Four Affordable Gluten-Free Favorites from Trader Joe’s

Since May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, I am sharing some of my favorite recipes and pantry staples with you.  I call our city the Grocery Store Mecca of Northern California.  Within a 7 mile radius lies a plethora of organic grocery stores, bulk grocery stores, specialty grocery shops and rumors of more to come! I specifically shop at 5 of these stores weekly  in order to get our favorite picks at the best prices.

When we began shopping gluten-free 6 years ago, I had to order it online. I believe the shipping alone on my first order cost us $45! Thankfully, gluten-free items are becoming mainstream, and we can find many local good bargains. Since I find pleasure in grocery shopping and love the hunt for a bargain, I am passing along some of my favorite affordable gluten-free items.

Shop at Trader Joe’s First

If you are fortunate enough to have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood, make it your first stop for gluten-free items. Their fresh produce and flash-frozen vegetables and organic fruits are a great buy. Organic cage free eggs, Greek yogurt and 100% corn tortilla chips are also fabulous buys for your healthy, gluten-free kitchen. I hit up our local Trader Joe’s first when fulfilling my weekly grocery list.

When I compare prices to local grocery stores, these are my top four affordable gluten-free picks from Trader Joe’s:

 

Thai Noodles. My kids always beg for a certain cup of noodles from the grocery store that is packed with MSG. I could go on and on why MSG is banned from our home! This Rice Noodle Soup Bowl is gluten-free, vegan friendly, and only 99 Cents! A competing brand of Thai Noodles costs upwards of $3.

My son who has Celiac Disease often requests a hot lunch like his classmates have at school. I make these in the morning, add chicken or extra vegetables and put them in a hot thermos for his school lunch. The only thing I don’t like about these noodles is the high sodium content! I only use half the enclosed seasoning package or use low-sodium Tamari sauce in its place.

 

Chicken Broth. Chicken Broth is a year round staple in my pantry.  Trader Joe’s Chicken Broth is available organic, free range, and low sodium. Best of all, it is free of MSG and gluten!  Thank you, Trader Joe’s!  You can’t beat the $1.99 sticker price.  Check out their other broths and gluten-free Red Pepper Soup, too.

 

 

Oats. Rolled Oats become an issue for the gluten-intolerant when they are manufactured and packaged in an environment where other glutenous items are present. Trader Joe’s Rolled Oats are manufactured in a gluten-free environment. They are a great healthy staple for baking, breakfast and other creative gluten-free cooking. The size of this package at $3.99 makes it a great buy!

 

Hot Dogs.  The price for gluten-free, preservative free, nitrate free, hot dogs in your mainstream grocery store can be absolutely outrageous!  My kid is like many other American kids who loves to eat hot dogs.  Trader Joe’s supplies their customers with chicken or beef hot dogs that are free of all the nasty stuff.

Not only is it a great product which all my kids enjoy, it only costs $3.99.  Even when other grocery stores have their gluten-free hot dogs on sale, I have never found them at such a great price.

I haven’t mentioned the rice pasta assortments, rice varieties, or nature bars, or Udi’s bread T.J.’s carries. You can look up your local Trader Joe’s online and read up on their gluten-free offerings.  Do you have a favorite gluten-free Trader Joe item? Please tell us about it in the comment box!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Celebrate with a delicious gluten-free egg dish!

Shirred Eggs

I enjoy cooking delicious food which is naturally gluten-free.  I prefer using all natural ingredients without the use of gluten-free flours.  This way, even those who are not accustomed to gluten-free foods are enjoying the meal with those on the restricted diet.  You will enjoy the benefit of cooking everyone the same food at the same time!

Pass this recipe on to friends and family members who provide meals for you on special occasions.  They will appreciate not having to buy any special gluten-free products because most of the ingredients will already be in their pantry!

