Florida part 2 – The Food!

Me and my little man, out for a stroll near the water in Clearwater, Florida.

Eating out is always a challenge for me, especially when I’m away from home. I worry about finding somewhere safe with a low risk of cross contamination, that will understand how serious it is when I say that I’m celiac, and that isn’t a drag for everyone else in our group. I feel like that last part is the key when you’re with a larger group. No one wants to make the call about where to go since they don’t necessarily know what would be safe for you, which means that over the years I’ve become accustomed to having to be the person that chooses where to eat. It typically involves a lot of googling, checking other bloggers for recommendations, and searching for the words “gluten” and “celiac” on yelp reviews. While we were visiting family in Clearwater, Florida last month, my husband and I did a bunch of searching, and found a few great gems in the process! Here are my three favorites from our time in the sunshine state. I hope you all enjoy them as much as I did.

Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill – Our first meal out after arriving, I was pleased they offered a separate gluten free menu. Upon walking in, we were greeted by a steel drum player, and a fun island atmosphere. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this restaurant. Our server was super helpful both to me and our table’s two young children. I ordered the grouper reuben sandwich (without a bun of course), and stole some of my husband’s ceviche appetizer. Ceviche might be one of my favorite dishes from my visits to Peru, and this one certainly lived up to my memory of the dish.

Marina Cantina – This was completely a google find. I had been searching for fun local spots to eat, and took a chance on this after reading a couple yelp reviews that specifically referenced gluten free. We happened to be there on a Monday night, which amazingly was $5 margarita night! I have to be honest, I can’t remember exactly what I ordered, but I do know the wait staff was very friendly, courteous, and helpful in figuring out what was safe and how to modify each dish.

Pearly’s Beach Eats – Another google find that was close to where we were staying, Pearly’s was our pick for lunch the last day. They had fairly quick takeout, and it was easy for me to get there, park, and get back without too much hassle. When I called to explain my situation, I was told my best bet would be to order a baja bowl without the taco bowl…even though I really wanted the nachos. I’m not one to be picky when it comes to food, if the kitchen staff tell me that’s my best bet, you better believe that’s exactly what I’m ordering. Since we were doing takeout and it was only lunch, my expectations weren’t high. Turns out, this was a great choice, and the baja bowl both tasted incredible and was very filling. Everyone else in our group enjoyed their orders as well 🙂

All in all I was very impressed with the options I had. Typically, places that seem a little more touristy can be very dicey for a celiac, but I didn’t get that vibe in Clearwater at all. Everyone was very well educated on safe kitchen standards, and how best to modify meals to make them safe.

*Mom warning – there was NO changing table at Marina Cantina. I’m learning to pay attention to that when we’re out now, and even though I don’t always need it, that was one night when I really could’ve used the help…and an extra margarita when all was said and done!!

Preparing for takeoff

This week has been a little crazy around our home. Hubby and I are both suffering from daycare colds with fevers striking me and our son, we’re finishing up painting our living room, and gearing up for little man’s first flight. In my “pre-mom” life I was the business traveler that had everything organized, always found herself on the upgrade list, and could quickly gauge which TSA line would move the fastest. I could arrive at an airport an hour before my flight and be through security and ready to go with time to spare. I secretly cringed anytime I saw a family with small children approaching my gate. Now that I’m preparing, I have to admit that I’d never thought about everything parents have to get ready for their children, with everything laid out I’m amazed at what parents are able to pull off to travel with their families!

Thankfully, we’ll have family on the other side that’s providing a number of things that we won’t have to worry about or pack (pack and play, high chair, toys, etc.), yet I still feel like I’m going to be a sherpa upon arrival at the airport. To keep everything safe and clean upon arrival, we invested in these items for our trip (we have other trips coming up as well, otherwise I may have borrowed them locally):

I chose those two after reading a ton of reviews, and honestly getting pretty overwhelmed. I wanted something that would fit both our infant carrier for now, but could also be used for our convertible car seat in the future. If it’s not going to last us for the long term, I don’t want to spend the money on it. I’ve read that you can fill the car seat bag with other items as well (diapers, jackets, boots, etc.) to help protect the seat, and also save yourself from having to carry on too much. We’ll be taking our umbrella stroller too instead of the jogging one, we didn’t want to navigate the airport in a large stroller nor have to fold and disassemble it at the gate. I’ll let you all know how they hold up after the first flight!

