Lunchbox Kabobs

Back when I was working on my review for the Easy Lunchbox System (while simultaneously trying to recreate an “authentic looking” GF Lunchable), I really started to ponder how most kids perceive foods just by how they look and how they are packaged, you saw my “McCarrot Experiment,” right?.  I have also been trying to come up with simple ideas for adding “bling” to the everyday lunchbox.  My kiddos take their lunch to school every day because of their dietary restrictions, so adding a little something “extra” here and there breaks up the monotony, especially when the Yogos have suddenly “disappeared” from the lunchbox lineup! 😉 Lastly, I have been taking cake decorating classes and have begun to accumulate cupcake picks galore! So why not “merge” all of the above together? Cupcake picks are really just blinged out toothpicks, so why not make lunchbox kabobs?

Kabobs are a fun way to mix up the “ordinary” carrots, grapes, apples, pineapple, strawberries, pears, olives, Glutino pretzel twists, cheese cubes and turkey deli meat that I usually send in their lunches. I have even cut up small pieces of Crave Bakery’s Gluten-Free Brownies and stuck those on there as well… perfect “little bites.”

Luke had a lot of fun yesterday when I made up a few so I could take pictures…

He kept saying, “The baseball is gooood!”

You’d think he was looking at the latest “it” toy! It doesn’t take much at this age, does it?

Note to self: smaller strawberries next time!

I could just gaze into their eyes all day.

So, here is how it is done… very simple!

I have been collecting cupcake picks from my local specialty cake store, but you can also find them online. Ebay has a lot of neat looking picks.

Cheese cubes are great, especially if you put them on the bottom of the kabob because they will “stand up.” For the turkey, we love Boars Head Low-Sodium Turkey (it’s awesome!). To reduce our risk of cross contamination, we do not have the delicatessen slice our turkey for us. Instead, they will take a clean knife and cut off a large piece for us and we slice it ourselves at home. I figure this way, our biggest risk for cross-contamination is just on the two end pieces and not on each slice that has come into contact with the store’s deli slicer. Yes, I realize I might be a GF wackadoodle, BUT, I can also cut the turkey into various sizes and shapes by doing it this way! 😉

On a recent trip to the store I found Kraft 100-calorie pack Cheese Bites:

Click here for Kraft’s Gluten-Free Labeling Information.

I bought these because I thought the boys would like to have the “packaging” but I have to say that the cost for 5 little packs of cubed cheese (that the boys didn’t even care for) was not worth the convenience and it didn’t rank well in the “normal looking pre-packaged food” category with Sam! The ingredient label is not all that impressive to me either. You can easily make your own cubed cheese for less money and fewer “ingredients!”

I usually buy organic cheese but I thought I would show a non-organic version because I cannot tell you how many people I come into contact with that think “Organic” is synonymous with “Gluten-Free,” or vice versa. Have you ever had one of “those” experiences?

6 ingredients.

Slice off a small chunk…

Cut in half lengthwise…

Cut into smaller cubes…

Ta-Da! And it took all of 5 minutes. 🙂

You could even cross over to the “wackadoodle” side with me and…

Make Cheese Shapes! 🙂

I made bunny cheese snacks around Easter.

Sam made the 6 for his age!

I think I see a new version of my O.G.C.D. coming on, LOL! 🙂

Carrots are Carrots… Right?

I had completely forgotten about an article I had read a few years ago until Mike, the boys and I were watching Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution last night (last week’s episode, as the only “Live” TV we watch anymore are sporting events. I am making a conscious effort to minimize how many ads Sam and Luke are exposed to, and I have to say, the results have been surprising!). Mike was actually the one who remembered the article and after jogging my memory for a minute or two, we both ran to the computer to query the almighty Google.

We found the article, on Scientific American, and I really want to share it with you, especially since I just posted my version of a mama made gluten-free Happy Meal. While I make them on occasion for my celiac son who cannot have a “drive thru” Happy Meal (one bonus for dietary restrictions!), there is apparently something more to this than me simply making GF Chicken Nuggets and Fries and sticking them in the McDonald’s wrapping so Sam feels “normal” among his peers… (the following is taken from the Scientific American article, with my emphasis added):

Take a food item—a couple of carrots, for example—and put one in an unmarked bag. Put the other one in a McDonald’s bag. Then have the little genius taste both and ask which carrot was better. Or save yourself all this trouble by reading the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, in which researchers found that the $10 billion dished out every year in the U.S. by food and beverage companies to market to small children is money well spent. Because 54 percent of preschool kids surveyed preferred the alleged McDonald’s carrot, whereas only 23 percent liked the carrot in plain wrapping better. The effect was magnified when the test food was french fries: 77 percent said McDonald’s-looking potatoes, only 13 percent said the other potatoes, and 10 percent said let’s call the whole thing off.

Wow, now that is some “food for thought!”

So yes, I had to try it… I took some baby carrots and placed a few in a McDonald’s fry sleeve and placed some more on a plain white plate then called the boys over to the table. I simply asked them if they would like a snack, then sat back with my camera and watched!

I was really pleased to see that Luke went straight for the plain plate of carrots! I thought that was surprising considering the Scientific American article, but watch as this little “experiment” unfolds. But first, a little more info:

Luke, is 2 1/2 and gluten-free by default (since we are a gluten-free family). He does not watch live TV so he has not been overly exposed to TV ads that target children. He doesn’t watch much television, but when he does, he loves Word World (PBS) and Jungle Junction (Disney); which he watches on the DVR). Luke is also in preschool and hasn’t discovered “peer pressure yet.”

Sam,  is 6 1/2 and has celiac disease so he cannot have McDonald’s (this experiment is also why I choose NOT to take the risk with McDonald’s french fries… I do not want him to develop a taste for those things). Sam also no longer watches any TV during the school week, unless it is for something special like the basketball championship game. I do let him watch a little bit on the weekends, and he likes Spongebob and iCarly (both on Nickelodeon), as well as Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network). Since I only recently started fast forwarding through the commercials, Sam remembers all of the commercials from watching those shows.

Click here for an enlightening article regarding TV ads on PBS, Disney and Nickelodeon.

Sam went straight for the carrots in the McDonald’s packaging. I asked him to try the carrots on the plate too, which he did. I then asked him which carrots tasted better, and guess what he chose and why:

He just pointed and said “M.”

Sam even tried to convince Luke that the “McDonald’s carrots” are better and that he should eat those instead!!

Don’t fall for it Luke, stand strong!

Whoa. Talk about a punch in the gut.

I cannot help but wonder if I start to change how I assemble our homemade Happy Meals and instead of using gluten-free “clones” of the McDonald’s food, but rather carrot sticks instead of the fries and cut-up grilled chicken instead of “baked” chicken nuggets (that were probably originally fried anyway, before being flash-frozen and placed in the box)… if other parents might see our healthier version and get a seed planted into their head. Isn’t that how real change happens? 😉

Now that I think of it, I did the cut-up grilled chicken thing last week when we were at Chick-Fil-A after Sam’s T-Ball game, and the boys didn’t give it a second thought:

Have you ever had Chick-Fil-A’s Chargrilled Chicken Breast?? YUMMY!

And FRUIT!

Now that is a GREAT “toy!”

To be fair, I am not trying to pick on McDonald’s, because it is not just McDonald’s, they all do it. Processed food manufacturers do it too.

I will even go a step further and point the finger at someone else… me.

A couple of months ago, we started getting a weekly CSA box delivered to our door each week with fresh, organic produce. It has been a lot of fun for us to try new foods that I would normally not buy at the store because it just wouldn’t have occurred to me. One week, there were “really” real carrots in the box, ya know, the kind you have to peel and trim the tops off of?

Sam and Luke didn’t know what they were, LOL! I didn’t even realize that the baby carrots I usually buy, to save time in the kitchen, look NOTHING like a real carrot!!

Gluten-Free Pizza Lunchables

So you knew “it” had to be coming at some point, right? 😀 I must say this first, Mike and I are REALLY working with Sam to embrace his “differences” (as we all have them), and I think it is starting to catch on. He is not asking for GF Lunchables all that much anymore (YEA!!) but it is nice to know that if I need one for a deposit in his self-esteem bank, I can do it!

So here is what I did, I got the Lunchables in the Green package (they are easy to disassemble so you can throw away the offending gluten components, then clean and reassemble and slide the wrapper back on so it looks almost store-bought, the Press’n Seal kind of gives it away, but that’s okay.)

Another GREAT Udi’s gluten-free product… pizza crust! I love this thin crust and it is super easy in a pinch! Here is how I normally make mine: I place it in the oven, directly on the rack, in a preheated 425° F. oven for about 5- 6 minutes. I then add my toppings and place back in the oven, on the rack, and heat for an additional 6 minutes or so. This keeps the crust nice and crispy, which is how I like it!

For the GF Pizza Lunchables though, I did not cook it (keeping with the Lunchables theme…). The Udi’s pizza crust is actually quite tasty when simply thawed to room temperature! I might have to try these to make GF “pita” chips! After I thawed the crust, I went on a scavenger hunt to find the right size cookie cutter to fit the Lunchables tray section.

I settled on a large cup.

Cut out your crust, then freeze the remaining portion… I will figure out something to do with it and post an update later… no waste! 😉

For the cheese, I just used shredded mozzarella. For the pepperoni’s, I used Hormel’s Pepperoni Mini’s, which I found a huge bag of at Costco.

I tossed out the Tombstone Pizza Sauce Packet that came in the Lunchables because I could not find any solid information on the ingredients, processing, etc. and opted for filling a little disposable container that I snagged from a recent dinner at Boston Market (and in case you didn’t already know, Boston Market’s Poultry Gravy is Gluten-Free). 😉

Now here is an example of one of “those” product labels that are just downright confusing! When I bought it, I did so (sheepishly) because I only targeted one section of the label:

So my husband called me one day when I was out and about to ask me if I had bought this by mistake because he targeted this section of the label:

This is a two photo shot, it’s hard to take a picture of some labels!!

Huh.

So let me ask you, would you take the risk and buy this product, just based on the label information??

Bottom compartment of the GF Pizza Lunchables: the water is the only thing I kept from the original Lunchables components.

And there you have it!! A Gluten-Free “Mom” Pizza Lunchables! 😀

Now, just in case you are interested, check out the ingredient label for the Original Lunchables “edible” components:

Holy Moley! You know what’s funny? Truth be told, if Sam and I did not have celiac disease, I would probably have bought these for him!! Before my gluten-free journey began 5 years ago, the furthest I went into “label investigation” was to the fat and calorie content!! I didn’t understand ingredient labels back then and I am only marginally better now! I always assumed that if it was sold as “food” in the grocery store, it “must” be safe, right? LOL! Have you watched Food, Inc. yet??? IF you haven’t, it will be airing on PBS on April 21, 2010. I viewed it for the first time back in December, and it set my view of the food world on fire. There is something more to this movie, that I think celiacs and folks with food allergies and gluten intolerance, in particular, might see as a “not as obvious correlation” to this film. Maybe it is just me, but I am curious as to what others think…

Do you know what your child’s daily maximum intake of salt should be? And believe you me, I know that my “assembled” gluten-free pizza Lunchable is probably not much better, it any at all. This is why I am hoping and praying that SOMETHING is changing. Between this economy (people eating at home more or packing their lunch) and Food, Inc. and Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution (more awareness)… that packing healthy sack lunches (or even if schools get involved by gardening, etc. and kids can “see” what real food looks and tastes like… kids are highly influenceable, they WANT WHAT THEIR FRIENDS ARE EATING!!!! If one’s friends are eating healthy whole foods, then it is cool! Not to mention… most whole foods are naturally gluten-free! 😉

Easy Lunchbox System Winner and A Few Lunchbox Ideas

WOW! What an amazing giveaway this has been! It is nice to know that I am not alone in my struggle to come up with creative lunchbox meals for my boys… and my quest to find the “perfect” lunchbox solution! I had a lot of fun this weekend cleaning out all of our old lunchboxes, containers with missing lids, etc., etc. and taking them to Goodwill.

It was L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.N.G.!

I now have a nice little stack of 8 Easy Lunchbox Containers (I ordered another set plus 2 more lunchboxes!) that stack so well together and take up very little space.

Priceless. 😀

Okay, so it is time to announce the winner!

There were 251 entries after I tallied up all the bonus entries (THANK YOU!! I so deeply appreciate all your efforts, we loved reading everyone’s comments and we got some GREAT lunch ideas!). I used a Random Number Generator to pick the winner and that winner is…

Jen Hadley!!!!

Congratulations Jen, you FINALLY won one of my giveaways! 🙂 I will email you to get your shipping information and your color choice for a lunchbox.

For everyone else, don’t forget to visit Jasmere.com tomorrow, March 30, 2010 and order the Easy Lunchbox System for up to 70% off!! Jasmere is really cool concept, check it out here (be sure to watch the short video too)!! The Easy Lunchbox System will be featured for just 24 hours!!

I want to order more to keep on hand and give as gifts!! I plan on getting my “Tweet On” and posting all over Facebook to help drive the price down for EVERYONE! Wanna join me? 😉

The bees are little cupcake picks that I found at the store where I have been taking my cake decorating classes, a fun way to keep “meat roll-ups” from coming undone!

Sam and Luke love the Chocolate Greek Yogurt by Stonyfield Farms, click here for Stonyfield Farms gluten-free product list.

The monkey is an icepack that I found at Walmart.

Yogos are one of those “once in a blue moon” treats I get for the boy’s lunchboxes, I think this is only the second box I have bought this school year. I could never imagine sending one of these in their lunch every day, they maybe get one a month.

13 Grams of Sugar!!! And there are not a lot of Yogos per package either:

31 Yogos = 13 grams of sugar. How much is 13 grams of sugar? According to Dr. Robyn Silverman, 13 grams of sugar is equal to 3 1/4 TEASPOONS!!

That, my friends, is 3 1/4 teaspoons of sugar. The same amount in one package of Yogos, OYE, I think I need to sit down! Seriously, I am a college graduate so I do have some smarts about about me but holey moley, I had no idea! This just makes me mad, sad and embarrassed at the same time! Maybe I should take these photos off and pretend I didn’t just send my sons to school with this junk! 😉

I realize my tangent is running a little long so I will pass over the partially hydrogenated oil and the common food colorings but check this out on Carmine Coloring. Ewww! Here’s a funny article on Carmine Coloring which I think I will be reading to Sam tonight to see if I can persuade him to drop the Yogos, LOL! Ever notice that if you can trick your kids into “making the decision,” then they don’t fight you on the matter?? I am a BIG fan of Reverse Psychology! 😉

Sam saw these one day when we were in Target and mentioned that a classmate took these in his lunch sometimes. Naturally, Sam wanted to know if he could have them too and sure enough, the Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn by Frito-Lay is gluten-free!

One last thing before signing off… did you get a chance to see Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution, airing on Friday nights on ABC?  Well, if you missed it like I did, you can watch the first two full episodes here, then set your DVR to record it!! Also, you can sign Jaime’s Food Revolution Petition by clicking the picture below!

Also be sure to check out Jaime’s “Get Cooking” page for some great looking recipes and tips for setting up your own kitchen!

There is also a great page for schools with advice, menu plans and even some free downloadable “stickers” for motivating kids!

I love it!

Easy Lunchboxes Update

You are gonna LOVE this!

I signed up for the Easylunchboxes.com Newsletter after I totally fell in love with this lunch box system and guess what I found in my email inbox today??

A Newsletter!

Warning: You MUST laugh at my joke, even though it really isn’t funny, or even a joke for that matter. I am delirious from making 1,000 gluten-free Goldfish Crackers (Kindergarten class project), plus some gluten-free “Nilla Wafers” and sugar cookies for Sam’s Friday Fun Snack (they are building “Cat In The Hat” cookies), PLUS this weekend is my mom’s birthday and my mom-in-law’s birthday is shortly thereafter, not to mention I am going on a double date Saturday for my BFF’s 40th birthday so I better make her a cake (I am WAY younger than her, like 20 years younger!). Before you begin to think otherwise, re-read my previous warning.) I am also baking GF cupcakes for Luke’s preschool Easter celebration and I totally forgot that I signed up for a “Stage Cakes” decorating class on Saturday morning, so that is 3 more GF cakes!

Oh yeah, the newsletter mentioned an upcoming sale, on one day only, for…

up to 70% OFF!!

Click here for more information!

Easy Lunchbox System Review and Giveaway

I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how thrilled I am with this lunchbox system!!

Before I go into the specifics of the Easy Lunchbox System though, I need to vent. 😀

I kid you not, I am overflowing with lunchboxes and containers! I have never found a “one size fits all” solution to packing the boys lunches for school. It’s hard enough to pack a regular lunch, but when you have to pack food for children with dietary restrictions, you are including not only lunch, but snacks too (and drinks). There have been times when I have had to send not one, but TWO separate lunchboxes for the boys, one for lunch and one for snacks and drinks! The lunchboxes are usually too small to hold several little containers, so I have to use baggies to make the food fit, which often leads to “smushed” sandwiches, broken chips, etc., plus you have to fit an ice pack in the lunchbox on top of it! Arrrggghhh!

Personally, I am not a huge fan of the Laptop Lunchbox system, I love the idea of it, but I have had issues with ours. There are too many pieces to keep up with and the containers are restrictive for what they can hold. It worked okay when Sam was in preschool with an itty-bitty appetite but he is a growing boy, with a growing appetite to boot. Plus, the Laptop Lunchbox and its containers were difficult for Sam and Luke to open on their own, I couldn’t fit one of our ice packs in it and you have to clip the beverage to the outside which doesn’t keep it cool and makes it awkward to carry. And they are expensive, at $37.99 for the Original System, which is what I have.

Earlier in the school year, I reviewed the Rachael Ray Meal Carrier. At the time, it was the best lunchbox I had found but that was before I started to make Sam the occasional GF Lunchable, which does not fit in the Rachael Ray Meal Carrier, so I had to use a different style of lunchbox to fit a GF Lunchable, and even then, I had to stick it in on its side so everything slid to the bottom. I still like the Rachael Ray Meal Carrier, but it has some limitations for me.

Packing the boys lunches had become an hour long process between making the food, searching for container pieces and finding the right size lunchbox to fit everything in! Not my idea of a good time! 😉 I won’t even mention what clutter does to my ADD mind.

A couple of weeks ago, I was searching the internet for a better solution and I happened upon the EasyLunchBoxes.com website. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Kelly sent me a complimentary lunchbox and a 4-pack of containers to test-drive and review on my blog. Let me just say this, as I am working on my “Spring Cleaning,” ALL of my former lunchboxes and their “pieces” are going to Goodwill! 😀

I am going to order 3 more lunchboxes (only $7.95 each) and one more set of containers ($13.95 for a set of 4 containers)!!

Kelly Lester is the BRILLIANT mom behind the Easy Lunchbox System (and my new hero!). Here is a little bit of information on Kelly:

KELLY LESTER is the owner, creator, and mom behind Easylunchboxes.com. During the last two decades she has been an entrepreneur, wife, and mother of three. She is also an actress and singer.

Easylunchboxes.com was born out of Kelly’s innate ability to do things efficiently while on a shoestring budget, and her desire to send her daughters to school with simple, healthy food, with little to no extra packaging or ingredients. Her past struggle with weight control inspires her to teach and model healthy eating habits for her children, and has fueled her dedication to always send them off to school with a great lunch. Kelly’s healthy lifestyle was recently featured on MOM TRENDS.

Kelly combined her self taught business-savvy with her natural inclination to think “what would other parents want?” — to develop the perfect lunchbox system. She is thrilled and proud to share her Easylunchboxes and lunch bags with other families who will benefit by their simple design, great price, and amazing functionality. Additionally, by promoting the waste-free lunch movement, EasyLunchboxes.com is helping the planet one lunch box at a time.

Kelly has been married to actor Loren Lester since 1988. They live in Woodland Hills, CA with their three daughters, Jenny, Lily, & Julia, and their dog, Albany.

For more on Kelly, click here.

There are currently 5 colors of lunchboxes to choose from. It would be cool to see pink or another “girly” color come available. 😉

4-pack of Containers.

In case you are wondering (like I did) if these are made of a similar material to the GladWare containers (that tend to warp), the answer is no. The Easy Lunchbox containers are of much higher quality, because they are a harder plastic (but no fear…they are BPA-free! See the FAQ section below for more info on the plastic used).

Note: If you order a set of these (or are the winner of this giveaway) be sure to unpack the containers carefully. They arrive stacked together and tightly packed. Be patient and separate them slowly so they don’t crack (like one of mine did). If I had taken the time to read the note in the package beforehand, I would have KNOWN that, but I was just like a child on Christmas morning when the box arrived! 🙂

Sam is starting to think these are “cooler” than the GF Lunchable! I think I smell a “mommy victory” in the air! 😉

A few FAQS on the Easy Lunchbox System:

What are the dimensions of the Lunch Container?
9.48 x 6.1 x 2

What are the dimensions of the Lunch Bag?
9 x 6.5 x 6.5” (the sides flex out a bit to hold the container securely and without wiggle room, ensuring that the container does not shake around in the bag, thereby keeping the food stabilized).

Are your products food safe?
We are very proud of our products’ safety ratings. We have ensured that all the materials used in our containers and bags are food and child safe and even pass strict FDA requirements! Easylunchbox products contain NO Lead, Vinyl, PVC, Phthalates, or Bisphenol A (BPA). Click HERE for more about our product safety info.

Are the containers safe to use in the microwave?
Our plastic containers are FDA-approved for microwave use. They are made with the highest grade polypropylene plastic (#5), a plastic that does not leach any BPA or Phthalates when heated or cooled. More info here.

Can I wash the containers in the dishwasher?
Absolutely! However, keep them away from the heating element.

For more FAQs, click here.

Check out this video:

The EasyLunchBoxes.com website has a great page called “Neat Ideas,” and I have gotten quite a few of them to use for Sam and Luke’s lunches.

Gallery of Yummy Lunches

Lunchmaking Hints and Tips

Links to Great Easy Lunch Recipe Ideas

Gallery of Creative Lunchbox Tags (there are some great ideas for lunchbox tags, which can be extremely useful for food allergy kids, see below).

We received the Easy Lunchbox System just as the boys went on Spring Break, so today is the first time Sam is actually taking it to school. Over the break though, they were very excited to eat every single meal out of them! Below are a few photos of different meal ideas, but first I want to point out the lunchbox tag feature.

This tag was issued by Sam’s school at the beginning of the year. I was inspired by the “Gallery of Lunchbox Tags,” so I am going to make some new tags for Sam. I will post pictures of those once I get them made. I love that this lunchbox has a ready-made hole for the tag, it has been tricky to clip this on some of the lunchboxes we have.

I am Bafoodled with all the room in this lunchbox!

Sam is at school from 8:30 – 4pm (including after school programs), then he has a 45 min. commute home so it is imperative that I send plenty of snacks in addition to lunch and drinks. I love that they all fit in this lunchbox, with room to spare!!

Over the break, I packed two meals (plus drinks and snacks) in one lunchbox, to send with the boys during a visit with Nana and Papa.

Sweet FREEDOM from my former Lunchbox Madness! 😀

The boys love to dip potato chips in Egg Salad, go figure!

We tried some Nutella over the break and Luke liked dipping his apples in it. My boys love the Boar’s Head Reduced-Sodium Turkey, but absolutely WILL NOT eat it as a sandwich, so I just do turkey rolls.

We went to see Walking With Dinosaurs over the break (VERY COOL show!!), so I made a quick and easy chicken nugget meal for the boys to eat in the car on the way.

This was for St. Patrick’s Day, the picks in the turkey rolls are cupcake picks that I re-purposed!

I made this Veggie Mac and Cheese using Tinkyada’s GF Vegetable Spirals that I buy on Amazon, and the White Cheddar Powder that I get from Frontier Co-op. I threw in some frozen mixed veggies (attempting to “hide” them among the colors of the pasta. They caught on to me, but ate it anyway). The hot dog is Applegate Farms Organic Grass-Fed Beef Hot Dog that I stuck on a chopstick. The boys also really like Glutino’s Pretzel Sticks stuck in a piece of cheese! BTW, have you heard about Glutino’s Chocolate and Yogurt-Covered Pretzels that are coming out soon?? YEA!! Sam used to love those Yogurt Covered Pretzel Flipz before going gluten-free. I am also working on making my own GF “Hostess” Cupcake but with a healthy twist (sneaking healthy stuff in the batter). The recipe is not ready yet, but hopefully soon!

Would you like a chance to “test-drive” the Easy LunchBox System?

For a chance to win a FREE Lunchbox (color of your choice) and Container Set, courtesy of EasyLunchBoxes.com:

Reply with a comment to this post about some of your favorite lunchbox ideas!

For a chance to earn multiple entries, do one (or all) of the following:

  • 1 Bonus Entry: Tweet about this contest and be sure to include a link to this post and include @adventuresgfmom in your Tweet.
  • 5 Bonus Entries: Blog about this giveaway in a blog post and include a link back to this post.

And one for some shameless self-promotion…

  • 10 Bonus Entries: If you are the author of a blog and add me your Blogroll (please and thank-you) 😀

Send me an Email at heidikelly13@gmail.com after completing the tasks for any bonus entries you qualify for.

I will use a Random Number Generator to pick the winner on Monday, March 29, 2010.

Good Luck!!

This giveaway is offered to US & Canadian residents only.

EasyLunchBoxes.com reserves the right to disqualify a winner if they have won and received product from EasyLunchBoxes.com within the past 6 months.

I’ve had a few things come up, so I will be taking the week off from blogging to attend to some personal matters, but will be responding to comments and emails daily ! 🙂


Jumping through the Pringles Loophole

I know that Pringles (which are NOT gluten-free) as well as many other mainstream chips are just not good for you, you will get no argument from me on that one. However, raising a child with celiac disease can be very difficult when it comes to social situations, as any parent with a child that has a dietary restriction knows. Our children often have to do without and “brown bagging” it to school everyday can leave some children feeling alone, different, etc., especially when they see their classmates getting “hot lunch” or pulling out a Lunchables meal… much “cooler” meals according to Sam.

My approach to parenting is one of being a mentor/coach. I am trying to teach my son how to navigate in a gluten world. Small things, like a GF Lunchable can help kids realize that being gluten-free is sometimes a daunting obstacle but one that can be overcome with a little creativity.  At some point, all of us as parents will have to mentor our children through the realization that something is “different” about them, whether it’s poor eyesight, struggles with weight, public speaking, etc.  Mike and I figure we can either teach Sam to simply “accept” his condition and slowly view any situation with food as something to avoid, or he can learn that whatever setbacks he faces in life can be used as learning experiences and opportunities to “raise his game.”  Every child will face some sort of setback at some point in their childhood, and in a way I am grateful that I have this opportunity to teach Sam a valuable life lesson at an early age, so that hopefully he is better equipped emotionally to handle the next challenge he might face.

Sam has recently been talking about how some kids take the little pre-packaged Pringles to school. I reminded him that he has chips that look just like Pringles (Lays STAX)… “yea, but they don’t have the same package.” Sam is so funny to me, you can tell he feels bad for caring about packaging, but he is 6 and that is what most 6 year olds do, which is why company’s market to children! 😉

So, I set out to find a package! I recalled having seen a little Pringles container years ago, so I went shopping to look for one. Apparently, the “Pringles POP Box” is no longer sold in the US! Not one to let that stop me (my stubborn determination can be useful at times), I found them on Ebay, but they are physically located in the United Kingdom, so there was some added shipping involved. I bought 3 POP Boxes for about $25 (give or take) after shipping costs were added. We don’t eat out much so this is what I splurge on instead! 🙂

Now for a gluten-free version of the stacked curvy chip that I remember turning into a “duck bill” as a kid!

Lays STAX are gluten-free. We bought one of each that was available at the store so I could take some photos of the ingredient labels:

Original Flavor

All of the STAX containers are labeled gluten-free.

I took photos of the other ingredient labels as well…

Sour Cream and Onion Flavor,

Mesquite Barbecue Flavor,

Salt and Vinegar Flavor

Sam and I had a nice little talk about the ingredient labels and “he” recommended we just stick with the “Original Flavor.” 🙂

The POP Boxes hold 10 chips (just under the technical serving size, so that is a little bonus) and the chips stay in one piece until lunchtime!

Sam has been so excited about these. He wants to “bling out” the black POP box with Darth Vader stickers…. fitting. 😉

Next week I will be doing several posts on lunchbox ideas to tie in with a super cool lunchbox system I found, there will be a giveaway too!! 😀

Amy’s Gluten-Free Non-Dairy Mac and Cheese Review

So in case it hasn’t been made clear yet, I like trying new things. Especially when it comes to innovative food substitutions! I haven’t done a lot of dairy-free/vegan posts because I try to avoid straight-up soy when possible. My mom is a breast cancer survivor and I prefer to not eat plant estrogen, “just in case.”  I’m not even sure there is any hard evidence on soy contributing to breast cancer because I honestly haven’t done much research, so don’t put a lost of stock into what I say on that. I do eat products that contain soy lecithin, etc. but I do not eat tofu, soy-based vegan cheese, edamame or drink soy milk.

Recently I have been hearing a lot on Daiya Vegan Cheese, which is not only gluten-free, diary-free, (casein-free, lactose-free and whey-free too) but soy-free, egg-free, rice-free and nut-free as well! I ordered some to sample and I have it in my possession but I am trying to figure out the best way to use it for sampling/recipe purposes. I think I will try to make Goldfish Crackers with the Cheddar Style Shreds, using arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch and palm shortening instead of butter, to see if we could get a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and corn-free Goldfish cracker for the kiddos that cannot have those ingredients! Cross your fingers! 😉

I’ll probably use the Italian Style Shreds for pizza!

Anyway, I recently picked up a package of Amy’s Gluten-Free, Non-Dairy Macaroni and Cheeze at my local Whole Foods to try out.

Right out of the microwave

Here is a close up so you can hopefully see the texture better.

We do eat dairy and real cheese so with that in mind, upon the first bite, we could tell “something” was different, but only a slight difference and definitely not enough to keep the four of us from polishing the entire thing off!

The texture of the cheese sauce was very creamy and well incorporated throughout. I have limited experience with non-dairy “cheese” and they were not positive ones for sure! Many of the non-dairy cheeses had either a rubbery or stringy texture that just made me very thankful for not needing to be dairy-free! The Amy’s Non-Dairy Mac and Cheeze was altogether different though and I could definitely eat it again. I also noticed that the macaroni noodles looked very similar to the macaroni noodles that Kraft uses, they were smaller and did not have the little ridges that the Tinkyada Rice Elbows have.

Here are the ingredients (copied from the Amy’s website):

INGREDIENTS : NO TRANS FAT � NO ADDED MSG � NO PRESERVATIVES (VEGAN) ORGANIC RICE PASTA (ORGANIC RICE FLOUR, WATER), FILTERED WATER, DAIYATM VEGAN CHEDDAR-TYPE CHEEZE (PURIFIED WATER, TAPIOCA AND/OR ARROWROOT FLOUR, EXPELLER PRESSED HIGH OLEIC SAFFLOWER OIL, COCONUT OIL, PEA PROTEIN, SALT, YEAST, VEGETABLE GLYCERIN, NATURAL FLAVORS, XANTHAN GUM, RICE EXTRACT, ENZYMES [NO ANIMAL RENNET OR ANIMAL ENZYMES], BACTERIAL CULTURES, CITRIC ACID, ANNATTO), ORGANIC EXPELLER PRESSED HIGH OLEIC SAFFLOWER AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL, ORGANIC SWEET RICE FLOUR, SEA SALT, NUTRITIONAL YEAST, MUSTARD POWDER.

And the Nutritional Label (also copied from the website; the fat, carbs and sodium content seem high to me, but at least there is some fiber! 😉 ):

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1
Servings Per Container: 1
Serving Weight: 227 g
Calories: 520
Calories from Fat:190
% Daily Value
Total Fat: 22g 34%
Saturated Fat: 5g 25%
Trans Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg 0%
Sodium: 740mg 31%
Carbohydrates: 72g 24%
Fiber: 3g 12%
Sugars: 0g
Protein: 8g
%
Organic: 77%
Vitamin A: 0% • Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 6% • Iron: 6%


Portable Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Containers

While there are several gluten-free soy sauces on the market, the biggest frustration (at least for me) is portability! The last time I carried a bottle of my favorite gluten-free soy sauce (San-J Organic Wheat-Free Reduced-Sodium Tamari) in my purse, I was the lucky sucker who had the bottle leak everywhere! Besides, it isn’t exactly convenient to carry an entire bottle of soy sauce in your purse.

San-J does make packets of the Wheat Free Tamari that you can order online here, but I prefer the low-sodium version and I have yet to find packets of those. The day I found the corn dog maker on Amazon, I also came across these. Little soy sauce bottles! I thought they were so cute, especially the little piggies! They are small, convenient and reusable but I can also put my preferred gluten-free soy sauce in them, which makes them even better!

You get 8 bottles for $6.99 with free shipping if you are an Amazon Prime member.

The bottle opening is pretty small, too small to use a funnel to fill them.

The bottle opening to the Tamari is too big to “neatly” pour the Tamari into the little bottles without losing a lot of soy sauce in the process.

A while back I found this soy sauce dispenser at Kohl’s of all places. It had never occurred to me to look for a soy-sauce dispenser but when I saw it, I thought it would be great for the boys. They are very big into “doing things themselves” these days but the original Tamari bottle’s opening is just asking for trouble!

The opening of this bottle is perfect for filling the portable soy sauce containers!

Easy peasy, I even filled this bottle with one hand, while I took the picture with the other hand!

I also found a few other options and thought I would share those as well.

One of my favorite gluten-free blogs to read is Celiac Bites, it is funny and uplifting at the same time. Tom did a “Truth or Consequences” post on La Choy Sauce, click here to read it (but be sure to read the comments too). Here is another post of Tom’s, that is “off-topic” for soy-sauce, but it is too funny! “The case of walking glutonia.” Great job Tom, thanks for making me laugh! 😀 You can follow Tom on Twitter: @celiacbites.

A Gluten-Free Guide posted an article titled “Eating Sushi is a Gluten-Free Dream.” In the post, Catherine has a link for another brand of gluten-free (and low-sodium) soy sauce packets. A Gluten-Free Guide is a great website, and Catherine has great gluten-free travel tips! You can also follow Catherine on Twitter: @yumcat

Gluten-Free “Lunchables”

I’ve succumbed to the almighty Lunchables.  I STRONGLY dislike those things, and not necessarily because they are one of the most unhealthy “foods” marketed to children, but because my son feels like an “oddball” because he cannot have one!

I love GoPicnic’s Gluten-Free Ready-Eat-Meals (and so does Sam), but he recently confided in me that “they don’t look the same” as Lunchables.  I realize that I could stand my ground and stick to my principles, but then I will have finally crossed over into becoming “my parents.”

Which only makes me think of this:

OYE!

I decided to compromise with Sam (all the while wondering how I was going to pull this off, being gluten-phobic and all), and let him have this occasional “special treat.”  I was going to make him his very own “GF Lunchables,” label and all.  This is not to replace the preferred GoPicnic “Lunchables-style” gluten-free kids meals, but it is a nice “pick-me-up” when Sam is feeling blue about not being “the same” as his peers.  Sam’s end of the bargain though, is that he has to promise to always talk to me when things like this come up at school.  I want Sam to know that he is not defined by the different foods he has to eat, but I also don’t want to make it a big deal.  From my own experiences growing up, the harder my father fought me on things, the more I was determined to get what I wanted anyway, permission or not!  My hope is that Sam will grow out of this “Lunchables” phase sooner, rather than later, if I just bend a little right now.

So… I “went in.”  I hadn’t been to the grocery store in quite sometime (since Mike does the shopping to save me from myself. I CANNOT get out of the store in under 3 hours, all the different products are a trap for my ADD!), and I was dismayed to see how the yellow boxed Lunchables were sealed up.  I knew there was no way I could unwrap the package, discard contents, “fumigate the gluten,” then refill and reassemble with the slightest hope that the end product would resemble the “real thing.”

Then my eyes landed on the new green boxed Lunchables, which are supposedly more “wholesome.” This only made me chuckle as I read the nutrition label on the back of the Ham and American Cracker Combo. Check out this article from the Washington Post about the new Lunchables. Ya know, this is one benefit to being gluten-free. If celiac disease had not entered our lives, I would probably be like a lot of other parents out there who don’t think to read nutrition labels and get sucked up into the marketing as much as kids do!

Anyhoo, I swallowed my pride and bought a few, this was a self-esteem booster for my son after all.

The green packaged “gluten-y” Lunchables. The label on the green package is easy to slide off without disturbing the “unbroken” label!

If you click on the above picture, a larger view should pop up so hopefully you can read the ingredients better.

A gluten-free mom’s transformation:

Empty Lunchables Top Tray that has gone through the dishwasher a few times (no heat cycle)!

Bottom tray of the Lunchables: the meal comes with a bottled water, a Koolaid packet and a sugar-free Jello cup, with a spoon.

The first day Sam took the Jello in, he didn’t eat it (yea!) so I have been adding healthier alternatives without artificial colorings or artificial sweeteners, like the Mott’s No Sugar Added Natural ApplesauceWhole Foods sells natural flavored applesauce cups too (other stores do too).

The problem with the bottom container is the limited space.  I tried putting other beverages in the container, but it can get crowded very fast!  The Fruit Roll-Up is a version called “Simply Fruit,” all fruit, no artificial colorings and a familiar Fruit Roll-Up package. I found a big box of these at Costco.

Sam also likes the Stretch Island Fruit Co. Fruit Leathers.

The Peter Rabbit Organics “squeezable” Fruit Sauce has been a big hit with Luke.  I found these at Starbucks a few weeks ago, when I bought one of each of their new gluten-free offerings!  I also found them on Amazon, and if you are an Amazon Prime member, you get free shipping! The juice you see is Apple & Eve’s “Fruitables.” The squeezable fruit had to go in the GF “Lunchable” because the Fruitables juice box was a bit too big to also add an applesauce “cup.”

Sam and Luke both love the Fruitables Juice boxes, and quite frankly, so do Mike and I! Check this out:

A 24-pack of Fruitables at Sam’s Club: $8.38, that is only 35¢ per juice box!!

Look at all the fruit AND vegetable juices in each juice box! 😉 I just wish they made an Organic version…

Fruitables Nutrition Labels.

Now for the top tray:

This was the final version I landed on. I have never purchased Lunchables before, so I made a few “mistakes” that Sam gently corrected me on, LOL! 😀

Sam: “There are no pickles in Lunchables, mom.  And the cheese is not in a circle.”

Ohhhhkaaaay!

Sam: “Lunchables do not have Snowman wrap, Mom.”

Apparently, I have taught him my perfectionist tendencies all too well. I think it is time for me to work on that! 🙂

We like the Boar’s Head Low-Sodium Turkey and Low-Sodium Ham Deli Meats. Check out this recipe idea for a “100 calorie” snack! Cookie/Biscuit Cutters are very handy for making special shapes.

This is White American Cheese, I also make some SQUARE Orange Cheddar Cheese slices!

LOVE these, they fit perfectly in the Lunchables tray compartment!! Thank you Glutino. 🙂

I used the plain GLAD Press and Seal to seal up the top tray, then slid the label wrap back on!

This picture just reduces me to hysterics. I think I even snorted, I laughed so hard! The look on Sam’s face pretty much mimics the look I had on my face as I reluctantly agreed to make the GF Lunchable! 🙂