Recipes and Tips for Kid-Friendly, Allergy-free Lunches

Monday, August 18th, 2014

As seen in iVillage
: See full article here.

Need some tips for gluten and allergen free lunches?  Here are some “out of the lunchbox” ideas.

Parents with children that have severe food allergies can especially feel challenged by the morning lunch prep routine– easy options for lunch seem limited.   Without advance planning, the morning rush can make your head spin. Here are some easy ideas to help overcome those mental blocks that we can face during the hectic, rush around mornings.  The tips below are all geared towards the gluten-free and allergy-friendly lunchbox but really anyone can add these ideas to their lunch prep repertoire.

1. Plan and prepare in advance

As much as possible, prepare at least part of lunch the night before, while you are preparing dinner.  If you are making a salad for dinner, make an extra salad for your child’s lunch.  If you are preparing pasta, make an extra serving and re-warm in the morning.  Soups, pastas, risottos all make great lunch box options.

-Wash and chop a plethora of fresh veggies and place in air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Use what you need as you go.

-Make and freeze larger batches of items such as gluten-free granola bars and home-made gluten-free cookies.

-Purchase handy lunch containers, a thermos and a large enough lunch box to fit everything.


2.  Think outside of the regular sandwich

The challenge with gluten-free sandwiches is, of course, the bread. It often crumbles, doesn’t taste good, has holes in it, is expensive, etc.  A great way to prepare sandwiches on gluten-free bread is by using a panini maker or sandwich press.  The flavor and texture of purchased gluten-free bread is enhanced by toasting or grilling.



Turkey Pesto Panini:

2 slices whole grain gluten-free bread such as Rudi’s

2-3 turkey slices, nitrate free, try organic brand like Applegate Farm

1 slice cheddar, Monterey Jack or Provolone Cheese, or Daiya dairy free cheese

Sliced tomato or avocado

Pesto sauce for the adventurous kids

Spray a little cooking spray on the Panini maker, place your first bread piece, then add nitrate free turkey, a cheese slice or Daiya Cheese Shreds (our favorite!)  add optional sliced tomato or avocado, then another cheese slice, and top with second slice of bread, for the adventurous kids, pesto sauce can be spread on the top piece of bread.  Cook as instructed.  Wrap in reusable sandwich wrapper.  While the Panini will not stay hot until lunchtime, it still tastes great.

Almond Butter, Jam and Fruit Panini: Spray a little cooking spray on the Panini maker, spread one piece of bread with almond butter, the other with low sugar, organic jam, place first bread piece, thinly sliced apples or bananas, place other piece of bread on top.  Cook as instructed.  Wrap in reusable sandwich wrapper.

Waffle sandwiches: Try The Pure Pantry Buckwheat Flax Pancake and Baking mix to make waffles on the weekend.  Make extra a freeze.  In the morning, lightly toast two waffles, spread with nut butter and organic jam or cream cheese and jam.  Try turkey slices or ham with swiss cheese or Daiya Mozzarella to create a “Montecristo” type of sandwich. 

Cookie Cutter Sandwiches: appearance is everything to some kids.  Create cute cut-out finger sandwiches with large shaped cookie cutters.

3.Make a Hot Lunch

Not a lover of the gluten-free bread choices out there?  Think outside the sandwich, and get into thermoses!

This Bento box type thermos provides great versitility:

Thermos Meals

Again, planning ahead pays off in the morning.  Left overs make great lunches the next day.  Soups, stews, pastas, risottos, are all easily reheated and packed into a thermos.

Soups: What can be more satisfying that a nice homemade cup of soup?  Here are a few ideas:

White Bean Oregano Chili: A family favorite in our home. A large pot can be made on the weekend and doled out during the week.  Accompany with organic corn chips or gluten-free corn muffins.

Asian Noodle Soups: gluten-free rice noodle packaged soups with added veggies are a perfect, quick hot meal to take to school.


Pasta Salad: gluten-free fusilli pasta tossed with chopped celery, cooked broccoli, shredded carrots, diced black olives, and 1 tablespoon Balsamic salad dressing. 

Gluten-Free Spaghetti and Meatballsmake a big batch for dinner, then warm and serve it up for lunch the next day.

Mac and Cheese – Dairy based or Dairy-Free with peas or broccoli. 

BBQ Chicken:

Left over BBQ’d chicken: My son’s favorite.  Barbeque extra chicken legs or thighs, pair them up with coleslaw or a side salad.

4. Get in the greens with salads

 I am proud to say my 3 year old eats salads.  If your children are salad eaters, a whole world opens up for lunch box choices.  It is easy to prepare a chef salad or garden salad with a protein.  For dinner the night before, prepare an extra portion and place in a lunch container.  Put salad dressing in a smaller container.  There are endless options. Here are a couple of ideas:

Chef Salad: top lettuce mixture with slices or turkey,cheese, add hardboiled egg slices, cherry tomatoes, avocado slices.  Place salad dressing in a separate small container.

Greek salad: top lettuce mixture with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, Greek olives and feta cheese crumbles or Daiya Mozzarella shreds, add sliced grilled chicken if desired.  Place salad dressing in separate small container.

Garden salad with tuna: top lettuce mixture with sliced carrots, sliced cucumbers and any other veggies your child likes. Combine one can tuna with 1 tablespoon Vegenaise (egg free,dairy free mayo) ½ cup diced celery, ½ cup diced pickle, a squeeze of ½ lemon, dash of dill.  Place one scoop of tuna salad on top of greens.  Place salad dressing in a separate small container.

5. Add Some Easy Snacks and Sides:

Trail mix: make your own or purchase.

Yogurt Parfait: Your child’s favorite yogurt or coconut yogurt flavor with a small container of sliced fruit and a container of gluten-free granola to top it off.  Our favorite gluten-free granola is from Healthy Creations.

Home-made Gluten-Free Granola Bars: try this recipe for Cherry-Almond Oat Bars. Make double batches, cut into bars, wrap each bar individually and freeze.  Pull out a ar when needed – it will defrost by snack time.


Home-made allergy-friendly cookies:  Try some fun fall recipes like Pumpkin Pie Bars, or Molasses Ginger Cookies, or an old time favorite, Old Fashioned Chocolate Chip cookies.

Gluten-free Chex Mix: try my Agave-Almond Chex Mix recipe for a great snack to pack for lunch or to bring to a class party.

Pre-packed healthy snacks: Organic Fruit leathers, organic squeezable fruit purees, organic apple sauce are all easy to throw in options.  Gluten-free crackers and cheese, and organic gluten-free corn chips with salsa are also easy to pull together.

Fresh fruit is a staple in every lunch we make.  We always keep apples, oranges, bananas and grapes on hand as a grab and go lunch item or snack.  More fragile fresh fruit such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, we place in small containers.

Fresh veggies and dips: Carrots, celery, red pepper strips are all great with hummus, organic ranch dip, or Edamame Pesto Dip (recipe in “Fresh from Elizabeth’s Kitchen”).

There are so many options for gluten-free, allergen friendly lunches.  With a little advance planning you can provide healthy, tasty lunch options that will keep your kids well-fed and make your mornings flow smoothly.

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Gluten-free Crustless Vegetable Quiche

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014




I always feel good serving this recipe to my kids because you can hide whichever vegetables you like in the quiche.

Crustless Veggie Quiche
Serves 8

2 Tbsp olive oil
¾ cup red bell peppers, finely chopped, or ¾ cup tomatoes, finely chopped — juice drained off
¾ cup onion, finely chopped
5 spears asparagus, washed, trimmed and sliced into ½ in. pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
5 large eggs or 5 egg whites and 2 whole eggs, beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese or low-fat cottage cheese
1/3 cup The Pure Pantry Gluten-Free Organic All-Purpose Baking Mix
1 Tbsp fresh basil
1 10 oz pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350˚.  Grease a 9-inch spring form pan. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper, onion, asparagus, and garlic and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquid and cool.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine beaten eggs, ricotta, and baking mix until well blended.  Add basil, spinach, feta, salt and pepper, and sautéed vegetables.

3. Pour mixture into prepared pan and place pan on baking sheet. Bake 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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Gluten-free Carnival Birthday Party

Monday, March 17th, 2014


This year my son turned 6.  It’s such a special age —  a time when children form friendships at school, enjoy the company of other children, and love to attend and have their own birthday parties.

Since my son is gluten-free, I decided that the entire menu would be gluten-free so that he didn’t feel left out in any way.  So often when gluten-free and allergen-free kids attend parties there isn’t anything for them to eat: pizza, cupcakes, and most snacks are full of allergens.  So to make Dolan feel extra special, everything would have to pass the gluten-free test!

The party menu included:

  • Gluten-free chocolate cupcake cones made with “Let’s Do Gluten-free” cones and The Pure Pantry dark chocolate cake mix and Heavenly Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe here.
  • Gluten-free hot dogs from Applegate Farms with gluten-free hot dog buns from Udi’s.
  • Gluten-free kettle corn from Trader Joe’s.
  • Peanuts in the shell  (no kids with  peanut allergies attended).
  • Gluten-free ranch dip and gluten-free hummus with carrots, cucumbers and celery.
  • To Go Treats included gluten-free red licorice, gluten-free animal crackers from Kinnikinnick, salt water taffy, Starbursts, and lollipops.


The Pure Pantry

Gluten-free Chocolate Cupcake Cones — a huge yummy hit!

The Pure Pantry

To Go Treat Bar

The Pure Pantry

Good old hotdogs — gluten-free

The Pure Pantry

Gluten-free Crunch Master crackers, gluten-free hummus, and veggies.

The carnival games were so much fun to create.    We had ring toss, tin can knockdown, horseshoe toss, squirt gun ball knockdown, apple bobbing, a “photo booth” and face painting.


Tin Can Knockdown


Apple Bobbing


Face Painting



Squirt Gun Knockdown


The Photo Booth


A very happy birthday boy!

With some help from my good friend Calli and my daughter Isabelle, we created all the fun signs with the Circus Font I downloaded from Pinterest and paper supplies from Paper-source.

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Gluten-free Chocolate Cupcake Cones

Saturday, March 15th, 2014


Gluten-free Chocolate Cupcake Cones

These cupcakes were the perfect birthday dessert for my six year old son’s carnival theme birthday party.  The kids loved them….and I think some adults too.

Dairy-free and Vegan optional

Makes 24 cupcakes


1 package “The Pure Pantry” gluten-free Dark Chocolate Cake Mix (link)

3 eggs or equivalent egg replacer

1 cup rice, almond, coconut or regular milk

½ cup safflower oil

1 cup boiling water

2 packages “Let’s Do Gluten-Free” ice cream cones

24 red M & M’s

1 recipe Heavenly Cream Cheese Frosting (link)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Follow directions on the chocolate cake mix package.
  3. Stand up ice cream cones in mini muffin tins.
  4. Fill with chocolate cake mix leaving ¼ inch from the top of the cone.  Do not over fill or they will become volcano cupcakes (hum maybe another idea for later)!
  5. Place in oven and bake for 20-22 minutes, until cupcake inserted with toothpick comes out clean.   Remove from oven and let cool.
  6. Prepare frosting recipe.   I used the disposable frosting bags to make the clean up nice and easy.  Fit the bag with a star tip. (see image).
  7. Frost each cupcake in a swirling motion to look like a soft serve ice cream cone.  Top each with a red M & M.  You could also top with a maraschino cherry that has been well drained and patted dry with paper towels.
  8. I left the majority of the cupcakes standing in the mini cupcake tin.  I placed the cupcake tin on a rectangular white platter and covered the cupcake tin and platter with M & M’s.  The kids scooped up the candies and put more on their cupcakes which was a fun sight to see!


Hooray for gluten-free ice cream cones!  I bought these at Whole Foods.


Carefully fill each cone to the line that is about 1/4 inch below the top.  Bake, cool and frost!
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10 Steps to “Going Gluten-Free”

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

By Elizabeth Kaplan

G-Get a blood test before you go gluten-free.
L-Learn to cook and eat together as a family.
U-Understand what gluten is and where it is found.
T-Take supplements to support your health.
E-Eliminate all gluten from your pantry.
N-Natural Food Stores and Farmers’ Markets are your new BFF’s.
F-Focus on whole foods diet.
R-Read labels.
E-Enjoy eating out, with caution.
E-Embrace the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle.

Get a blood test before you go gluten-free.
See your health care practitioner before you eliminate gluten completely. A person seeking diagnosis MUST be following a daily diet that contains gluten for at least 4 weeks in order for test results to be accurate. Specific antibody blood tests are the initial step in screening for Celiac disease.  Further testing options can be decided upon with your doctor after the blood test.

Learn to cook.

Our society has become reliant on fast food drive-throughs and take-out joints, and dependent upon packaged and prepared foods for daily sustenance.   According to the National Restaurant Association,  69 percent of adults surveyed said “purchasing meals from restaurants, take-out and delivery places makes it easier for families with children to manage their day-to-day       lives” — not proof that they never cook, but that they would prefer not to.     According to a 2009 CBS News Report, only 17% of families surveyed had home cooked meals together 7 nights a week, and only 23% had home cooked meals 4-5 nights a week.

Convenience comes at a cost.  Serious health issues including rampant type II diabetes, increased heart disease, and obesity are plaguing our society.   When you are gluten-free, stepping back from society’s pull to eat all things convenient is a not only a healthy step for the aforementioned reasons, it is an assurance that your diet will be free of the allergens you must avoid.   Most convenience foods are laden with gluten, high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified ingredients, sodium, and preservatives.   Learning to prepare healthy meals for you and your friends and family will bring the joy of eating back into your family’s life and keep everyone healthy.  Check out The Pure Pantry cooking class schedule here: (link)

Understand what gluten is and where to find it.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  Oats contain gluten through cross contamination.  It is surprising to find out how many food items contain gluten.  In addition to wheat, barley, rye and oats, many food additives contain hidden sources of gluten.

  • Barley Malt
  • Modified food starch
  • Malt Vinegar
  • “Natural” flavorings
  • Packaged mixes and spices
  • Soy sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Vanilla flavoring

Take supplements to repair the damage and support your health.
When you first get your blood panel done you will find out from your health care practitioner if you have deficiencies.  The gut is most likely not able to break down foods appropriately as it is healing from the injury caused by gluten.

Whether you’ve been living with gluten intolerance or celiac disease for a short or long period of time, attention should be paid to healing the lining of your gut as well as boosting your immune system.  Often those with celiac disease have deficiencies in iron, magnesium, calcium and other minerals due to lack of absorption in the gut.  In addition to adding healing foods such as whole/organic/ unprocessed foods, and high-quality fats and oils, talk to your health care practitioner about adding in the following supplements to boost your body’s ability to heal, rebuild and sustain optimal health:  silica, multi-mineral, aloe vera, L-Glutamine, probiotics, and iron if anemic.

Eliminate all gluten from your life.
Time to clean out the pantry!   Remove from your pantry and refrigerator of all items containing wheat, rye or barley and oats.  This includes many breakfast cereals, pancake mixes, cake, cookie mixes, breads, frozen dinners, frozen waffles, salad dressings, soy sauce and anything with soy sauce in it, bar-b-que sauces, marinades, snack foods such as crackers, some chips, protein bars.  A full list of gluten containing foods is available at:

Natural food stores and Farmers’ Markets are your new BFF’s.
Shopping at a traditional grocery store is difficult and frustrating when you are hunting for gluten-free items.  Alternatively, Natural food stores are geared toward accommodating gluten-free shoppers.  Many stores have “gluten-free” shelf tags to help shoppers locate gf options.  Shopping at the Farmer’s Market is a shopping “experience”, an opportunity to reconnect both with the food you eat, and the people who grow it.  See “Farmers’ Market Has Multiple Benefits for Gluten-free Families” blog entry.

Focus on a whole foods diet.

“What can I eat if I can’t eat pasta, bread, donuts, and all my other favorite foods!”   If this is what you are thinking, you are a perfect candidate for the gluten-free diet as you have been focusing on a carb centered diet and most likely not getting the nourishment you need from nature’s bounty.

A healthy gluten-free diet is based on whole gluten free grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and good fats/oils.  Eating whole foods and avoiding packaged foods will keep your diet healthy.


 What are most nutritional food for people with gluten intolerance?


Grains and Flours:


Rice: go for a variety, from brown to wild rice but beware of too much white rice consumption as it spikes blood sugar levels

  • Gluten free pasta: go for the wholegrain varieties
  • Gluten free cereals with flax, buckwheat, brown rice
  • Quinoa: versatile and a complete source of protein
  • Chia seeds: high in antioxidants, fiber and omega-3’s.

Most beneficial for individuals with celiac disease:

  • Flax meal- high in Omega 3 fatty acids, protect stomach lining
  • Buckwheat-high in protein, fiber and essential amino acids


Fresh fruits – all varieties
Most beneficial for individuals with celiac disease:

  • Avocado- high in Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Acai Berry and Blueberries- high in antioxidants
  • Pomegranate- potent antioxidant, cancer fighting, brain and heart health

Nuts and seeds:

Almonds and walnuts; pumpkin, sunflower, flax and chia seeds
Most beneficial for individuals with celiac disease:

  • Almonds – anti-inflammatory, high in vit E for healthy skin and hair, reduces blood cholesterol


Fresh vegetables – all varieties

Most beneficial:

  • Spinach- for blood, brain and heart health, cancer fighting elements, rich in carotenoids, iron, folic acid
  • Garlic- cancer fighting, intestinal health, infection fighting
  • Tomatoes- cancer fighting agent lycopine, anti-oxidants, carotenoids.
  • Broccoli- high in fiber, high in cancer preventing anti-oxidants, high in calcium


All varieties of beans and lentils; when making from scratch be sure to soak your beans before cooking and add in kombu (a sea vegetable, available in the Asian foods section) to make the bean more digestible and to impart extra minerals.
Most beneficial for individuals with celiac disease

  • Lentils- highest in fiber -15.6 grams of fiber in 1 cup cooked


Organic and/or grass fed meat and poultry, wild caught fish
Beans, lentils and high protein vegetables for vegans/vegetarians
Most beneficial for individuals with celiac disease

  • Wild caught salmon – high in protein, omega fatty acids for brain health

Oils and Fats

Olive oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, flax oil, borage oil, (Udo’s blend contains gluten – beware)
Most beneficial

  • Olive Oil- cancer fighting, brain health, intestinal health
  • Coconut Oil – contains lauric acid which promotes healthy bacteria in the gut

Dairy (if tolerant)

  • Yogurt with probiotics – promotes intestinal health, reduces inflammation, calcium rich, protein
  • Goat & feta cheeses – high in calcium, easier to digest
  • Coconut milk products

Read Labels.

Many manufacturers are now labeling their products “gluten free,” so look for this on packaging.  Remember to be a vigilant reader because allergen labeling is currently voluntary for manufacturers.  You will find this information under the list of ingredients on a product.  But beware,  just because it is labeled GF doesn’t mean it’s a healthful choice.  And just because it’s labeled gluten-free doesn’t mean you won’t have reactions.  Many gf labeled products are processed in equipment that also processes wheat products.  Cross contamination is often a problem.

Enjoy Eating Out – with Caution.
Thank goodness many restaurants are starting to provide gluten free menu items. You still need to be careful about cross contamination.  Everyone has different levels of sensitivity, but if a restaurant uses the same grill or pans as gluten containing foods, you may feel the effects.    Some tips for eating out:
Search the web for gf restaurants.  There are many sites that help gf diners find a place to eat.
Talk to the waiter.  Ask what the gf options are on the menu.  Many restaurants now have a gf menu and have trained their servers to be aware of special dietary needs.
Make or purchase a dining card that indicates your food allergies – hand this to the food server and ask him/her to show it to the chef.    These are available at:

Embrace the benefits..
You’ll now be a conscious shopper and eater!  Creating a conscious lifestyle is not about deprivation, but rather abundance.  Look at this challenge as an opportunity to nourish yourself with better quality foods than you were previously using in your diet.

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If You Are What You Eat, Where Do You Shop?

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Farmers’ Markets Offer Families with Food Allergies a Bounty of Options
by Elizabeth Kaplan

For kids with allergies, shopping with mom or dad at a traditional grocery store can be very disheartening.  The majority of prepared and processed foods available have gluten, soy, dairy, nuts or eggs in them making it difficult to shop.  Not only do children feel left out, their parents often feel frustrated too.  Weaning your children from processed and prepared foods is one of the 10 Steps to “Going Gluten-Free” and a great way to kick the habit is to concentrate on a diet centered on whole foods by shopping at farmers’ markets.

At a farmers’ market you are presented with nature’s seasonal bounty.  There are no flashy cereal boxes or sugary snacks tempting your children, no scary chemical ingredients lacing the foods, and there are limited offerings which makes choosing something easier.  You are tempted by the smells and tastes of fresh, local produce and artesian foods.  Shopping and eating are just part of the fun. With a little preparation, you can turn any trip to the farmers’ market into an educational experience for your children while exposing them to a world of whole food choices that are free from all the bad stuff.

Here are some ideas for making your trip to farmers’ market an exciting adventure for kids, and give you time to enjoy the surroundings yourself.

Farmers’ Market Kid’s Activities:

1. Develop a list of questions for farmers: Young children often do not understand that some fruits grow on trees, some on vines, and others on bushes. The other day my three year old said, “We should plant a peach bush.”  Obviously he’s never seen a peach tree.  Talk to your kids about where and how different fruits and vegetables grow.  Play a question and answer game as you walk through the market to help them identify how fruits and vegetables grow.

2. Create a menu: As you are strolling around the farmers’ market, pick up a variety of ingredients to make a special family meal.  Have your children look at all the possibilities and come up with ideas.  See our family’s Farm to Table Sunday Supper Menu. (hyperlink)

3.  Give your kids some money to spend:  Our kids love to spend money, so we give them each $5 to choose what they’d like to purchase for their snacks and lunches.  While enhancing their math skills, they are also gaining confidence in decision making and social interaction.  Make sure your child is able to ask if an item is “gluten-free” or free from any other allergies he/she has.

4.  Find and purchase an unusual fruit or veggie: Have your kids help you find some produce that you would not normally eat. Buy it, take it home, and have the kids help cook it for dinner. This is a great way to get your family to try a variety of different foods.

5. Get artistic: Place all your beautiful produce in a basket.  When you get home give your children paper, colored pencils, watercolors or other art supplies and have them draw a still life of your farmers’ market basket.

6. Engage your children in cooking: You’ve planned the menu, purchased the food, now have your children help make the meal.  Children as young as three can help by washing produce, stirring, measuring, fetching items from the pantry, and setting the table. Older kids (10 and up) can chop produce, stir the pot, and help clean up by cleaning the counter and doing the dishes.
Shopping together at the Farmer’s Market is an opportunity to reconnect both with the food you eat, and the people who grow it. The more you can engage your kids in selecting, buying, preparing and cooking real, sustainable, non-processed, allergen-free foods, the better equipped they’ll be to make wise food choices in the future. The fact that you’ll be teaching your children to cook is just icing on the organic gluten-free carrot cake!

Take the fast food free pledge with your family, check out this site developed by a 12 year old~

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Farmer’s Market: Summer’s Bounty Has Multiple Benefits for Gluten-free Families

Monday, August 1st, 2011

On weekends, as a family outing, we like to visit the local Farmers’ Markets.  Today we went to the Del Mar Flower Hill Farmer’s Market .   For under $25.00, we picked up a cornucopia of fresh vegetables and fruits.   I am excited to share our Sunday Super Farm to Table Menu with you, prepared from the bounty of produce we purchased at the Farmers’Market.

A tour of any Farmers’ Market provides home cooks with inspiration.  Seeing nature’s fresh bounty, speaking with the vendors about how to prepare various offerings, and getting hungrier by the minute due to all the temptations, can put anyone in creative cooking mode.  But for gluten-free families, the experience of taking your children to the Farmers’ market is especially rewarding.  Children learn about many foods that are naturally free of gluten, they get excited to see, taste and smell the farm fresh produce, understand what foods can be grown locally, find out about sustainable farming practices  and get inspired to learn to cook.  In addition to produce, Farmers’ Markets often have gluten-free baked goods and breads, fresh fish, and jams, olives, pesto sauces and other artesian items that are naturally gluten-free.

Shopping and buying your food at a Farmers’ Market can help improve the nutrition of your family too. Many of the farmers harvest their produce the morning of the market so you will be getting the freshest and ripest foods possible. This also means that the food will taste, look, and smell the best and these foods will be higher in nutrients like phytochemicals which can protect against certain cancers.  Even your picky eaters will try new foods when they are able to pick them out from the farm stand.

This week our first stop was the Shroom Shack where dried and fresh mushrooms  were for available.    Shroom Shack sells gorgeous mushrooms at 10 farmer’s markets from San Juan Capistrano to San Diego.   Usually my children do not want to touch mushrooms, but after seeing all the varieties, funky shapes, and speaking with the kind vendor, they were excited to purchase a pint size medley mushroom basket and a container of dried morels and porcinis.   My Lentil Porcini Mushroom Risotto dish will be a great mid-week dish along with a green salad.

Our next stop was Behneman Farms, a local farm that grows organic fruits and vegetables.  Here we picked up blackberries and nectarines for a Fruit Crisp.

We also bought enormous leeks, only $1.00 for two, organic white potatoes— put those together and what do ya got? Potato Leek Soup, or served cold, Vichyssoise.

The avocados and citrus lined up together reminded us of a salad we make frequently that is featured in my cookbook.  It’s called Ensalada Verano.  After sampling one of the juicy oranges,  we decided to make a salad featuring citrus and avocado.   We also purchased cucumbers  and beautiful baby Roma tomatoes for the salad and for snacks throughout the week.

Shopping together at the Farmer’s Market is an opportunity to reconnect both with the food you eat, and the people who grow it. The more you can engage your kids in selecting, buying, preparing and cooking real, fresh, sustainable food, allergen-free foods, the better equipped they’ll be to make wise food choices in the future. The fact that you’ll be teaching your children to cook is just icing on the organic gluten-free carrot cake!

I am excited to share our Sunday Supper Farm to Table Menu using the bounty of produce we purchased on our family outing to the Farmers’ Market.

Sunday Supper: Farm to Table Menu
Potato Leek Soup
Farm Stand Salad with Balsamic Dressing
Peach-Green Chile Pulled Pork
Blackberry Nectarine Crisp

Potato Leek Soup
Gluten-free/Dairy-free Option/Vegan Option
Serves 4-6

4 medium leeks
2 celery ribs, including leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 medium yellow potatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups leek stock (made from leek stocks)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Tumeric
2 tablespoons butter, or butter substitute such as coconut oil
1/4 cup The Pure Pantry Organic All-Purpose Baking Mix
1/2 cup milk of choice, unflavored (rice, coconut, or regular 2%)


Cut off dark green stocks leek where it begins to turn pale green.  Wash stocks thoroughly.

Place in stock pot and cover with 6 cups water.  Add 2 ribs celery and 1 teaspoon salt.  Simmer over low heat for 1 hour.
Cut white part of leek in half.  Wash sliced leeks in a large bowl of cold water, separating layers with your figures to flush out the dirt.  Drain well in a colander.  Slice leeks into 1/2 inch pieces.

Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.  Place 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat.  Add olive oil, leeks and onion.  Sauté until onions are soft.   Add potatoes, salt, and pepper, wine, leek stock and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, about 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Discard bay leaf.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter (or butter alternative) in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook roux, whisking, until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups simmering stock (from soup), whisking vigorously (mixture will be thick), then whisk mixture into remaining soup and return to a simmer.  Whisk in milk of choice.
Blend soup in batches in a blender until smooth about 1 minute per batch, transferring to 4-quart saucepan. Serve chilled or hot.  If serving chilled, let soup cool to room temperature and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Farm Stand Salad
Serves 4
1 head red leaf lettuce
1 avocado
2 oranges
1 cucumber
1/2 cup Nicoise olives
6-8 baby heirloom tomatoes
1/4 cup goat feta cheese optional

Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe from “Fresh from Elizabeth’s Kitchen”
This is my time saving Balsamic Vinaigrette. I make a large batch every Sunday.

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon
1 cub Dorot basil*
1 cube Dorot garlic*
1 teaspoon raw agave nectar, preferably Nature’s Agave

Place all ingredients in blender and process on medium until emulsified.
Pour into container and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

*Dorot makes frozen herb puree cubes.  They are available at most natural food stores and Trader Joe’s.

Peach-Green Chile Pulled Pork

1– 2 1/2 – 3 lb. pork loin roast or pork shoulder roast
2 cups Pomegranate-Chipotle BBQ Sauce or store bought gluten-free BBQ sauce
1 nectarine, pit removed, roughly chopped
4  oz. can green chilies, chopped

Place pork shoulder in roasting pan (with lid).  Pour BBQ sauce over top.  Spread nectarine chunks over pork.  Add chopped green chilies.

Place in center of oven at 325˚ for 60 minutes.   Remove roast from over and turn over, ladle juices on top of meat.  Return to oven for 40 minutes.

Remove roast from oven.  With two forks, pull pork apart and stir pot to combine juices with sauce and meat.  If desired, stir in 2 more tablespoons BBQ sauce before serving.

Blackberry-Nectarine Crisp

A fantastic do-ahead dessert for entertaining or just the family.  Nectarine-Blackberry Crisp

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Snack Basket – A Cornucopia of Gluten-free Choices

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Snack Basket –  A Cornucopia of Gluten-free Choices

By Elizabeth Kaplan

“There is nothing to eat in this house,” says my twelve year old son,  just returning from a full day at school.

“Gee, I just spent $300 at the store, “ I reply, baffled that the starving child cannot find anything.

Take two, enter three year old son, “I’m hungry!” he says.  He opens the pantry door and starts pulling items off the shelf searching for something to snack on.   “I want this!” he says, holding up a bag of marshmallows left over from our camping trip. Why didn’t I dispose of those at the campsite?

Take three, fifteen year old daughter walks in the kitchen.  “Mom, can you make me a snack?”

“Not now honey, please help yourself to something,” I say as I am finishing up an email.

“There’s nothing to eat in this house,” she says as she gazes into the refrigerator.

This is a common scene in kitchens of families with growing children, especially when food allergies limit the choices they can have.  What I figured out was my children needed to find snacks in an organized place, otherwise they just did not know what to eat.   So along came the concept of the snack basket at home.  It sits on our counter.  Since I work, I restock it in the morning so that when the kids get home from school, it’s their go to place for something to tide them over until I muster up the energy to cook dinner.

What goes in the gluten-free, allergy-free snack basket?

Fresh Fruits: I always keep fresh, washed organic apples, banana, and oranges or whatever is seasonal as the main choice. Blueberries, cherries, strawberries and grapes  I’ll put in a small bowl within the basket.

Dried fruit and nuts: trail mix, (if your kids are nut free, there are some nut free trail mixes, try Enjoy Life’s) almonds and pistachios in the shell, dried apricots, dried apples and dried cranberries.   Purchase or make your own if you have a dehydrator.

Handy packaged snacks:  I usually do not purchase smaller packaged items for both earth’s sake and economics.  However, I have found that our 3 year old is under the impression that if it comes in a little box or fancy wrapper, it must be something special.  They are also so easy to have on hand for a grab and go snack.  So, I break down and purchase organic raisins in little packages and gluten-free bars, occasionally.  I also place organic fruit leathers in the basket.    Our three year old adores the fruit and veggie purees in squeezable bags.   The great thing about these is that your child is getting  two servings of fruit and/or veggies in one snack.  If your child isn’t keen on veggies, the blends of fruits and veggies have more of a fruit than a veggie taste and are also high in fiber.   The gluten-free bars that we enjoy are Luna’s gf varieties, Lara Bars and Zing bars. Since we have soy, peanut, dairy and gluten allergies in the house, it is difficult to find bars that don’t have at least one of these ingredients!

Oatmeal Cookies: loaded with fiber and low in sugar, Wholegrain Oatmeal Spice Cookies are great to keep on hand.  The children and I prepare them in mini format and freeze them.  One mini cookie (1/3 the size of a regular cookie) has only 20 calories,  less than .5  grams of fat, and 1 gram of sugar.  The kids know that they need to have one piece of fruit or a portion of nuts/trail mix before they can help themselves to one or two cookies.  (At least that is my belief, naïve as it may be.)  Another great recipe using the Oatmeal Spice Cookie Mix as a base is Cherry-Almond Oat Bars.  These bars boast healthy ingredients and are easy to prepare.  Children can easily make them on their own and ask parents for help to place them in the oven.  Recipe below.

Chex Mix:  For an after school treat or a party snack, I make Agave-Almond  Chex Mix, recipe below.  There are many varieties of Chex mix to create and kids have fun participating in the process.  I place some of it in a bowl in the snack basket and store the rest in an air-tight container.

Gluten-free PretzelsGlutino makes tasty gf pretzels in a variety of sizes and shapes.  They disappear very quickly at our house so I sometimes mix them into a Chex Mix to extend their life.

Creating a handy, organized space for snacks will help your children make healthy snack choices, ease the burden on parents of constantly being the short order cook, and help you to engage your children in preparing their own food.  Here are a couple of recipe ideas for snacks that you and your children can make together in large quantities and freeze, if desired.

Snack basket recipes:

Wholegrain Oatmeal Spice Cookies from The Pure Pantry

Gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free/vegan optional

All you need is:

1 package The Pure Pantry Wholegrain Oatmeal Spice Cookie Mix

¾ cup butter or coconut oil,

2 eggs (or egg replacer)

1 teaspoon vanilla.

Add raisins if you like.

Directions are on the package.

Simple and satisfying.



Cherry-Almond-Oat Bars

 Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, Vegan optional


1 package gluten-free Oatmeal Spice cookie mix from The Pure Pantry

½ cup orange juice

½ cup raw agave nectar

1 large egg beaten (or equivalent egg replacer)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or coconut oil

1 cup chopped raw almonds

¼ cup ground flax meal or ground almond meal

½ cup dried cherries (can substitute dried cranberries, blueberries or raisins)


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Spray an 8 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place Oatmeal Spice cookie mix in large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and add the orange juice, agave nectar, egg, oil and whisk until just combined.  Stir in almonds and dried cherries (or other option).
  3. Spread the batter evenly in the pan to the edges.  Bake until lightly browned, about 25 minutes.  Cool in the pan.  Invert onto a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 bars.  Wrap individually in foil or plastic wrap.  Bars can be stored in airtight container for up to a week and can be frozen for up to three months.


Agave -Almond Chex Mix

Image courtesy of General Mills Chex Recipes

Gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free


6 cups gluten-free Rice Chex or Honey Nut Chex

1 cup dried banana chips

1 cup whole raw almonds

¼ cup butter or coconut oil

1 tablespoon coconut sugar or brown sugar

¼ cup raw agave nectar

1  teaspoons ground ginger (optional)

1 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened)

½ cup dried cranberries, pineapple, or papaya


  1. In a large skillet melt butter or coconut oil with brown sugar and agave over medium heat, stir in ground ginger until mixture comes to a boil.
  2. Place cereal, banana chips, and almonds in skillet and stir until evenly coated for about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in coconut and dried fruit and continue stirring over medium heat for 3 minutes until cereal begins to brown.
  4. Spread on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper to cool.   Store in covered container.
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Just say Porcini

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I love risotto.  I love lentils and I love porcini mushrooms.  They all came together last night in our dinner, and everyone, including the anti-mushroom crew, loved it.  You may wonder how I got children to eat Lentil-Porcini Risotto?  Well, first, I never used the word mushroom.  I just said “porcini” and they thought I was saying something very sophisticated and Italian and so it must be good.  Yes, I have raised them to appreciate all things Italian….but I knew mushrooms would be hard to sell in this traditional Italian dish.  So, here it is and just keep in mind, if you have children, chop the porcinis finely and they blend right in. 

Lentil-Porcini Risotto: gluten-free, dairy-free optional

1 cup French Puy lentils
.5 ounces (14 g)  dried porcini mushrooms
3 cups gluten-free vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
¼ cup dry red wine
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
¼ cup grated Parmesan, optional

Place lentils in small pot with water to cover.  Boil for 10-15 minutes, until tender.  In another small pan, heat vegetable stock.  Place dried porcini mushrooms in a heatproof small bowl.  Pour ½ cup boiling water over them and let them stand for about 10 minutes. 

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat olive oil and add chopped onion and garlic.  Sauté until soft, about 6 minutes.  Add rice and stir over low heat until all rice grains have been coated with oil.  Add one cup hot vegetable stock, folding gently so grains will not break. Simmer for about 6 minutes. 

Drain cooked lentils.  Add lentils to rice mixture.  Pour liquid from mushrooms into rice over a small sieve.  Place softened porcinis on cutting board and finely chop.  Place in bowl and set aside. 

Continue adding stock to rice, one cup at a time, and gently stirring it into the rice as it cooks over low heat, until all liquid is absorbed.  Add wine, chopped porcini mushrooms and salt.  Gently stir until liquid is absorbed.  Fold in grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Key points to remember when choosing foods to feed our brains.

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Key points to remember when choosing foods to feed our brains:

-good fats, in the form of omega-3 fatty acids, create and build healthy cells in our brain;

-amino acids from proteins create the neurotransmitters so our brain can receive valuable info from other parts of our body;

-carbohydrates, broken down into glucose, provide the fuel to feed our brain; and

-micronutrients, in the form of antioxidants, help to defend our brain from damage and potential dysfunction.

The following are several food suggestions to incorporate into your diet to keep your brain functioning at its best:

*Eggs:  Egg yolks contain some of the best quality fats as well as choline, one of the superstar brain nutrients. Choline is necessary to produce acetylcholine, which plays a critical role in memory. (Studies have linked acetylcholine deficiences to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.)  So go ahead and eat the whole egg!

*Quality Oils: Olive, Walnut, Avocado, Flax:  These oils are far superior to canola, corn and soy oils, which contain Omega-6 fats rather than the Omega-3 fatty acids.

*Tempeh:  Tempeh is a smart protein that helps stabilize your blood sugar. And because it’s derived from fermented soy, you get an extra health boost! You can also get a brain boost from grass-fed beef, which provides plenty of energizing and balancing B vitamins.

*Flax Seeds:  Flax seeds are a true super food. Flax seeds are literally made of nothing but fiber, vitamins, and Omega-3’s. (Flax seeds are a must for vegetarians!)

*Beans:  Beans contain B vitamins, “slow burning” carbohydrates, and plenty of fiber. Fiber has been shown to improve cognition.

*Greek Yogurt:  Yogurt contains an amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine perks you up and improves mental alertness. Avoid flavored yogurts with added sugar – add in your own fruit and nuts and sweetener.

*Vegetable-Packed Salad:  A big, flavorful salad is full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Your brain really loves antioxidants C and E, so pack your salads with nuts, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, bell peppers, broccoli and fruit, too.

*Strawberries and Blueberries:  These fruits contain antioxidants that help boost cognition, coordination, and memory. Eat some berries daily if you can! They go great with yogurt, on cereal, in salads, in smoothies, etc.

*Nuts and seeds:  Trail mix comprising a mix of your favorite nuts and seeds makes a great snack. Not only will the sensible mix of fiber, protein, and fat stabilize flagging blood sugar, but the vitamins and minerals in nuts (B, E, magnesium, and more) are excellent for your brain.  Remember:  soaking raw nuts increases their protein content by half and decreases their fat by two-thirds!

*Oily fish:  This is probably the single most important element required for optimal brain health. The brain is 60% fat, but it doesn’t like processed fats, trans fat, or Omega-6 fats. Your brain needs those Omega-3’s! Oily fish like wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, and tuna contain DHA (docosahexanoic acid), the best form of Omega-3. Increased Omega-3 intake has been linked to alleviation of a spectrum of mental health concerns, from anxiety and irritability to depression and even schizophrenia. Enjoy those fatty, oily fishes!


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