Our family first tasted this delicious dish at a conference at Hume Lake Christian Camps.  Everyone around the table raved over the eggs.  The dish was rich and custard-like with the surprise of a perfectly cooked yolk inside.  We couldn’t believe how yummy it was, and how simple the ingredients were.  I couldn’t wait to make it at home.

Ingredients

1/2 t. butter

4 t. heavy whipping cream

4 eggs

freshly ground pepper and salt

2 T grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 375.  Place 4 ramekins on a baking sheet.

Coat 4 ramekins with melted butter.

Pour 1 t. heavy whipping cream into each ramekin.

Crack an egg into each ramekin, gently pushing the egg to the center of the dish.

Sprinkle each ramekin with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.  The edges will be set and the center will slightly jiggle.

Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes and serve.

For an extra kick we have enjoyed hot Chalula sauce in the cream.  Or you may slip a piece of crisply crumbled bacon on the bottom of the dish before adding the egg.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Planning for the (Un)expected


Shopping, educating, and cooking are some of my favorite things.  So, when I received the offer to go on a “Mom Shop Along” at one of our favorite grocery stores, I jumped at the chance.   This was an opportunity to communicate my grocery shopping preferences as well as our special dietary needs to the Raley’s personnel.  (Raley’s writes about our family and my gluten free tips here:  June Mom of the Month.)

The day of our Mom Shop Along, I began to get cold feet.  Raley’s management was going to follow my boys and I as we shuffled through coupons, reached for products and read labels through every aisle of the store.  What was I thinking?  I agreed to come at 4:00 in the afternoon; not only a down time for my kids, but a crowded time for the grocery store.   As I pondered the (un)expected things that could potentially happen, I considered cancelling.

Living in the community with a special needs child-or even juggling multiple children, calls for a certain state of mind.  I can opt out of life and isolate myself and children because day trips are too stressful, or I can choose a “can do” mindset.  I told myself the words I often use to motivate my boy, “I can do it”.

Then I began to think through the effective tools I use to help our special needs family be successful in the community.

Communicate with significant others before the event

In the event our shopping trip became too stressful for my son, and honestly, in order to manage my own anticipated stress, I needed a plan.  I contacted the Raley’s personnel to inform them I needed to assess how my child was doing before and during the shop along.   They were agreeable.

Ahh, step one of operation de-stress was taken care of before we arrived.

Have a back-up plan for your child

As always with special needs, you need a back-up plan.  It serves as an escape and survival plan if the event becomes too stressful or overloaded with stimuli.

The back-up plan may include the following:

  • an early exit
  • spouses bring both cars if family members want to remain in the event uninterrupted
  • discuss pacing the child’s activity level with a quiet time and quiet place
  • bring necessary items in a specified bag to soothe the child (lotion, paper, book, textured ball)
  • bring behavior chart, and don’t forget the frequent verbal praise and rewards
  • inform your host about your plan and make any gracious requests as needed

Today my back-up plan included frequent verbal praise for making good choices, as well as the reminder of his favorite smoothie he would receive at the end of the event.  If he became too grumpy (which is often the case given  a stressful situation in the late afternoon), I would be sending him to hang out in the van with his brother.  (Safety note:  It was not hot outside, windows are cracked, both boys are legal age to be in the car alone, and we often come equipped with paper, pen, or dvd player to help him pass the time).

Educate those who will be with you

I am always learning, when I let others know our special needs, they become team players with us.  Educating others in the mission of helping your child and the event be successful, gets others on board.  When they understand why you are bringing a chart, gummy rewards, or addressing behaviors a certain way, they will often become an emotional and physical support person for you.

What special needs family couldn’t use another team player in their corner?  I am finding when I am open about our needs and plans, I am less likely to feel the stress of sticking out like a sore thumb.

Stick to your plan

Under the pressure of being watched, stared at, or misunderstood, do not shrink back my friend.  Stick to your behavior plan or your operation de-stress plan.   Be there for your child.  Remain consistent, confident and even-tempered in order to carry out whatever your child and your family needs.