For those of you that didn’t know (myself included until this past week), you’re allowed to carry on, gate check, or check the following items at the ticket counter free of charge: car seat, stroller, diaper bag. This is an FAA rule, so regardless of your airline or fare class, they can’t deny you from bringing any of those items. Here are a few resources that may be of help:

Despite everything else going on this week, I decided to try giving our son what looked like a normal meal for dinner on Monday. I bought a value pack of chicken breast tenders, cooked them in coconut oil in a frying pan, simple enough I thought, and no crazy flavors to turn him off. I paired a tender with leftover string beans, carrots, and mashed potatoes to give him some flavors he recognized.

20190114_180656

Little man’s first full meal

Let me tell you something….I. Picked. The. Wrong. Night. From the moment I tried to feed him, our son started handing pieces of his dinner down to our dog who obviously loved this game. I thought I could trick him into actually eating it by pureeing together the mashed potatoes and chicken. Maybe it was the texture of chicken, and that would solve our problem. A few minutes in, and still without having had any of it, over-tiredness got the best of him and screaming ensued. We’re talking crocodile tears, rubbing his eyes, arms up in the air, all around upset. It took every soothing tactic we had to calm him down and get him to bed shortly thereafter. The good news is that I now have pre-cooked chicken tenders that can be frozen and saved for future meals.

As we conquer our colds, put the living room back together, and wrap up packing we’ll be crossing our fingers that everything goes without a hitch, and that the little man has a fun first flight experience! Even if things don’t go as planned, at least we’ll get a story out of it. And to all of our fellow travelers that resemble my former self, I’m not sorry if we cramp your style. It’s taking a lot of work to get us to the airport, and we plan on enjoying ourselves just as much as you do. Stay tuned to hear how it went!

 

Dining Out…with kids!

A couple months after our son was born, we were in desperate need of a night out at a restaurant. I was craving sushi post-pregnancy, and we’d heard rave reviews from friends about a restaurant not too far from our home. I will never forget that first dining out experience. We thought we timed it well, and the little man snoozed through the beginning, waking up just as our food was about to be delivered. The restaurant was noisy, and we hoped he wouldn’t disturb anyone as we got a bottle ready. Suddenly, it seemed he was near impossible to calm down. He wasn’t loud, but I quickly turned frantic and nearly started crying at our table. We were still so new to parenting and it was all overwhelming. As my husband started to soothe our son, a woman approached us out of the blue. She sat down beside me, and told us what a wonderful job we were doing. To keep it up, keep going out, and enjoying our life. She mentioned she heard the cries and knew it must be a newborn; both a mortifying thought upon seeing how far her table was from ours, and soothing at the same time. I will never forget the kindness of that stranger, and how she made me feel in that overwhelming moment. We’ve taken our son out since then, but I’ll be honest that it isn’t frequent. As he transitioned to solids, the mess he makes and everything we need to bring discouraged us from venturing out.

Fast forward to the holidays. Our son is now 10 months old, and quite the active little man. The car seat no longer comes in with us, and he can eat small bites from the table! It was time to venture out again, this time with quite the crew. We had family and close friends in town for the new year, and decided it would be fun to eat out on the water one evening; however “evening” can be relative with a little one in your life. I’d heard good things about Surf restaurant in downtown Portsmouth, overlooking the water, and serving true New England food for our out of town guests. I called to make reservations, clearly mentioning that we were 6 adults and 3 children, no one batted an eye. Trying to coordinate the timing of dinner with bedtime, our reservations were an early 4:30pm! Oh how times have changed.

