Category Archives: Food

The nemesis has been found… in FROYO!

Apparently, frozen yogurt is THE thing in Saint Louis. That, and cupcake shops. Since I am strict on the g-free diet, I have no interest in the cupcake side of things, but I do love me some froyo. And I’ve been loving it indeed. I use it as a treat for my diet-redux: no more than once a week, and fruit/nuts instead of candy toppings.

My world was rocked this week with an email from my friend, E. She emailed the company, Orange Leaf Yogurt, which is a fro-yo chain that is here in town:

Hi E,

Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt has multiple Gluten Free yogurt flavors. The only flavors that are not gluten free are: wedding cake, birthday cake, brownie batter, snickerdoodle, red velvet, cookies and cream, peanut butter and chocolate peanut butter. All of our other flavors not included on the list above are gluten free. If you have any other questions please let me know and I will be happy to answer them.

Uhm.. what?

I’m pretty sure Red Velvet is the second best flavor, next to (you guessed it) PEANUT BUTTER.

REALLY?!

Eeeek.

Truthfully, I haven’t noticed the gluten from my ventures to fro-yo. Apparently I’m not as sensitive as I thought… or maybe I just lucked out in not eating a whole bowl of the gluten-y kind and just doing the samples (isn’t that what everyone goes to froyo for anyway?). And I have probably had it a handful of times (this weekly thing started after I got back from a conference at the end of June, when it was insanely hot forever in the STL). But, it’s super important for all you gluten sensitive folk out there to pay attention.

Here are some tips for your next fro-yo venture if you’re rocking it gluten free-

  • Ask for the ingredients list and make sure you don’t pick any of the seemingly-obviously-gluten-filled flavors.
  • Eat at Red Mango, which is AWESOME, are certified gluten free. and that means ALL of their yogurts are (now watch the toppings of course).
  • When in doubt, go for the basic flavors. Tart, sorbets, and vanillas probably lack in the gluten department.
Good luck, froyo-ians!

The breakfast revamp #i8this

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I actually think breakfast #2 is the most important meal of the day, which typically occurs after my first workout before I head to work. Before I run or swim or bike in the morning, I like to eat a little something so that I have food in my belly to keep me from stopping early because of hunger pains. But, it’s usually a small snack, not a meal by any means- maybe an orange, or a piece of toast, or sometimes a smoothie.

I have got into the habit of eating eggs for breakfast and have revamped my diet to focus more on getting in the recovery-friendly foods, typically high in protein, following most workouts. My main breakfast is usually around 500-600 calories and is typically my biggest meal of the day.

Today, I made something special. I wanted fruit, but knew I couldn’t eat a bowl of raspberries before heading to work. So I made a super delicious, somewhat fancy, but super *easy* breakfast and I wanted to share it with you.

First, I grabbed some leftover Trader Joe’s Organic Sweet Italian sausage from this weekend’s barbecue festivities. This comes in a 4-pack, is pre-cooked, and can be added into just about anything. Each link is only 140 calories and loaded with lean meat protein (15 grams!) so it is an easy choice. I chopped up one link along with a small zucchini that I got in my Fair Shares CSA this week, and sauteed them in a nonstick pan without oil or butter until the zucchini was browned. While that was cookin’, I toasted two pieces of Rudi’s gluten free multigrain bread and spread a little bit of real butter on each slice (sans butter can save you anywhere between 70-150 calories). I then microwaved for 45sec some frozen organic raspberries (about 1/2-3/4 cup), took it out of the microwave, and added plain, nonfat Trader Joe’s organic yogurt on top (1cup). I bought some large Food Network ramekins that work great for this type of preparation, and they are kind of classy to eat out of too. I felt like I was at a bistro.

TA DA!

MyFitnessPal is great because it can break down my diet on a meal-by-meal basis, and it helps me plan out my meals as well. And, it has just about everything that is found anywhere. Raw vegetables? They’re in the database. Random food from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods? That’s in there too.

So MyFitnessPal lets me tinker, too (again, back to the meal planage). Let’s say I wanted to have a more balanced carb/protein ratio (1:1), then I could sub the toast and butter for 2 large scrambled eggs. It comes out pretty stinkin’ even, and drops the calories a bit too (see below). If the yogurt/fruit combo is dropped, then the protein/carb ratio hits more of a 4:1 ratio which is quite appealing to some as a post-workout recovery meal.

And lastly, in honor of one of my friends who also started using MyFitnessPal, I thought I’d come up with this breakfast in vegetarian form, since that’s how she rolls:

Not too shabby. Getting in the protein is a little more tricky for vegetarian diets but this meal seems to have a great balance between protein (yogurt and eggs) and carbs (fruit).

What are you eating for breakfast these days?

Gluten sensitivity and my new favorite bakers

I’ve been gluten-free for over three years now, and without getting up on my soap box, I know it is a diet that works for me. I used to suffer from all sorts of digestive issues; cramping, bloating, irritability. I would always complain about how my stomach hurt, how I felt fat and gassy, how I felt uncomfortable. In fact, I tried all sorts of other things, including going vegetarian for two years, and what my friend calls a pseudo-gluten-free diet (I ate gluten free-ish, minus beer, when I was in New Zealand… turns out, that is not a gluten free diet whatsoever). Anyway, nothing made me feel better, until my boyfriend’s mother recommended I try out the strict gluten-free thing. She has Celiac disease, and so does her mother and daughter. I am lucky to have a super-supportive boyfriend who, although testing negative to the genetic assays for Celiac disease, threw out his gluten-full pizza and donuts in favor of sharing the same diet as me.
One of the things I have come to appreciate is the ever-expanding market for gluten free goods today. Three years ago, it wasn’t difficult, per se, but it wasn’t as easy as it is now. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like twenty years ago.  While the gluten free diet is more expensive than the regular run-of-the-mill diet that includes Wonder bread and Ramen noodles, it does encourage a follower to cook more for themselves, and to learn to love the kitchen. While rice and veggies are a staple in my diet, I am still able to enjoy my lifelong favorite foods, like spaghetti (Tinkyada makes the best gluten-free spaghetti noodles I’ve ever had), peanut butter and jelly (thanks to Larabar), and the best bagels I’ve ever had (gluten free or not) from Against the Grain. Sure, I cut back on grains because spending $7 for a loaf of bread is redonkulous, but it helps me to appreciate the (gluten free) grains when I have them.
My new favorite bakers:
Since moving to St Louis, I have found a few awesome places that cater to the gluten-free folk, and I feel even luckier to have come across a local gluten-free bakery (Free Range Cookies) that distributes their goods all over the metro-STL area. Free Range, if you haven’t already tried it, has the best gluten free baked goods I’ve ever had straight from the source. The owner, Linda Daniels, is a cute, peppy young woman who is seriously on top of her game. I was introduced to FRC because I saw the cocoa crinkle cookies at Kaldi’s, and when I saw they were made in Ferguson, I knew I had to take the hike up there. Granted, it’s not that far from where I live (maybe a 20min drive), and it was totally worth going to the cute town of Ferguson to check out the shop.

Free Range had several different samples to try, and I felt like I could have skipped lunch before going there. I stocked up on all sorts of gluten free goodies, including baguettes (which are doughy on the inside and crispy on the outside, just like gluten-FULL bread is. I don’t know how she does it…), more cookies (I got the almond quinoa and more cocoa crinkles), and even cupcakes. She had all sorts of non-cookie fare, including focaccia, burger buns, and pizza crusts. I couldn’t buy everything, but I did dish out for some biscotti because I love the Free Range chocolate chip biscotti.
Also, a friend of mine recently started a gluten-free diet because she was also having some GI dilemmas, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world. She made a few dozen Girl Scout Samoas, gluten free of course, and Baberaham brought them down this past weekend. Ho.ly.crap. They are so good. Crumbly shortbread cookie covered in chocolate, with a sweet coconut sugary ring on top. I felt like I had gone back in time to when I would eat Girl Scout cookies, only I am pretty sure these things were better than the “real” thing! They were bigger, too. So, good on you Sam, for jumping head first into the gluten free lifestyle. You are doing a great job, and I am so proud of you!
And, in the news:
Recently, the Wall Street Journal shared an interesting study from BMC Medicine about gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and gluten intolerance. The article discusses how gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease differs, and it sheds light on different symptoms and classifications of the two disorders. Using gut permeability assays, histology of gut biopsies, and mucosal gene expression, differences between Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity were discovered.
What does this mean? Well, besides the obvious (gluten free diet recommendations for gluten reactivity across the board), there may also be slightly varying ways of treating people with gluten sensitivities. While Celiac disease can be considered an autoimmune disorder, which is now easier to detect based on serological tests for common antibodies, gluten sensitivity is much more difficult to diagnose. When people ask me: “How did you know you needed to be on a gluten free diet? Did you get tested?”, I tell them I just gave up gluten and simply felt better. Even if I had been tested, I may have turned up negative for Celiac disease.  But to me, following the gluten free diet made my GI symptoms go away, and that is what mattered the most. This new article in BMC Medicine attempts to uncover whether there may be other ways of diagnosing gluten-reactive disorders, even those that were otherwise considered ambiguous, like gluten sensitivity. There may be a difference between sensitivity (perhaps an innate response) and Celiac (likely an adaptive response), and there may also be potential for the development of molecular diagnostics that can help us to clinically assess each individual issue. Or, the patient can just try the diet, and see if it works. Some people need the answers, and that’s where a study like this can help get us there.

courtesy of WSJ.com

Product Review and Another Contest!: Think Thin

After the Real World, Real Food challenge, I discovered that I can do a pretty decent job getting the good, filling food without the need for meat-based meals. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a vegan. I am not even contemplating going vegetarian! I like meat too much (as selfish as that may sound to you veg-heads out there) and, with triathlon training, I know that my body craves meat (especially of the beef variety). I know that my body needs the protein (ya know, in meat) to repair the damage that I will soon be unloading onto my soon-to-be-rippled muscles.

But, sure. I know. That protein can be found elsewhere. Like in complex pairings of foods. Peanut butter and bread = complete protein. OH, right, I can’t eat normal bread and gluten free bread tastes like cat food. OK, beans then. Beans are good. And luckily, I only share my bed with a cat so she doesn’t complain about any noxious fumes. I’m being facetious, of course. I know that I need to take hold of the reigns and focus on my nutrition, plan out my meals, etc… because – being gluten-free – a little slump can make a huge difference. The biggest, glaring problem arises on days when I have a lot to do. I wake up and go for a swim, head to work and eat my oats. But, especially on days like today when I didn’t have leftovers in hand, I end up skipping lunch (or eating really, really late; like 4pm) and go through through the afternoon in a fog.

Thanks to Thin Products, I’ve had the opportunity to try out a variety of the ThinkThin bars. These are quite a bit different than my ol’ standby (LARABAR). I wouldn’t necessarily even put them in the same category. But, don’t be disuaded. These bars are chock full of protein and are actually quite satisfying and good-for-you. There is also a “crunch” bar too, that satisfies my “oh-I-miss-granola-bars” phase. The Crunch bars are relatively new, and the first thing they reminded me of was the Nature Valley Nut Crunch bars that I’m super hesitant to eat (because some of their boxes are labeled gluten free and others aren’t). However, the ThinkThin bars go two steps further: they are bigger and they pack more fiber and protein than the NV alternative. Plus, you can get them covered in chocolate which, let’s be real here… is awesome.

So, ok. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “This is a little away-from-the-path of that Real Food lifestyle.” First, it’s processed. Ok. Then, it’s packaged. But what convenient snack food isn’t? And, it’s totally in the realm of my Real World lifestyle, because the bars are a) vegetarian, b) natural, c) gluten-free, and d) satisfying. Plus, the ThinkThin bars are ranked #1 as a tool for natural weight management. These bars come in regular size (~250 calories and 15-20g protein) or “bites” size, with 100 calories and 5g of protein. So, depending on what kind of portion control you’re looking for, ThinkThin has you covered.

I stashed my secret supply of ThinkThin bars in my desk drawer, and did a good job of only eating one per day around mid-morning (although some days I really had to resist eating more than one, because the sweet tooth would strike around 430pm!). Usually, I eat breakfast at 8, but I end up so hungry by 11 that I eat my lunch early and want to take a nap or grab a candy bar around 2pm. These bars were great at keeping my appetite at bay, as I would still eat breakfast around 8, but then have a bar around 1030, and postpone eating lunch until 1pm. I could usually make it the rest of the day before going home, grabbing a light snack (like a banana or piece of cheese) and heading out for a workout.

The flavors are wide-ranging and awesome. White chocolate chip, tangerine creamsicle, even chocolate covered strawberries (deeeelish!).

I really like the crunch bars, but my favorite of all was the Chunky Peanut Butter protein bar. I don’t know what it is, but I could literally sit with a spoon and a jar of peanut butter and eat the whole thing in one sitting. The bars are dipped in a coating, and when I bite into them its like eating a Milky Way candy bar (unless, of course, its a Crunch bar). Only the flavors are different than a Milky Way. More variety… it’s great!

I did have a least-fave though, and I gotta say the Lemon Cream Pie was a little not-my-style. It’s weird; I love lemons. In fact, I’m using four of my five lemons from the RWRF Challenge to make lemon bars. But for some reason, making it into a protein bar just didn’t do it for me. But, I am just one (wo)man, and who knows? Maybe my taste buds were off that day. To each there own (or as Ron Burgundy would say: “Agree to disagree”).

Luckily, you can be the judge yourself. I’ve got yet ANOTHER contest for you, fair readers.  What does it entail? Well, three lucky winners will receive a special package from the great folks at ThinkThin.

What do you have to do? I want to hear about your take on the macronutrient protein and how it has or has not influenced your eating habits. Do you drink protein shakes? Are you vegan and eat a lot of soy? Do you think protein is a hoax put on by the nutritional giants at GNC? Be brutally honest. Or, you can just tell me what your favorite protein-laden food is. By commenting below, you’ll get your name entered into the drawing. As usual, you can add another entry by tweeting about this (make sure to include my handle so I know [@megankillian}).

I’ll pick winners at random on Dec 30th, just in time for the New Year Celebration!

Real World, Real Food Wrap-up

Thanks to everyone for contributing, spreading the word, and getting involved with the Real World, Real Food Organic Basket Challenge that Sonja and I did last week. It was so incredibly fun.  A particular congratulations goes out to Kara for winning, but I think everyone who participated was a winner (of course!). There was a lot of heart and soul (and tummies) in the mix. It was a great experience to be involve with.

As far as a wrap-up goes, I think the biggest take-away for me was the obvious differences in food costs across the country. Surprisingly, for the same grocery list, Kara (who lives in a fairly rural area) walked away with a lower grocery bill than anyone else who did the challenge from a big city. I was especially surprised that I had the highest bill, even though I am in the most centrally-located city (St Louis is the midwest after all). I for sure thought I would beat Sonja’s basket price, since I live in a mid-sized city that – from what I gathered – has a fairly low cost of living. But, I was wrong.

There are some confounding variables, of course. For one, the list was the same no matter where you are. So, what is locally grown in one region is probably not available locally in another. And, what is easy to import in some places (like from CA to CO) might take a little more to get from the origin to a different destination (say, Michigan’s UP, or Missouri).  Secondly, I shopped in the city instead of on the outskirts, so I had to pay a bit of a premium (depending on where I shop, sales tax can be as high as 9.8%, and it turns out even food is taxed here … I think its around 4%?).

So where do we go from here? For me, the week’s worth of produce that I had all to myself forced me to eat real food every day. Instead of having nachos and cheese for dinner, I had to eat the fennel and cucumber and tomatoes and collard greens before they went bad. I admit, I didn’t get through everything by myself in the one week. Some of the stuff I stored in the freezer (shredded my zucchini and stored it in freezer bags for future bread!). But for the most part, it all went down my gullet. I realized, reflecting on the last week, that most of my meals were vegetarian, some were even vegan. I got a lot more creative with my meals, ate nuts and used olive oil in nearly every meal, and didn’t spend any money during the week by going out to lunch or grabbing a snack from the bookstore. And, as an extra bonus, I felt great all week. I felt sustained. My meals were filling, but not gigantic mounds of noodle and meat. In fact, I only had meat once during the week. I learned that I like fennel, and I like cooking with spices. I learned that I can make time to cook but I can also cook enough for myself to have leftovers to sustain me for the busier days. In other words, in the past week, I’ve really learned a lot about food, and myself.

It got me thinking more (oh boy, who needs that?!). It got me thinking about other cool things to try and what sort of plan I’m going to have every time I go to the grocery store. Yeah, I probably am not going to buy all-organic all-the-time. Unfortunately, I can’t afford it. But I am going to continue my habits of buying mostly in-season foods that don’t travel far. I also got thinking about another cool challenge: see how far our foods travel from the farm to the table. People have done this, they’ve written books about it. But something like this nationally, or even globally, might tell a better story as to why food is more expensive in some cities than others.

So to wrap up, thanks to everyone who participated, including:

TriMommy Kelly

Donna, all the way from the UK!

Miles, Muscles and Mommyhood

Kara, our RWRF Winner from Michigan’s UP

Muddy Mama

Jennifer

And thanks to everyone who spread the word and thank you to those who thought about what they were throwing in their cart at the grocery store. Also, thanks to Whole Foods Galleria for being convenient and friendly, and for having everything I needed to complete my list. Did I mention that, this weekend – after eating clean for an entire week – I finished off my sweet potatoes with a (rather large) side of nitrite-free bacon and farm fresh eggs from Whole Foods? I love their meat counter folks.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

My favorite comfort food

I think everyone has “that food”- the one that brings about incredible memories and overwhelms the senses, not just the scent and taste of the food, but the emotional sense as well. Just the smell reminds one of a special day, a special place, or being surrounded by special company.

My favorite comfort food is chruscikis. As a child, they were a treat only to be savored on Christmas Eve. And rightfully so. They weren’t easy to make; in fact, I never knew how to make them exactly, and I’d wait patiently outside the kitchen of my best friend’s grandmother’s house for them to be shared. Granted, I was six or seven, and deep frying dough was a little advanced for me. But nonetheless, it felt like midnight by the time the chruscikis made their way to the table. The treat was always the most memorable part of the evening for me. Their shape alone was fascinating; somehow, someone (my best friend’s grandma, of course) weaved the thin dough in and out of itself to create this wing-shaped treat (not surprisingly, chrusciki means “angel wings” in Polish). The crisp dough, fried to a golden brown, had bubbles that would cave in on themselves if I took a bite on top of one. The treat was covered in white, fluffy powdered sugar, and the dough would break off by just pressing my lips ever-so-slightly together. It was so fragile; so delicate. The sugar and the bread would fill my mouth with sweet and salty flavors, and I’d sneak a few angel wings before my mom would bat my hand away, worried I’d go into a sugar craze like seven-year-olds do.

I haven’t had chruscikis in years, mostly because Christmas Eve has not been celebrated in the same way as it was when I was pre-high school. And now that I follow a gluten-free diet, it was one of those treats that I buried and tried to forget about (like packzis and pierogies). But my boyfriend’s mom found a gluten free bakery that makes angel wings, and all the emotion I have tied to this magical food came flooding back. I knew that I needed to find a way to make these myself, so that once again, they could become a part of my new holiday traditions.

I took a basic, not-gluten free recipe from online and modified it as best I could with what I had available.

Gluten-Free Chruscikis

  • 5 egg yolks (at room temp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons cream
  • powdered sugar
  • Canola oil

Mix together the flours and baking powder to make the flour blend.  Make extra mixture for flouring surfaces.

Beat the egg yolks in a stand mixer on medium speed until thick and then add the salt. Continue beating and add sugar and vanilla. Once mixed well, reduce speed of mixer to low and add in alternating ~1/2 c flour mix and 1tbsp cream until both are used up. Ball dough onto floured counter and let stand, covered with a towel, for 10min. Roll out with a rolling pin to very thin dough. Cut 1 to 2in wide strips about six inches long and then make a slit length-wise. Carefully weave one end of the strip through the slit to make the twist. Fry in canola oil (deeper than the thickness of the dough) until brown on both sides. Let cool on cooling rack for about 3 min, and then cover in powdered sugar.

I think in my next rendition, I will add Expandex to help with the working of the dough. I could roll it out once, but after that the dough would get very crumbly and not workable. Drats, gluten free dough. But otherwise, these angel wings are tasty and delicious, and fill my soul with wonderful memories…

The Real World Real Food Challenge

For the past two years, I’ve had the most excellent hook-up: I was part of community-supported agriculture (CSA). My CSA was especially rad because the farmer charged ~$400/year, and delivered fresh fruit and veggies to my door every Tuesday. There were some things I loved, and some things I didn’t love so much, but regardless, having the seasonal fresh food at my dinner table helped me eat better and live more neutrally.

A friend of mine recently signed up for Door to Door Organics, which although isn’t entirely local, it is entirely organic. She gets weekly deliveries to her doorstep for around $40/week. She posted this photo on Twitter of this week’s delivery, posing the question:

This is what $38 in Organic veg delivered to your doorstep gets you from Door to Door Organics, thoughts?


and that got me thinking…

What would all this cost from my local grocery store? Certainly I could spend much less than $38, I thought. And, if I want it all organic, I’ll probably have the best luck at Whole Foods… (or as some people so aptly name it: Whole Paycheck- but for me, being gluten free, it doesn’t make a difference where I shop!). Then I thought about this: I live in a different metropolitan area than Sonja. Would the price of this real food be that much different city-to-city?

So I challenged her.

@goSonja hmm… they grow kiwi and avocado in CO? I am curious if it wouldn’t be cheaper to get it yourself from @wholefoods

@megankillian d2d organics is not local. It’s only local when it can be. I think it’s a tad cheaper than WF.

@gosonja which sounds like a challenge/contest to me. Send me the list of veggies and I’ll see if StLouis is cheaper, too 😉

@megankillian will do, I think I’m going to do the same, send ya an email in a sec, k?

@goSonja word.

And so it began: The Real World Real Food Challenge. Sonja sent me the list, and five minutes later I set off to match her grocery list and check out without going over my budget of $38.

Here’s the rules:

  • Everything must come from the same store, during the same shopping trip
  • Everything must be organic. If you can get it local organic, that’s even better
  • Buy only what is on the list, in the same quantities
  • Keep the receipt

The List

With my list in hand, I headed to Whole Foods Galleria, which is one of two Whole Foods in the St Louis area (and the only one in the city limits, I think). I chose Whole Foods because I really like Whole Foods, and I guessed that they would be the most likely store to have everything on the list in the organic variety. As a plus, I just love the atmosphere of the store, the smell of the deli and the bakery. Plus, the variety always compels me to explore my taste buds and try something a little exotic. But tonight, I had a plan.

I felt like I was on a secret mission. The Hunt for Red October, only it was the Hunt for Red Roma Tomatoes. I didn’t have to wander too far, because everything I needed was in the front produce section. Duh. The zucchini squash, the fennel, even the collard greens (of which I’m not a fan… yet) found their way into my cart. But I was careful to grab the right amount (4 zucchini squash, one fennel with at least 4 stems, etc). I hit a speedbump, though, when it came to golden sweet potatoes. What are golden sweet potatoes, anyway? I am glad I had my Android, because I Google-Imaged that. And all I saw was a regular, ol’ sweet potato. So I grabbed three of the smallest sweet potatoes they had (organic) and moved along the list. In hindsight, it looks like I was a little off with that one, because my sweet potatoes don’t look the same… but anyway, I digress.

Moving along- breezily counting squash and kiwi and knocking on pomegranates, and then I hit the apples: pinova. What is that? Google phone to the rescue: It’s a cross between golden delicious, Cox’s orange pippin, and Duchess of Oldenburg. Never heard of it. And I couldn’t find them next to the braeburns or red delicious. So I asked the produce guy working and he told me they don’t have pinovas at this time. They had them a few weeks ago, and might get them again… but today, no goose. Dang. I asked him what would be the closest thing to a pinova, and he said the braeburn tastes similar. So I made an exception and grabbed two of these.

There also weren’t any organic bean sprouts. I had bought them at Trader Joe’s, but Whole Foods just had “naturally grown” quasi-local (from Chicago) sprouts. So I grabbed a bag of what they had, and shrugged.

Then I finally got to last thing on my list: limes. I found five organic lemons easily, but limes? Well, there were limes from Mexico, but they weren’t organic. There were key limes, but those weren’t organic either. Turns out, no organic limes at the Galleria Whole Foods on this trip. Uh-oh. This was a problem. I grabbed the regular old pesticide full limes and threw them into a bag.

I made it to the checkout, thinking that I had no idea how I faired. Produce is hard to shop for if you’re on a budget, because you really can’t tell how much things cost unless you weigh everything out and allocate a certain percentage of your budget to purchasing it. And some things I expected to be cheap while others more expensive, but it always surprised me. Take the zucchini, for example. I would have guessed it to be a less expensive item, since it was marginally still in season and they grow like weeds. But it was the most expensive item on my receipt, coming in at $5.60 for 4. And the pomegranates, I assumed, would be redonkulously expensive, but they came in at $2.50 a pop.

The check-out total?

A whopping $51.18.

Ouch. I didn’t even come close to Sonja‘s $38, and I had to leave the house to get it. Not to mention I didn’t even get everything organic, and the receipt is a billion times long! I certainly accrued penalty points for not getting the limes and sprouts organic ($5 extra each), but it didn’t really matter in the end. She had this one in the bag… but not literally, since she got hers in the box and I got mine in the bag. I wonder if the difference was because we lived in different regions of the US…

That’s the other unfortunate thing about my produce-obtaining experience compared to hers. I had bags, lots and lots of bags. The collard greens and the fennel had just been sprayed, so I put that in their own bags (because one was by weight and the other was not); the lemons were rolling all over the place, so they went in a bag. Eventually, everything that came in pairs or more went into a bag. So, yeah. Everything went into a bag (except the pomegranates and the avocados. I don’t care if their skins get all yuckied up). I had so many bags, I decided to dedicate a photo to my teammate, Jamie

…although it looks more like a tutu than a hula skirt.

It was quite the gorgeous shopping experience, though, I have to admit. I got all these beautiful, colorful, healthy, whole foods, just ready for me to eat them.

And I don’t think I’ve ever bought five lemons at one time before. Or fennel. Or collard greens (someone please help me to like them).

Sonja went out to price the stuff at her local Whole Foods in Denver, and her grand total came to $41.53. There is a discrepency between cities, so it appears. Although not everything from her list at Whole Foods was organic, she was well below my check-out total. I wonder why? I would have assumed things would be more expensive in the mile-hight city.

So… now that you’ve seen all the fun I’ve had, do you wanna be a part of the Real World Real Food Challenge, too? Because you can! It’s super fun and exciting. Just make sure you have $50 to spend on produce, and make sure that you’ll put it to good use (um, by eating it, silly! Not feeding it to your neighbor’s goats).

Here’s what you gotta do:

  • Take the shopping list and head to your favorite grocery store where you can buy lots of organic and/or locally-grown vegetables and fruits.
  • Buy only organic, and only what’s on the list.
  • Keep your receipt.
  • Share it with us! (If you scan or take a photo of our receipt, just black out all the private info, k?)

Sonja and I will even have a points system to determine who and where has the best real food available. Wanna try it but don’t wanna shell out for organic? That’s cool, too! We’re interested in how much it costs for regular-ol’ produce, too. Just remember, some things are healthier for you when they are organic than others (like apples, pears, tomatoes, and anything that you eat what is on the outside where the pesticides can soak in).

Once you’ve done the shopping, share your story on your own blog, and make sure to tell one of us (or both!) the name of the store you shopped at and what city/metro area you live in. Share the link to your blog post with us, too (in the comments of our posts). We’ll use the honor system, but share your grand total and any modifications (if you made any).

Of course, if your grocery store that you choose doesn’t have an organic fruit or veggie on Sonja‘s list, you’ll be fined. How does $5 plus what my St Louis price of that same food cost sound? This could get expensive really fast…

Why do this? Because it’s fun! Interesting! A learning experience!

Why else? Well, if you really want more motivation, we can give you a little incentive. How about a big ol’ blast of Justin’s Nut Butter? We’ll giveaway a big, sweet and tasty supply of our favorite nut butters to the person with the best blog post. We will be deciding the winner on December 20th, so you have a little over a week to get your groceries and post your blog.

Good luck!

Gluten-free Thanksgiving Feast

I’m moving to St Louis the day before Thanksgiving.

But I’m still going to do-it-up-right. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! Plus, Baberaham will be there to help me cook for the first time in my new place. What better way to break in the kitchen than having a holiday meal?

I promised him a pumpkin pie anyway.

Here’s the menu:

  • Spice-rubbed pork tenderloin (turkey? Pshh. I’m thinking the pilgrims and Native Americans shot wild boars for their Thanksgiving feast)
  • Goat-cheese steak fries from glutenfreegirl’s blog
  • Broccoli slaw (also from GFG’s blog)
  • Gluten-free pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream topping
  • a bottle of vino! Missouri has some vineyards, and I might try to find “Adam’s Choice” from the Adam Puchta Winery

Healthier snacks for a busy gluten-free girl

My mom has a great tradition of stocking up on snacks and handing them off to me when I see her. Since going gluten-free, she now buys just about anything that says “Gluten Free” on the label. Recently, Think Thin bars were on sale at Kroger, and she bought (literally) a box.

I couldn’t be more impressed. Although I’m a (not-so-closet) fan of junk food like Snickers and peanut butter M&Ms, I have tried to cut back a bit on my junk food intake since my season break began. The first week was a little rough, since my dissertation was due, I was traveling a lot, and it was the week of Halloween. But, I have since got into a better habit of cooking more meals, eating oatmeal for breakfast, and having a veggie-full lunch.

One thing that is hard for me, though, is making it through the day without having a snack. So, I took that box of Think Thin bars to school and stuffed them into my desk. Every time I eat one of these bars, I am reminded to think about what I am eating, because how we fuel ourselves is crucial to our health.

Following a strict gluten-free diet, I sometimes find it a little more complicated to plan a perfectly balanced meal than when I wasn’t gluten-free. And, to be honest, sometimes french fries just sound good. But I have noticed that there are times when my diet lacks in the protein department, and then I go on a rampage for a nice, juicy steak. So, I’m excited that Think Thin bars have plenty of protein to make me feel full, and of course, satisfy my sweet tooth. Plus, the protein in these products is from whey, casein, and soy, which is a great mixture for muscle recovery.

My favorite flavor is the creamy peanut butter, but the cookies and cream brings back memories of Oreos (that I oh-so-miss). So next time, instead of reaching for a Snickers, I’m going to reach for a Think Thin bar. Since I have a case of these bad boys, and they taste pretty darn good!

Frugal Gluten Free Girl: Oatmealed Acorn Squash

With my bi-weekly buy-in of community supported agriculture, I got a lot of squash. I love squash, but Baberaham isn’t such a fan. Nonetheless, I’ve found these delicious fruit easy to prepare. As a bonus, if you are to buy squash from a grocery store or farmer’s market, it’s pretty stinkin’ cheap.

Tonight, I scraped together experimented with stuff we had in our cupboards. I came across the following and made it into a meal:

2 small acorn squash
1 c steel-cut oats
1c milk
1c water
1/2c pecans, chopped
honey
sea salt, to taste

I halved the acorn squash, saved the seeds, set the squash on a cookie sheet insides up, and baked them at 375F for 30 minutes, and then an hour at 350F. After dropping the temp on the oven for the squash, I started cooking the oats with 1c water and 1c skim milk to make them a little creamy.

Once the oats and squash were done (I could tell the squash was done by the “fork test”- when the fork goes in easy, its done!), I laid the squash insides-up on a plate and covered the inside with chopped pecans (about 2tbsp for each half). Then, I drizzled about 1/2 tbsp of honey on the pecans.

After adding the pecans and honey, I filled the squash halves to the brim with hot oats. That’s it!

Eating it from the outside in is the best way to get all the flavors. Each bite should contain some squash, oats, and pecans. The slight sweetness of the honey blended with the sea salt makes this dish irresistable (at least, to me!).

For me tonight, this meal was practically free, because I was using up milk that was close to expiring, I was eating squash that has been sitting on our counter for weeks, and I found a bag of steel-cut oats behind the crackers in the cupboard. But! If you were to go to the store and buy all these things, it would work out something like this:

McCann’s Steel-Cut Oats– 1lb box that will last you a while- $3.59
2 acorn squash – $2
honey, 12oz – $2
1c milk – 50cents

I eat big, so this was enough for two meals in my eyes. But, if you want to divvy up the calories, it could feed four. Let me know if you try this dish!

Edit: OH YEAH! I forgot to add… I made pepitas out of the leftover seeds. Traditionally, pepitas are made from pumpkin seeds, but to be honest, acorn squash seeds taste just the same. There are fewer seeds, but why let ’em go to waste? I just peeled away the “gunk”, put them in a bowl, sprinkled them with sea salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp olive oil, and then baked them at 350F for ~5-10 minutes- while I was preparing the oatmealed squash. Once they started to brown and swell a very small amount, I knew they were done. Delish!