I believe in being respectful and courteous of others around us, but my mission is first and foremost to my own family.  If I bend and change to the pressure of how others perceive us, I will not be the strength and consistent parent my special needs child requires.

Enlist buddies

Thankfully, my son has brothers who are attentive and compassionate buddies to him.  I communicate the plan with them and they are team players.  The brothers have been talked with and have the information they need to know in order to help the afternoon go smoothly for all of us.

Sometimes my youngest son doesn’t understand it all and he doesn’t really need to.  I am always trying to strike the balance between expecting the siblings to be vital family members, but not burden them with responsibilities which do not belong to them.

Mommy-helpers are always a great assistance to any Mom who is juggling multiple kids.  I was given the great advice years ago to enlist a young girl, not quite babysitting age, to hang out with us when we run errands.  Now that my son is a teenager, we have a peer-helper; another teenage boy who comes to hang out with our son.  Together they play Wii, walk the dog, and swim.

Express your gratitude

I don’t know if those in our lives will ever comprehend how vital they are to our day-to-day survival sometimes.  Having the opportunity to be active in the community with people who are willing to be flexible and understanding of our special needs family is a true gift.  It may even be a rare gift.

I want these people, including my own children, to know how grateful we are for them.  Whenever we have the opportunity, we write thank you cards, provide financial support, and try to express actions and words of gratitude for helping us make life more enjoyable and successful.

Thanks to Raley’s, by the way, for taking the time with us on the Mom’s Shop Along!  They were generous with their time, questions and note-taking, in order to provide even better customer service to the community.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Adjusting to the Gluten Free Diet

May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month.

The diagnosis of Celiac Disease often comes as a big relief.  Finally, an answer to the physical and health issues you or your child have been battling with for so long.  Now as the reality sinks in,  you know you will be making a lifestyle adjustment as well as a nutritional one.

You begin to realize a gluten-free diet means more than staying away from wheat.   Gluten is hidden in a myriad of grocery items while carrying an alias name.

Hidden Ingredients

Gluten is in pastas, couscous, and some corn chips.  It is also in typical pantry items:

rice pilaf

cereals

salad dressings

bbq sauces

prepackaged meals

gravies

soy sauce

For a complete list of items with gluten to avoid:  Unsafe Gluten-Free Food List (Unsafe Ingredients).

Sort out your cupboards

Get familiar with the gluten and gluten-free items you presently have in your cupboards.

Read every label and look up every questionable ingredient from  Safe Gluten-Free Food List (Safe Ingredients).

Separate the gluten from the gluten-free items you already have.

Make a list of staples you need to replace with gluten-free staples.

Sort out your feelings

Many individuals and their families report experiencing a range of emotions as they adjust to the gluten-free lifestyle.  Take your time listening to your feelings: your fear, irritability, loss or grief.  Respect your feelings by listening to them and giving yourself time to work through them.

Panic.  You may initially feel panic:  What will I pack for lunch? Will I ever eat out at a restaurant?   What kind of birthday cake will I make?  What do I make for dinner tonight?  Will everyone eat gluten-free?

Grief.  It took me a few months before I realized I was grieving over my love for baking.  I love baking decadent layer cakes and treats from scratch.  I am not a fan of gluten-free flours and its taste and texture in baked goods.  I avoided baking for a number of months and really missed it.  You may grieve the loss of  your traditional family stuffing recipe or other family favorites.

Stress.  There is so much information to figure while the weight of the responsibility falls on you.  Perhaps you expect yourself to figure it all out immediately.

Feeling Overwhelmed.  My kitchen cupboards and garage became an unorganized mess.  Since we decided to keep gluten items in the home, the pantry items doubled in quantity.  I do not have a natural knack for household organization, so it became a lengthy task as I tested and retested ways to organize.

Sort out your questions one by one

Make a list of the questions and hurdles you need to tackle.  Give yourself permission to sort out one hurdle at a time.  Here are a few ways I did this:

Restaurants:   I ordered a restaurant guide from Gluten Free Restaurants, Gluten Free Shopping | Triumph Dining.  This guide lists restaurants throughout the nation and the gluten-free menu items they carry.  One of our favorite restaurants listed only condiments.  Others offered a pleasant surprise with their list of gluten free food choices.   We carried this guide with us while traveling to areas with unfamiliar restaurants.

Thankfully, the internet makes eating out gluten-free much easier.  Look up the restaurant menu online and check the ingredients.  Usually grilled chicken, baked potatoes, scrambled eggs and bacon, cheeseburgers with no buns and salads are basics that restaurants are able to serve gluten-free.  Be careful about marinated chicken and salad dressings (ask for balsamic).  You can avoid disappointment if you check the menu and make a list before sitting down in the restaurant.

I often carry NutThin crackers or corn tortillas to a restaurant so our son can have a crunchy appetizer while the rest of the family nibbles on bread or chips and salsa before a meal.  (By the way, salsa is naturally gluten-free!)  I have found restaurants do not mind if I carry a small container of gluten-free salad dressing or brown rice to add to the meal when they do not have these gluten-free offerings on their menu.

Family Meals.  What about the two brothers who don’t need to give up their favorite cracker or sandwich?  Some families make their entire home gluten-free so the identified person does not feel left out.  After wrestling over this decision, we decided the family dinner will always be completely gluten-free.  Since we are all sitting around the table together we want to share the love!

Breakfasts, lunches and snacks are individualized.  The brothers have their own snack drawer and AJ has his special gluten-free cupboard accessible to him.   Fruit is always available in abundance for all.

Arm yourself with information.  I went to the bookstore and bought several books and cookbooks.  I really overdid it.  One resource book on Celiac Disease, one cookbook and one desserts book are plenty.

Over the years, I prefer to use my regular cookbooks and family recipes, adapting them as little as possible to the gluten-free diet.  You will discover several recipes are already gluten-free or can have simple adaptations without giving a gluten-free “taste”.

Grocery Shopping.  Many grocery stores list their gluten-free items on-line.  Print this list, check the items you need, and bring it along on your next shopping trip.  Some grocery stores also offer a gluten-free tour.  I have walked through grocery stores with store managers as they ask questions to understand what a gluten-free shopper needs.

Talk with the customer service representative in your local grocery store to discuss the items you need for your family.  Most of our local grocers want to meet this growing need for their customers.

Look for further Gluten Free posts from me this month:  Special Considerations for Special Needs Children on the Gluten Free Diet and Fret Free Gluten Free Recipes to get you Started and Cross-Contamination and the Gluten Free Diet

Tell me how your family has made the adjustment to gluten-free living.  What were (are) your greatest hurdles?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Our nauseating road to diagnosis: Celiac Disease

May is Celiac Disease Awareness month

Phone calls trickled in every few days when he was 11 years old.  “AJ threw up in class today. “ The calls steadily increased and whether I was in an appointment or on a field trip with my other children, I would drop everything and run to pick AJ up in the school office.  The vomiting continued daily.  Anticipating the mess he would leave, we carried a beach towel for him to sit and spit up on. The projectile vomiting indiscriminately landed on the carpet in the van or the backpacks.  Our family room carpet and recliner could no longer hold up to the abuse of constant cleaning and scrubbing, we tossed them away.

Sometimes we gotta laugh

Our family enjoys reminiscing about an incident we shared while vacationing at Disneyland.  We stood on the crowded sidewalk watching Mickey’s parade.  My husband stood behind AJ, while AJ stood above a man watching  the parade from the curb.  Without warning, AJ bent over to throw up over the stranger’s head.  Thanks to my husband’s quick reflexes, he was able to catch the barf in his hand.  I ran to the nearest restaurant for a wad of napkins and quickly cleaned up my husband’s dripping hand.   Everyone was so engrossed in the parade it seemed we were the only ones who noticed.  Snickering over our family drama and the accident interrupted, we scurried away from the crowd.

“It’s all in his head”

We could tell AJ was not “ill”, he didn’t have a fever or lack of appetite.  But he would grab his head or stomach and lay to rest as the episodes increased.  We were visiting our pediatrician frequently.  Due to AJ’s limited speech and ability to communicate with us what he felt in his body, the diagnosis was difficult.  The doctor tested him, and eventually threw his hands up stating, “It’s all in his head”.

Our instincts knew the doctor was incorrect.  As I took notes of AJ’s episodes, I believed it was connected to eating, possibly his consumption of cold and acidic smoothies.   I pushed the doctor for a referral to a Pediatric G.I.   Cynically, the pediatrician agreed.  We waited 6 long months before we could get an appointment miles away from our home.

The G.I. asked a few brief questions:

“What does he eat for lunch?”  A sandwich.

“What snacks does he enjoy”?  Goldfish crackers and Cheezits.

The specialist seemed to know immediately what was wrong.

How Celiac Disease is diagnosed

A simple blood test was ordered and the diagnosis came quickly:  Celiac Disease.   You should know however, that blood tests can come back negatively when it is indeed Celiac Disease.

A definitive diagnosis for Celiac Disease can only come from an endoscopy/biopsy where tissue samples are taken from the small intestine.

What is Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease is a genetic disorder in which the small intestine is damaged by gluten.  Gluten is the protein within wheat, barley, oats, and rye.   Gluten must be completely avoided in the Celiac’s diet.

A secondary result of the gluten intolerance is damage to the villi.  Lactose must be completely avoided the first 6 months after a Celiac Disease diagnosis in order to allow the villi to heal.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

  • Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Easy bruising
  • Epitasis (nose bleeding)
  • Failure to thrive
  • Fatigue or general weakness
  • Flatulence
  • Fluid retention
  • Foul-smelling or grayish stools that are often fatty or oily
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Infertility
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • lymphocytic gastritis

For a complete list click here: Celiac Disease Symptoms.

Who has Celiac Disease

Children, adults and family members of individuals with Celiac Disease are all susceptible.  If you have any question about yourself or a loved one, don’t hesitate to request testing.

Celiac Disease is often misdiagnosed or overlooked.  The results of untreated Celiac Disease include epilepsy, internal hemorrhaging, pancreatic disease, miscarriages, infertility, central and peripheral nervous system disorders.

Down’s Syndrome and Celiac Disease

One study performed in 2001 showed Celiac Disease in individuals with Down’s Syndrome occurs 25 times more than the general population.  Generally speaking, 10% of the Down’s Syndrome population has Celiac Disease.  I would venture to guess many of these individuals do not know.

In our case, the doctor was not in tune with the symptoms of Celiac Disease nor its prevalence in the Down’s Syndrome population.  While we carry our gluten-free food products to AJ’s special needs classroom or Special Olympic events, we have not encountered another family with Down’s Syndrome and Celiac Disease.  Since many of the general population does not know they have Celiac Disease, I am confident many more of the Down’s Syndrome population have not actively pursued a diagnosis either.

More information regarding Down Syndrome and Celiac Disease:

Down Syndrome: Celiac Disease Prevalent in Children With Down Syndrome.

Cures for Celiac Disease

Besides a strict adherence to gluten-free eating, there are presently no known cures or medications for Celiac Disease.  Celiac Disease awareness is increasing among doctors and patients.

Only 5 years ago, at the time of AJ’s diagnosis, I was ordering gluten-free products online and paying out the ear for them!  Thankfully, due to the increase of accurate diagnosis and the demand for these products, many of our local grocery stores are supplying a variety of gluten-free products.

Adjusting to a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

Adjusting to a gluten-free lifestyle has had its curve balls.  I will share an additional post how we have managed this adjustment not only as a family, but with a special needs child.

Share on Facebook

Like this on Facebook

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather