber slices, and fresh basil leaves. It can be sliced or shredded and served inside a wrap with hummus (if tolerated), and fresh red bell pepper slices.

The fastest, easiest way to have these proteins available is to buy and prepare larger than normal quantities when you’re cooking the items anyway. The same is true of beef or pork roast which can be sliced and then frozen for later use on salads, sandwiches, and in wraps. Purchase an additional pound of roast to prepare when you’re making roast for dinner.

Keep a supply of low histamine vegetables that can be enjoyed raw – carrots, zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, green onions as well as low histamine/low FODMAP fresh fruit – blueberries, kiwi, and raw nuts (if well tolerated).

Purchase an extra half-dozen or dozen eggs along with your regular purchase. Boil the extras and keep them in the refrigerator. You can even pre-peel them once they’re cool so that they’re truly grab & go. They can also be used in egg salad or a green salad.

Bake and freeze a dozen muffins. Thaw in the microwave as needed or take a weekly portion out of the freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator for everyday use.

You can also make and freeze pancakes fitting your needs that can be used as a wrap for breakfast sandwiches.

As long as you keep it simple, staying ahead of the game doesn’t require too much time and effort. Tack a few tasks onto things you already have planned. Keep a few strategic items in the freezer and pantry. Before you know it, dietary compliant grab & go will seem like a piece of cake.

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.”

Pretend You’re Helping Someone Else

Overcome obstacles when you pretend you’re helping someone else. I need to cook. I have vegetables that will soon spoil. I even want to eat vegetables. But I don’t want to cook. Just don’t want to do it.

Maybe it’s because I’m craving pizza. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to do the dishes afterward. I’m not sure but I bet you know the feeling. If not, dining out would be way less frequent and packaged prepared food would not appeal.

I could order in and put off the cooking for one more meal. That’s a great option if one meal doesn’t turn into three. Another option is to give away the veggies. That could be good for my neighbors. Another possibility would be to pretend I’m someone else.

When I’m helping a friend, I never mind doing the dishes. I feel no dread or hesitation. I don’t worry about drying out my hands. I just get in there and get it done.

Cooking for a sick friend is the same way. I don’t hesitate. I quickly figure out what I can pull together and prepare it.

Missing ingredient? I come up with a substitute.

Chopping needed? I chop, dice, and mince like a pro.

Why is it so much easier to get started in someone else’s kitchen?

Don’t answer that. There’s not really a need to analyze. Like many things, it’s only important to understand that this is my pattern. I can use that information to get past an unnamed, unanalyzed obstacle.

That realization makes my day easier right off the bat. There won’t be a chance to lament over my momentary laziness or feel anxious that I may waste more food.

I can simply get started and work from the point of knowing a way past procrastination. All I need to do is pretend I’m in a friend’s kitchen.

How do I know this will work? I’m practiced at using my foibles to my advantage. Or you could just say, I’m good at managing myself.

I’ll soon be sautéing green beans, roasting butternut squash, creaming spinach, and cooking onion, red pepper, and yellow squash. By dinner time, I’ll have a smorgasbord from which to choose. The bonus is that my refrigerator will be cleaned out as well.

I mention all of this to say, there’s nothing bad about flipping a weakness into a strength. In fact, it’s a great way to exceed our own expectations.

When I feel inclined to slack, I have many self-management tools at my disposal. These allow me to function efficiently and with much less angst. And they make chores feel more like an adventure.

If you’ve never considered harnessing your hesitation as an asset, go for it! My dinner tonight will be proof that it works.

Easy Peasy Drop-Off Food

Let’s explore some easy peasy drop-off food for your gluten-free friends. It’s winter and I have 7 friends who are currently under the weather. Having a restaurant meal delivered to each of them would be quite expensive. Cooking a meal from scratch for each of them would be quite time-consuming. I’ve been looking for a happy medium.

I’ve settled on some simple combinations I can make quickly and drop off by the door. I’m keeping these gluten-free. By using non-dairy milk and cheese, many can easily be dairy-free as well. If you’re needing some similar options, here are a few ideas:

Potato soup (not dairy-free). Purchase already prepared mashed potatoes (not dried potato flakes). Place them in a large pot over low to medium heat. Thin with gluten-free chicken broth the desired thickness. Add a dash of garlic powder and fresh ground black pepper.

Make the soup even richer by stirring in some shredded cheese – cheddar, Monterrey Jack, asiago, parmesan, or a blend. If this makes the soup too thick, add more chicken broth. For extra flair, include some canned, fire-roasted corn and garnish with chives.

Carnitas enchiladas. Purchase prepared gluten-free slow-cooked pork carnitas, canned refried beans, cheese, soft corn tortillas, and gluten-free green enchilada sauce.

Place the pork in a large skillet. Add refried beans (about 1/2 can or until the balance looks right to you), cheese, and a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with garlic powder and cumin. Exact proportions can vary and this will still be delicious. Simmer for a few minutes while you heat the corn tortillas in the oven or in a skillet.

Fill each tortilla with mixture from skillet. Place open side down in a disposable baking pan sprayed with olive oil spray. Top with enchilada sauce and cheese. Bake at 350⁰ for 15-20 minutes or until cheese melts.

Because this starts with warm tortillas and fully cooked, warmed filling, there’s no need to bake for a long time. That means, I don’t worry about covering these with foil.

Chicken stew. Begin with 32 oz gluten-free chicken broth and a cup or two of water. Add a couple of shallots or half an onion and a clove or two of garlic that are peeled, but not sliced or chopped (you’ll remove them later). Sprinkle in some garlic powder and a few red pepper flakes. Simmer for a few minutes.

Add a drained can of diced potatoes, a drained can of black beans, and a drained can of corn (if desired). If more liquid is needed, add either chicken stock or water.

After the stew simmers for a few minutes, add some pulled rotisserie chicken. You may need to break the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Continue to simmer for a few minutes. Remove the shallots or onion and garlic. Taste. Add salt and black pepper if needed.

You can use only corn and potatoes. You can use black beans and corn, but substitute quick-cooking rice for the beans. There are many other options I haven’t mentioned that can be tailored to your friend’s tastes.

I like to put my deliveries in disposable, reusable containers that are microwave or oven safe so that my sick friend can reheat right in the container. I also don’t want them to have to worry about returning a dish.

Snack basket. When you’re sick, you may feel well enough to focus on necessities but leave it up to your friends to provide the frivolous.

If you know the kind of snacks your friend likes, put those in a basket or a cute bag along with a few magazines, a crossword or sudoku book, an adult coloring book, or a puzzle.

I include things like dried figs, cocoa dusted almonds, dried Bing cherries, candied or spiced pecans, gluten-free pretzels and hummus, corn or grain-free tortilla chips with individual size guacamole, a selection of cheese (look for samples), pepperoncini peppers, stuffed olives, summer sausage, gourmet chocolate bars, and unsweetened, flavored water.

The choices are truly endless!

Breakfast basket. These are easy to do and fill a gap that most people don’t think about.

Fill a basket or bag with an assortment of gluten-free bagels, donuts, banana bread, muffins, cinnamon rolls, rugelach, and English muffins. Add some gourmet coffee or tea and jam or jelly. Perhaps put in apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes.

Providing food to a sick friend is a kind gesture. Lessening the financial burden and time commitment for yourself is also a kind gesture. With easy peasy drop-off food, you can be kind to all involved.

Wrap Yourself in Warmth

As 2022 begins looking much like 2020-2, a resolution to wrap yourself in warmth may be more realistic than anything you may have chosen in 2019. When stress is ongoing, there’s nothing wrong with choosing an extra dose of warm, fuzzy comfort!

While that may sound indulgent, it can also be good for your mental health. And reducing stress is good for your physical health as well.

Most of the US experienced the anxiety that comes with a sudden inability to purchase basic supplies like toilet paper in 2020. Supply chain issues persist, and increasing numbers of sick employees are already causing staff shortages. It may be worth stocking up on a few items to keep yourself feeling warm and cozy as you face winter.

For me, warm and cozy takes many forms. My Tempur-Pedic® mattress cradles me while I sleep. Hot, black, French-pressed coffee warms me when I wake up. In between, I like to be armed with the following:

Soft scarves.

I live in a historic home with high ceilings and drafty windows. Even when one side of the house is warm, the other is not. Having a stash of soft scarves to wrap around my neck makes me feel more secure.

Microwavable heating pad.

These small pillows are usually filled with rice or corn. They come in a variety of sizes and prints. My current one has a removable cover that can be thrown in the washer. Not only are these great for sore muscles, the combination of heat and weight is calming. I use mine often to relax sore muscles or place over my solar plexus at night.

Peppermint tea bags.

For someone with a persnickety tummy, peppermint tea may be the relaxing relief you need. I like it both hot and iced.

Bath salts.

I love rosemary peppermint bath salts. While I’m not a big bath taker, there are times when nothing is more soothing than to soak in super-hot water that’s filling the air with a lovely aroma. It can feel like time is standing still. I usually turn off the lights and float.

Gluten-free treats.

Even if I don’t think about them often, I like having some kind of gluten-free treat available in the pantry or refrigerator. It’s more about feeling like what I want is available than it is about consuming a particular food. As some retailers stock fewer gluten-free options, I find myself feeling anxious that I may not be able to order my usual preferences.

Not having snacks would not be the end of the world. And I can always bake. But there’s a certain peace of mind that comes from knowing there’s something waiting for me in the pantry.

For you, warm comfort may come in the form of chicken soup, hot cinnamon rolls, or chili. It could come from binge-watching under a stack of fleece blankets. Or it could emerge from reading a gripping novel, a lyrical poem, or listening to a particular song.

It looks like we’re headed for more uncertainty as 2022 unfolds. Whatever you need to wrap yourself in warmth is worth stocking up on now!