Upon our arrival, we were escorted to a long table overlooking the Piscataqua River. Even though the sun had set, you could still see how beautiful it was outside. We received smiles from wait staff and patrons alike when they saw our little boy smiling and giggling back, but the fun didn’t last long. The table next to us held an older couple, near the end of their meal. As soon as we were seated by them you could see the side eye and feel the glare pointed directly at our table. Clearly they were not pleased with our presence, even though the restaurant was clearly accommodating to families. Thankfully they were not there long, and the table turned over to what appeared to be a more friendly couple.

Our food was delicious, and everyone was enjoying themselves. That quickly changed when not one but two of the little ones got sick over dinner. Call it bad luck, a full moon, or whatever you will, we suddenly found ourselves in a mix of panic and clean-up mode. Our waiter could not have been nicer, bringing water, paper towels, and whatever else we needed. He did not miss a beat, arriving with our check not long after we asked. All in all, it was a fun night night out, but it certainly taught us some lasting lessons.

  • Early reservations are perfect with little ones, you can still enjoy a nice restaurant without impacting bed time, and clearing out just before the dinner crowd arrives.
  • Expect the unexpected. Although our son is a great eater at home, and nearly never spits up, you can’t predict what will happen in public.
  • Not only did I have to worry about what was safe for me to eat, but what my son could reach on the table, and whether or not he could get gluten near my plate. I’d never thought of it before, but now that’s obviously a concern.
  • No matter how accommodating an establishment and its staff are, there is always a chance that its patrons do not feel the same way. Don’t let that stop you from going!

Baby Food…doing the math

After making three batches of baby food the other night, I got to thinking about whether or not it was worth my time and if it actually saved money. I have an analytical brain, so naturally I had to figure it out for myself. As our son’s diet switches more to solids and less bottles we’ve been trying to introduce everything we can. He’s been a little fussy though as he teethes as well, and won’t go for every food we give him. In a bout of frustration trying to get more vegetables intake we bought pouches that were mixtures of fruit and vegetables. For every successful pouch (which he totally sucked down on his own) I wrote down the approximate ingredient measurements from the back. Thank you to whomever thought it was a good idea to include that on baby pouches 😊

In total, I made 17 pouches at 5 ounces each (my son can eat, so the bigger size works well for us). I was able to make the flavors pretty quickly by simmering the ingredients together for about 10 minutes, then putting it all in our ninja to purée, all in all it took me about an hour from start to finish. There were some up front costs to get the Kiinde Foodii kit, but we’ve been pleased with how it’s worked out so far. Here are the three flavors I made and used to price it all out:

  • Sweet potato, cranberry, and apple
  • Spinach, peas, and pears
  • Sweet potato, corn, and apple

I’ll be honest, I didn’t measure a thing. I used about 1.5 sweet potatoes in each flavor, and poured the frozen veggies and applesauce in until it looked like a good mix. The best part is, I know there are absolutely no additives or preservatives in his food, and I know I made it fresh myself 😍 without further ado…my costs:

  • Bartlett Pears (2) – $1.49
  • Cranberries – $0.99
  • Spinach (5 oz) – $3.69
  • Sweet Potatoes (3) – $1.47
  • Apple Sauce (48 oz) – $2.59
  • Frozen Corn (16 oz) – $0.99
  • Frozen Peas (16 oz) – $0.99
  • Average sales tax – $1.04

Total Cost – $13.25

Since the standard pouch is only 4 ounces, I did my calculations at that size (which would have made 21), which works out to $0.63 per regular size pouch! Considering they cost on average about $1.10 per pouch after tax, I’d say it was worth it! Now in case you were wondering, I know there are costs associated with the Kiinde pouches themselves, I thought about that too. It’s $45.99 for a 160 count box of them, so $0.29 per pouch. Our total cost came to $0.92, which wasn’t as great as I thought, but is still cheaper than buying them and like I said before at least I know exactly what he’s eating! Plus, if you’re looking at the big picture, if he’s eating about four pouches per day we’re saving close to $1 per day and over $350 in a year.

