Baked pumpkin seeds

Don’t throw them out!

The pumpkin innards might be ooky and gooky but it’s worth digging through them for the seeds. And since you are making a family activity of the carving, why not teach the kids about a healthy treat?

We used a cookie sheet with paper towels for the collection of the seeds, just so we had something to wipe them on when our fingers were sticky. Once all of the pumpkins were cleaned out, we rinsed the seeds in a draining basket under hot water and removed all of the remaining pulp.

Try to remove as much water as possible by patting with a paper towel or draining longer. I found the paper towel method to be cumbersome because they stuck to the towel.

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. I used canola. Then cover the sheet with pumpkin seeds, they may overlap. Then spray a good layer of canola oil on top as well and sprinkle with salt (and pepper, if you choose) or other seasoning like sriracha for hot ones.

Bake on 350 in the oven for 20-25 minutes and cool for 10 minutes. pumpkin seeds hand

 

 

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Doing Disney. Saving a few bucks.

I love, love, love the magic of the kingdom and all it’s sister parks. The thrill of the rides, the characters and the food! Yes, they have some fabulous accommodations for allergy/celiac sufferers that make you want to cancel plans to travel anywhere else, BUT… that is for a later post. Today I’m going to give some of my tips for traveling to Disney and some of the things that I found to be $$ savers while spending more than four times our mortgage on a week long vacation.

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We like to stay on Disney property for the early park hours, access to the monorail and Disney dining passes so I’m not saying this is the “cheapest” way to do Disney, but this will give you some suggestions for ways you can save on some of the unplanned costs of your trip, regardless of where you are sleeping during that five hour window you are not at the park.

  1. Take a backpack into the park with snacks. Yup, they let you bring food in. Who would have thought? Clearly you don’t want to be hiking ten miles a day with a a 30lb sack on your back, but it’s unusual to spend under $5 on a park snack. Multiply that cost by the amount of people in your family… fruit roll ups and carrying some treats sounds pretty good.
  2. Take water bottles with filters in that back pack.. there are water fountains throughout the parks! Bottles of water are $3 each if you buy them in the parks. We found the water at Disney to have a “funny” taste to it. That is why I suggest the filter. I’ve never personally tried it but I have been told that the Lifestraw bottle is excellent.
  3. If you happen to be on Disney property, even at a value hotel, you can buy the Disney Dining Plan and if you can, do it!!! We were able to enjoy a character meal once a day as a part of our plan and it felt like we had non-stop snacks. In fact, we had so many that I redeemed eight at Disney Springs before we left and took treats on the plane!
  4. When on the Disney Dining Plan, always choose adult quick meals. This probably doesn’t make sense if you’ve never used the plan before. Basically, you receive a sit down meal, a quick dining meal, snacks and drinks each day for each person in your party. The sit down meals are designated “Adult” or “Child,” the quick serve meals are not. So, always order adult quick meals and get more food!
  5. Don’t hop. The hopper passes add unnecessary cost to tickets when you may or may not need to use it. Plan your days in one park per day and save some cash.
  6. Take a day off. As hard as it is to believe you might want a day off, I promise you will. About day three you will wonder how you ever ran on so little sleep when your kids were born. Lay by the pool, splash in the kids zone or take a free trip to Disney Springs to keep everyone busy. There are tons of things to see and do. This way you won’t feel like you are losing money by waisting a ticket.
  7. Take Tinkerbell! Much like Santa and the Easter Bunny, we believe in Tinkerbell. She is a fabulous and stealthy fairy that deposits treats and gifts in our hotel each night while the kids sleep. Each day they awake to logo’d character merchandise that was acquired at home and traveled with. By shopping Disney Store sales before we leave, and ordering custom items from local artisans like Whole Heart Creations, Tinkerbell saves up to 75% on fun gifts for the kids… which results in less purchases in the parks. Keep in mind, items at the park at 30-50% higher in price than at home. You have to be stealthy and tie things up in bags within bags but it’s worth the savings!
  8. Hit up the dollar store! Glow in the dark items prevail when the sun goes down so be prepared! Each glow in the dark item averages $22 and, I must admit, they are rather cool. To keep the element of fun, stock up on glow sticks, Disney stickers and wands. Decorate your own and have them ready (in your trusty backpack) to crack at dusk.
  9. Ready the team. Set your budget for “extras” before you go and fill the kids in on the plan. Rest assured, every time you get off a ride there will be a store stocked with merchandise. If you let the kids know that they get to pick something out, but once they do, “that’s their item for the day/trip,” it helps set expectations for purchases. We actually told our kids they could each pick a hat or ears for the trip. They could only choose one, so to choose carefully. They did a great job and never asked for another.
  10. Finally, go with bags packed full of character clothes. We were sporting our characters every day and as a result, did not purchase one clothing item (aside from our hats). You can find your favorite princesses, star wars Jedi or Mickey and friends, everywhere from Walmart to Target and Kohl’s. Things are SO much more affordable at home, so prepare and save! (again, reference #8 for Whole Heart Creations. We have some stellar shirts that always solicit interest from passerby’s).
  11. Get the Memory Maker!!! I can’t stress this one enough. As the designated family photographer, I usually end up left out of 80% of our photos. With the Memory Maker, you can stop every time you see a photographer and get a pic with the fam! They have the coolest background spots too. Not to mention those ride photos where you are screaming and flailing your arms. As many as you want to stop for, you get to keep them all!
  12. Last, enlist the help of a Disney travel agent to learn the in’s and out’s of the parks, offerings and some of the best kept secrets. My agent can be found at Mickey Travels on facebook.

I hope you enjoy your trip!

 

Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest

I’ve been attending this gluten free food sampling Mecca since it started in Indy. In fact, when it started, it was not owned by Gluten free & more magazine. It was a local creation.

After the initiation years and public build-up, the magazine purchased the show and took over. However, things have changed.

While I still love the accessibility to new gluten free products, sampling before buying and the ability to take my kids somewhere they can eat, there are things that I miss about the old show.

1-The old show gave me the opportunity to sample gluten free alcohol and learn about some of the options on the market that were safe.

2-There were nearly three times the amount of vendors available to sample.

3-The old show didn’t have such a highly represented number of unrelated, non-food vendors.

On the up side, this show does encourage participation from companies that produce products that are free from additional allergens, in addition to gluten.

Perhaps there is a way they can strike a balance to keep numbers up? Did you attend? What are your thoughts?

Gluten Free Subscription Box

So, I’ve tried them… various gluten free boxes with minimal products, stocked full of the same ole, same ole or worse… just a few measly samples. Ugh. 

When I had the option to try American Gluten Free @americanglutenfree I was skeptical because of these experiences. 

However, all I had to do was open the box to realize this was different. Very different. 

What a shock to see the box lipping full of products that were generous samples and even full size. Many of them were free from additional allergies too. (Which allowed me to share them with the kids). 

I was additionally surprised that they were healthy and delicious. Clearly, they take extra care in choosing who they partner with and take pride in delivering value to celiacs who need tasty and creative snack options!

If you want a fun surprise shipped to you without the hassle, check them out!

Gluten free condiments

One of the things people ask me the most about eating is, “is there really gluten in condiments?”

Yes, sadly, there is. More often than not, wheat is used as a filler, binder and (I suppose) just for good measure. I also see a lot of barley malt, which is made from barley and therefore gluten containing, as well.

Add to it the arduous task of finding them free from high fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients and (for our family) pineapple and you just might be eating that burger plain.

I have recently been privileged enough to get to try @batchno2 sauces. I have to admit, I thought eh, it’s catchup and mustard… what could be so great? Until I tried them. Not only are they naturally gluten free, made with only good ingredients and a local company, but they are also FANTASTIC. Seriously.

The tomato catsup reminds me of a snappy bbq sauce. It was so good that I used it as dressing on my sons salad. Don’t be too grossed out, he eats bbq sauce on everything and since he’s allergic to dairy, it cuts out all of the dressings he would otherwise enjoy. BTW, he loved it so much, he ate it all! (sadly, I didn’t get a photo before he dig in but he ate it again, the next night, on his burger) This won’t last long in our house!


Then I tried the ballpark mustard on a hotdog. It’s amazing how enjoyable mustard can be without all of the extra sugars and the addition of some turmeric.  Sadly, I have not previously been a big mustard fan. But I have now tried their whole grain mustard and I’m convinced that I can eat it on just about anything. If you are a little daring, you will find that their purple pride mustard is the perfect pairing for wine, cheese and gluten free crackers.

 

I love their commitment to healthy ingredients, vegan and gluten free statements of faith and omission of “the cheap stuff”. Give Batch No 2 a try! 

Gluten free soy ginger chicken

In an attempt to make creative, flavorful meals that are heathy… ugh, I’m exhausted at the thought… I created something new.

I bought the chicken leg pack at Costco…


Then I split it up and put half (3 bags) in the freezer. Then I opened the 3 remaining packs and put half of them (8) in a gallon ziplock bag with a coating of:


And let it marinade for two days, flipping every time I got in the fridge.

Then I cooked them in my Pampered Chef Rock Crock slow cooker on high for 3 hours.


And the result was tender and juicy chicken infused with the flavors of soy and ginger. 

Next time I would make twice as much chicken and marinade in two separate bags. 

Gluten free D.C., Pt. 4

There is so much amazing gluten free ground to cover in D.C…. I didn’t scratch the surface of what they have to offer but I still managed to find some great eats!

There are distinctly areas of town for dining gluten free that provide more than chain type express joints, Alexandria proved to be one of those for us. We popped by on our way out of town and found these gems:

At Del Ray Pizzeria @delraypizzeria  they offer all of their pizza’s gluten free at the 10″ price. The crust is made locally by The Happy Tart. They were reasonably priced, great service and in a really cute eclectic part of town with free street parking. Bonus!

Like any reasonable family, we cruised over to Alexandria Cupcakes #alexandriacupcakes afterward to pick up dessert. They offered vanilla and chocolate gluten free cupcakes in a dedicated container, separate from the other cupcakes and they also offered a gluten free, vegan cupcake that was raspberry filled for my son. The cupcakes were made of coconut flour, they were moist and the icing was perfect (not too sweet).


What goes better with a cupcake than an iced matcha? A couple doors down from the cupcakes I found Killer ESP (Espresso, Sorbet and Pie). @killeresp   Not only did they have matcha lattes but I scored a raspberry turnover that was full of flavor, held together while I ate it and, oh, did I mention it too was gluten free? Today was a good day. 

On my way to the car I stopped in Misha’s Coffee House. @mishascoffeehouse  I love the inside of coffee houses, stores and bistros. There is always such a relaxed, inviting atmosphere and it’s always on my agenda to see if they have anything  gluten free. 


They had this rack of safely wrapped, individual portions of @katebakesbars treats which are not only gluten free but vegan! (I hear they have paleo versions too 😉

I wish I could spend a week in Alexandria alone. Love the town. Love the eats! 

Gluten free salsa meal

Quick, grab your magic pot and follow me!

This dinner was super fast, easy and delicious. Sometimes I work for hours and end up with dinner that is just so-so. I feel so redeemed to try something like this and end up with a winner that will reside on our staples meal list for years to come.

Open your electric pressure cooker and add:

1C uncooked dry quinoa 

2C water

4 frozen chicken breasts

Cover with 1/2 jar of red salsa (of choice)

Cover with 1 jar green salsa

Pressure cook for 10 minutes. It may not look pretty but it tastes fantastic! The chicken is plump and flavorful and you can tear it apart with a fork.

Gluten free D.C. Eats, Pt. 3

We spent a week in D.C. and half of it was near the hotel but we did venture out a few times, often just to try food in the neighboring communities. Honestly, that’s my favorite part of traveling.

While in the National Harbor we also had the pleasure of dining at McCormick and Schmick’s. This was unsurprisingly delightful. We have dined at their restaurants in other parts of the country and it is always satisfying. They take great care to prepare my meal, provide me with tasty options that don’t leave out the flavor and I actually get dessert!

 

In the same area at National Harbor we had lunch at Nando’s Peri-Peri. @nandosusa The kids had grilled chicken strips with healthy sides and dole whip for dessert, all gluten free. I tried their version of chicken salad with extra veggies in place of pita. This was a spicy mix with a flavor variation that made me glad I ordered a salad. How often does that happen?

 

The next afternoon we took a trek over to the MGM hotel for burgers at the Shake Shack @shakeshack which proved to be a great reminder that a gluten free burger can be done right. They had gluten free buns, a dedicated frier and could load everything up with bacon and cheese. Score!

 

 

Gluten free D.C. Eats, Pt. 2

If you are headed into downtown D.C., you will quickly notice that all of the buildings house a federal office of some sort.

Interestingly, you will not see places to eat. It’s actually very bizarre. It took us a few hours touring to realize that snack shacks were owned by The Government and food trucks lined the streets because those are the only options for refreshment, outside cafeterias in respective buildings, until you get outside the boundaries of DC and move into the neighboring cities housing businesses.

In need of some really good food, we ventured out to GCDC Grilled Cheese Bar and landed on a winner! The gluten free grilled cheese were made on @risebakerygf Rise Bakery bread. They are native to the DC area, and as I quickly found, supply many of the restaurants. They also made tots in a dedicated frier and you could get them with many different gluten free toppings, including chili.

 

Immediately after, we took a visit a couple streets over to the @wickedwaffle  Wicked Waffle. I could eat there every day! The waffles were light and fluffy, cut in half and topped with pretty much anything you can think of. They cooked ours on a separate tray and called out gluten free when they served it, for that extra peace of mind. They also had gluten free bars near the register for a take away quick snack.

 

Next we popped by one of my favorite bakeries (which we also visit in Chicago) @lepainquotidien Le Pain Quotidien USA, “the daily bread.” I found the triple chocolate cookies that the kids love and picked up a lemon poppyseed muffin for myself. This proved the be the best breakfast the following morning.

 

Last, I stopped by Pret Organic Coffee and tried one of their almond matcha lattes. While they didn’t offer any gluten free baked goods, they managed to shift my thinking when it comes to almond milk in my matcha. This was a distinct improvement in the ones I have tried in the past and I would highly recommend giving it a try!

For more info, check out pt. 3!

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