There is one way we could keep our costs down even more, we could be using reusable pouches. I’ve looked into them, but we haven’t made that jump just yet. We had a ton of the Kiinde pouches left over from the breastfeeding and pumping days so it made sense not to let them go to waste. Once we’re low on the pouches we have I’ll start testing the reusable ones. I would love to hear from other mommas what they like best!

Postpartum Whole30 – One week in

Naturally, this mama is a glutton for punishment. It’s my busy season at work, I’m doing Whole30, AND we picked this week to sleep train our son. Somehow all three of those things seem to be going well. Let’s be honest, I’m really on the verge of ending week two at this point, but that’s life as a mom. I’m finally getting around to writing what I planned to a few days ago. For starters, the last three meals I planned on that first week turned out well. The only one I’d definitely make again is the Burrito Bowls, since a good Butternut Squash soup really does need cream. Sorry guys, I just can’t get behind the cream-free version 100%. As an added bonus, I discovered broccoli slaw in the produce section, which I never knew existed and is such a nice veggie assortment to add to really any meal!

As much as I’d love for this to be a perfect Whole30, I’m cheating in a few ways this time around. Hubby and I had a date night at the movies last weekend, and we just really couldn’t make the trip without popcorn. We brought our own waters, and didn’t get extra butter, but we couldn’t go without popcorn! I’ve also been periodically weighing myself to see how I’m doing. I’m happy to say that as of this morning I’m down 9 lbs! I totally needed that ego boost to help keep me going.

It’s been cold and rainy this week in New England, so it was the perfect time to break out the hearty/soup recipes. I took on my favorite Sweet Potato Chili and Stuffed Acorn Squash (both found in this post: A Weekend Away), as well as Chicken Tortilla Soup. Needing a night off, we decided to order a wicked chicken from Vernon Family Farms for dinner tonight. They’re a local family-owned farm just up the road from us, and they make fresh rotisserie chicken every Friday night! We had no idea how much local agriculture there was when we moved to New Hampshire, but I’m loving every minute of being able to get fresh, local ingredients whenever we want them.

Since I have the night off from cooking, I’ll be using that time to plan out our next full week of meals. Here’s to hoping I find some fun new ideas to keep it interesting. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this picture of our little fox on his first Halloween ❤

Halloween.jpg

Me with my little fox on his first Halloween!

Trying to lose that last baby weight

Our son is now eight months old, and it’s becoming painfully clear that those last pounds of weight gain seem pretty comfortable where they are. I’ve been getting back into a steady workout routine over the last couple of months, but workouts alone don’t seem to be making much progress. I’ve decided it’s time for me to take matters into my own hands and address my diet. My husband and I have done Whole30 a number of times, but I was too afraid to make such a drastic change while I was still breastfeeding. Now that our son is eating solids, I feel like it’s the right time to take another plunge.

We started this challenge on Sunday, knowing that we had dinner plans with friends on Saturday that would be our last indulgent meal for a while. In preparation, I made roasted potatoes to go with our morning eggs. It’s a simple recipe, but honestly it doesn’t disappoint and starts the day off right! I diced a mix of sweet and red potatoes, then seasoned them generously with chili powder, smoked paprika, turmeric, and onion powder. Then they’re roasted for about 40 minutes at 375. I’m sure they could stay in the oven longer, but I like to keep them from getting overcooked. Plus, we’ll throw them in the egg pan in the morning to warm them up, and that gives them the final crisp.

20181020_123447

Being veterans of the Whole30 plan, I also spent Saturday morning planning out our meals for the next five days and building the shopping list. The last thing you want is for hunger to hit and not have a clear plan of what is both quick and compliant. Here’s what our week looks like:

Sunday: Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai (my favorite find from our first Whole30)

Monday: Pot Roast with Balsamic Onion Gravy

Tuesday: Burrito Bowls

Wednesday: Butternut Squash Soup

Thursday: Coconut Lime Chicken

Now I know that’s not the full week and means I’m making a big assumption that we’ll have time to figure it out the rest before Friday hits. I’m really hoping we’re in good shape with leftovers by that point that it can be an easy night and we’ll reset with planning Saturday morning. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far in motherhood, it’s that planning your meals in advance really is important if you don’t want to get stuck ordering takeout nearly every night!

Stay tuned…I’ll definitely be sharing the rest of those recipes if they’re successful!

 

Meal Planning and Freezer Meals

It started when I was pregnant, I scoured the internet looking for easy crock-pot meals that could be frozen in advance for those frantic early days of parenthood. I took the month prior to my due date off from work (big thanks to my company being a leader in benefits for new parents), and kept myself busy preparing what I thought was a sizable stockpile of meals. We have a chest freezer in our garage, making plenty of room for everything I’d prepared. After I returned to work, it seemed like our own dinner took a back seat to feedings, bath time, bed time, our dogs needs, and anything else you can imagine that popped up. It took meeting with a new parent career coach to realize setting aside time each week to meal plan really would help our schedule. I’d known it before, but let’s be honest, baby brain is no joke. Lately, it’s been out of necessity, we’ve been without our gas cooktop for over two weeks! You don’t realize how much you use an appliance until it’s suddenly cut off. Ours had to be disconnected to make repairs on the vent fan, which turned into a much bigger undertaking to completely replace the vent. We should be on schedule to have it up and running by the weekend, but oh how I’ve missed it in the meantime. Through each of those periods, being able to prepare meals in advance has truly kept our family eating healthy and feeling good about what we’re eating.

Whatever your reasoning for doing meal prep, there are things I’ve learned along the way that I hope can help each of you. I’ve put together the lists below to pass on those recommendations. Happy meal planning!

Meal planning suggestions:

  • Set aside time each week to write out your plan for dinner each night, then put together your grocery list based off this plan. This will help keep you on track to buy only what you need, and as a bonus, will keep you organized if you use a grocery pick-up or delivery service.
  • Keep that meal plan somewhere visible, like your fridge or a whiteboard. This way, whoever is preparing the day’s meal can quickly see what you had in mind. This is especially helpful in the days and weeks after a new baby’s arrival, anyone stopping in can help you stay on track!
  • Don’t forget about breakfast! It’s easy to focus on dinner only, and leftovers can easily be reheated for lunch, but what about breakfast? If you’re a hot breakfast family like we are, you might love whipping up a batch of muffin tin eggs. We make ours by the dozen (recipe here).
  • If you’re building up a stockpile of freezer meals, for say new baby or back to school, try to make one or two a week. It won’t feel overwhelming, and your budget for groceries won’t take a major hit either. Remember that meals can safely be kept in the freezer for about 4 months (check to be sure, based on each protein), giving you plenty of time to build up your stash.

A few key suggestions for crock-pot freezer meals:

  • Put your veggies in the bottom, sauce ingredients next, and meat in last. This will keep the meat on the bottom of the crock-pot when you dump everything in, and the veggies will soak up the sauce/seasonings so nothing gets stuck in the bag.
  • Mark all bags with the preparation date, low and high recommended cook times. You might be ahead of the game and able to set your meal to low, but in my experience sometimes it was a scramble just to dump it all in with enough time to thoroughly cook the meal on high.
  • Use crock-pot liners!!! This sounds sort of lazy, but when you have an infant at home, really anything that saves on cleanup time is a life saver.
  • Know what freezer meals you have in stock, keep a list somewhere within easy access so you aren’t digging around looking for ideas at the last minute.
  • Keep an assortment of frozen vegetables on hand that can be mixed in the day of with any meat-only recipes.

Last, but most certainly not least, a few of my favorite freezer meal recipes: