Month: June 2015

6 Gluten-free vegan snacks

6 Gluten-free vegan snacks

Being a gluten-free vegan means that quite a few go to snacks, even healthy ones, are not an option for me. I cannot eat gluten nor dairy due to allergies, and I am also a very picky eater when it comes to flavors and textures. Trying to find a go to snack that is healthy, fills me up is not always easy, and satisfies cravings is not always easy. So here are some of my favorite snacks, in no particular order.

Disclaimer: I have found the following snacks work with my diet and food allergies; however, this is not a guarantee that others, who may be more sensitive to these allergens or allergic to other ingredients (corn, soy, nuts, etc.), will not have a reaction. Always carefully read the ingredients before purchasing any product.

Bobo’s Oat Bars

bobos A few months ago, one of the restaurants on campus, called Engrained, held an Earth Day fair with a wide variety of displays. There was everything from a game picking litter out of a tub to “save” the little rubber duckies, to planting your own basil seeds to grabbing free healthy food samples. That was when I discovered the amazingly moist, absolutely delicious, and quite filling Bobo’s Oat Bars. Since then, the campus store has also sold them either as individual bars or in boxes of five “bites”. A bite is half the size of a bar, and I actually prefer the bites.

Strangely enough, I usually have a hard time eating oats, but these little bites: I love them! They are great for a mid-afternoon snack or even a substitute for lunch on a busy day (supplemented with a banana and apple). I have only tried the original, but there are quite a few flavors to choose from. They may be small, but they are surprisingly filling. I also feel great after eating them, which I cannot say about a lot of pre-packaged items.

South Beach Diet Gluten-Free Chewy Nut Bars: Chocolate Chip

ChocolateChunkChewyNut The reason I love shopping at the 99 Cent Store is that you never know what usually expensive food items they may have. A few months ago, and a few times since, a store near me has had boxes of the South Beach Diet Gluten-Free Chewy Nut Bars, chocolate chip flavor. I tried them at first as a quick snack for a camping trip we were about to go on, and since then I have tried to keep at least one box of twelve in my cabinet at all times. I do not eat them often, but they are fabulous snacks to take on a hike or camping or when I know I might need a light afternoon snack to hold me over until dinner.

Though it is chocolate chip, it is completely dairy-free! This means I can get just a taste of chocolate, which is extremely rare for me these days. They are so yummy that just the other day, I caught Bradley eating one of these instead of one of his usual granola bars.

Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Cakes

lundbergricecakes Perhaps my absolute favorite snack on this list, I love Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Cakes. Rice cakes are great snacks, either alone or with peanut butter on top. I try to keep a package of these in my office, and I love to take them on road trips. On our second honeymoon last summer to the Redwoods, brown rice cakes, peanut butter, and honey were life-savers for someone who cannot always find allergy-friendly food at restaurants or when your hotel has no microwave so you can prepare your own safe meal. There were a few days that I pretty much survived off these and some brown rice/lentil soup mix I heated up in a tiny cockpot warmer using the car’s battery while we drove. It was an adventure, a fantastic trip, but I definitely lost weight.

I have heard many people say negative things about rice cakes in general, but for me personally Lundberg’s brand is quite delicious. For those who do not like the taste of plain or lightly salted rice cakes, they also have a wide variety of flavors. So far, I have tried both the mochi sweet and the koku seaweed, though the slightly salt brown rice is still my favorite of all.

Nice! Whole Cashews (roasted)

nice-cashews I am not the biggest nut fan, but two kinds I particularly love are almonds and cashews. I prefer my nuts whole, roasted and lightly salted with sea salt. Most nuts are just too salty or oily for me. Nice! Whole Cashews (roasted) lightly salted with sea salt from Walgreens are a tad expensive for a small bag, but they are quite tasty. The perfect balance of roasted and a dash of sea salt. For someone like me who does not eat nuts a lot, it is worth having in my office stash for a quick snack.

Hummus

sabrahummus I absolutely adore hummus, and I can remember the very first time I had it. My family and I were driving across the United States along I-40 and we were starving. We stopped at a Walmart right off the interstate, grabbed hot bread from the bakery (this was before I stopped eating gluten) and a container of creamy Sabra hummus. It was delicious and I have been hooked ever since. I have gotten my husband and a few friends hooked on hummus, too!

I enjoy homemade hummus but often do not have the time to make it. We also buy a different brand of hummus from the 99 Cent Store, but Sabra is still my favorite brand due to the creamy texture and the lack of a tahini after taste. (Often times, I find other brands use too much tahini and I actually do not care for that heavy tahini taste.) There are plenty of different flavors, but our favorites are: roasted red pepper, pine nut, and garden herb. Hummus is fantastic on toast, on artisan style bread, pretzels, tortilla chips, or even plain potato chips! As I cannot eat bread and I’m limiting corn, I usually eat it with veggie sticks, potato chips, or Beanitos.

Beanitos

beanitos Speaking of, my absolute favorite chip is Beanitos, made from beans and allergy friendly. These bags are usually quite expensive so I tend to be very disciplined when enjoying them. (Alas, it is heart-breaking, but I manage to survive.) Imagine my delight when I found a whole bunch of the Black Bean Beanitos at the 99 Cent Store. I stocked up on a six month’s supply (limiting myself to just one bag a week)! Sadly, my stockpile is now depleted so I must once again pay the original prices. Still, they are worth every penny. (I am keeping my eyes open every time I visit the 99 Cent Store just in case I see them again.) My favorite flavors are the Restaurant Style (White Beans) and the Original Black Bean.

Conclusion

There you go: six vegan, gluten-free snacks that I enjoy! Due to my diet, I eat fruit and veggies a lot, more veggies than fruit to be honest. I am actually not much of a fruit eater, but I do try to eat bananas, green apples, grapes, and strawberries somewhat regularly. Sometimes I crave carbs and starches, something a little more filling and satisfying to the tastebuds. These snacks help satisfy these cravings.

Do you have a favorite snack? Do you have a special diet or food allergies you have to work with?

Are we raising a generation addicted to technology?

Are we raising a generation addicted to technology?

addictedtotechnology Last month, CNN Money published an article titled Kids do a lot better when schools ban smartphones. It summarizes a study conducted in England with how students’ national exam scores improved or not in relation to the school’s phone policies. The results found that “following a ban on phone use, the schools’ test scores improved by 6.4%. The impact on underachieving students was much more significant – their average test scores rose by 14%.”

The take away could be stated in this manner: the prevalence of technology in our modern lives can distract from the learning process.

This is not really a surprise but more of a confirmation of what many of us have already begun to witness, either in our own lives or the lives of others. Sure, some of us are better equipped to handle this distraction than others, but unfortunately, many will experience undue hardships because of these needless distractions.

Those of us fortunate enough to have been born before the explosion of personal digital devices remember a childhood filled with reading physical books, doing physical activities, playing board games, using our imaginations to create our own scenarios to act out, and having to put a little more effort into learning. On occasion we might sit down and watch some cartoons, a favorite show or a family movie, but we did not “zone out” in front of the idiot box (as my parents like to call television) for more than four hours a day.

Now, with game devices for toddlers, computer access for elementary school students, and smartphones for middle schoolers… childhood has become a time where children become reliant on digital technology to keep them entertained twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Also, who needs to read, learn, recite, memorize, and put into practice information taught in school when all you need to do is Google it and you instantly have more information regarding that topic that any one person wants and/or needs?

I have noticed how social media in the last six years has begun to re-shape human interactions. Even among adults who should know better, we are seeing a startling increase in “speaking” before considering the ramifications of our choice of words, tone, or intent, because the consequences are not as apparent when we are hiding behind a computer screen. Bullying among kids and teens has also escalated, not necessarily in number, but in cruelty and far-reaching effects. While before, a teen might have a problem with a small group of peers, now those peers could spread the bullying through social media, text messaging, etc. until the victim becomes ridiculed by a large number of people they may know (attend school with) and even complete strangers (cyber bullies). And in a world growing ever more superficial, many young girls are now basing their self-worth and self-esteem off how many “likes” they receive on photos they upload to Instagram or Facebook. An entire generation of youth is being raised devoid of natural human interactions.

In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that an entire generation of kids are being raised addicted to technology.

(Are you concerned your child is addicted to technology? Check out this article.)

And even adults are getting sucked into the never-ending black hole of the constant (and expensive) upgrading to better and newer technology. Before we even have the opportunity to master our new digital device, a newer and more improved version is being released and pressure from marketing and our peers often steer us to move on. Smartphones, tablets, computers, Internet, BluRay, cable, satellite, live streaming, GPS, WiFi access in our cars… Why can we not be satisfied with what we currently have as long as it functions as desired? What are our actions teaching our children?

Let me interject by saying: I appreciate technology. I was fourteen when I first dove into the amazing world of the Internet and even began building my first web site. Throughout high school and college, I was an active blogger and met many great people through the precursors of modern social media: web site circles, email groups, forums, message boards, LiveJournal, etc. Today, I am enjoying a career as a web site developer and currently work for a large university.

Technology in and of itself is not evil, it is just a tool, but is how we are using it and how we are allowing children to use it creating a situation in which technology will be misused, abused, and even over-used? Without a doubt, the answer is “Yes”.

I use Facebook and Twitter daily, I still blog often, but I have also decided that I cannot and will not center my entire life around technology and social media. My self-worth and self-esteem is not and will never be dictated by strangers on the other screen of a screen.

I am a human being, a precious child of God, and a woman with an intellectual and creative mind. I choose to utilize technology for the good it can do but limit its influence on my life and the life of my family.

Should I be blessed with children in the future, my goal would be to teach them how to use technology as the tool it was intended to be but not to become dependent upon it. Let us go back to carefree childhoods of imaginative play, of creative endeavors, of reading books, of talking to and interacting with other people face-to-face and in the flesh, of taking walks at sunset, of chasing fireflies or catching grasshoppers, of drawing pictures with crayons, of building castles or cars from legos.

Let us raise our children free: free from the bondage of technology.

De Motte Rice

De Motte Rice

Taking in the view of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim. 2015.
Taking in the view of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim. 2015.

On our recent trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I created my very own, brand new rice dish that is fast and easy enough for camping and delicious enough for a regular meal at home.

I named it De Motte Rice, in honor of the campground in the Kaibab National Forest where it was invented. With basically three ingredients and some seasoning to taste, this is a quick and easy recipe ideal for camping but can also be enjoyed at home.

De Motte Rice by Jacquelyn Van Sant

Gluten-free, vegan

Ingredients

3 cups pre-cooked brown rice (we used Minute Instant Brown Rice)
1 can of lentil soup (we used Progresso Vegetable Classics 99% Fat Free Lentil Soup, 19 oz)
1 can of diced green chiles, 4 oz, medium (we used Ortega)
Sea Salt
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Salsa/Taco Bell sauce (optional)

Instructions

Mix pre-cooked brown rice, lentil soup, and green chiles in a pan. If camping, cook over an open fire. If at home, cook on medium-high. Add salt, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste. Stir often to prevent sticking. Cook until hot. Add either Taco Bell sauce packets or salsa if desired. Serve hot.

Servings: 4


Allergy Warning

Please check all ingredients for possible allergens before preparing for someone with a food allergy.

You can easily double (or triple) the recipe to feed more hungry mouths. I will probably make this for our next Pathfinder camping trip. If the medium green chiles are too spicy, use mild; however, the medium gives just the right amount of “kick” to the food. I think we accidentally used hot with ours and it was a little too spicy. Be generous with the seasonings; even when you are camping, food should have great flavor!

Perhaps it was the almost 9,000 foot elevation, the exhilarating hike we took that evening, or the cold night air, but both Bradley and I scarfed this rice dish down. There was none left! Camping is great fun, but due to my food allergies, I am always worrying if I will get enough to eat. This dish was perfect, simple, and tasty. This dish, packed with protein and fiber, really helped us get our energy back. Bradley loved it, and he is not gluten-free OR vegan OR that fond of rice!

Tips for campers:

  • Use a cast iron skillet if possible for best results (and a little extra iron in your diet!).
  • Pair with hotdogs roasted over an open fire. For the gluten-free vegans, LightLife’s Smartdogs cook up great.

 

The gourmet version
If you want to transform this quick and easy camping dish into something a little more fancy for a dinner at home, you can use homemade lentil soup, delicious Jasmine brown rice cooked in vegetable broth, mix in a dollup of Follow Your Heart Veganaise or Toffutti Better Than Cream Cheese, sprinkle with fresh parsley, and top with freshly made pico de gallo. It will taste delicious!

10 Life Skills I’ve Mastered or Failed

10 Life Skills I’ve Mastered or Failed

tenlifeskills Today on my lunch break, the article 10 Life Skills You Should Master by Age 30 caught my eye. I thought to myself: I am officially 31. I wonder how many of these skills have I already mastered. So I took the click bait and read the article. I was pleasantly surprised that nine of the ten skills listed were actually pretty good skills for any adult to have, and also that I need to work on a few of these myself.

So here are the ten life skills you should master by age 30 (or 31!) as well as honest commentary on whether I measure up. (How embarrassing!)

1. Changing a Flat Tire FAILED

I am ashamed to admit that I have never changed a flat tire before, and though I understand the general process of how it is done, I should probably practice actually doing it a few times just in case there is an emergency that requires it… Okay, okay. There is no way to talk my way out of this one. It is a big fail.

2. Repairing Your Pipes MASTERED (kind of)

I can and have unclogged drains, tightened leaky facets, fixed a non-flushing toilet, fixed a non-stop-running toilet, and what-not around my apartment and now rental home, but I have not gone so far as repairing the pipes themselves. I will leave that for my dad, the landlord, or a professional. I’m still counting this as mastered, though.

3. Assembling an Emergency Kit IN PROGRESS

Bradley and I have a first aid kit hanging in our laundry closet (center of the house, where you walk by all the time) as well as one always in the trunk of each vehicle. We also have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. However, we have not put together an official disaster emergency kit. Having a disaster emergency kit is a good idea and something on our to do list.

4. Mixing a Signature Cocktail N/A

This does not apply, as we do not consume alcohol.

I have been told, though, that I serve an amazing arrangement of gourmet hot chocolates, apple cider, and teas. Lemonade is a favorite in our household, especially fancy flavors like strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry. And one can never go wrong with a bottle of non-alcoholic Welch’s or Martinelli’s.

5. Mastering at Least One Dish MASTERED

I agree! Everyone – man or woman – should have the confidence to make at least one amazing dish. This comes in handy if your usual chef (whomever that may be) is sick, you are asked to bring something to a church, neighborhood, or office potluck, or you just want to amaze someone with your awesome culinary skills! If you really want to impress, learn a handful of dishes that match different occasions: a dish you can take to holiday parties, something to accommodate friends with food allergies, etc.

It is hard to go wrong if your repertoire includes a salad, a soup, a pasta, and a rice dish. My husband, who is not vegan nor vegetarian, loves my homemade gluten-free vegan mac and cheese, my dill stew with rosemary dumplings, and Pad Thai with peanut sauce. These are all recipes I found online and modified due to my food allergies. Also do not under-estimate the mind-blowing powers of the slow-cooker/crock pot. One of my most fabulous and successful recipes for Sabbath lunches with friends and family is a vegan pumpkin lasagna cooked in a crock pot for three hours. So simple yet delicious!

In the near future, I plan on sharing a few of my successful meals in a brand new column Recipes.

6. Wrapping a Present MASTERED

This is hilarious. My sister approached me only yesterday asking for my hep with wrapping a present for our young nephew. I was not able to help, but she did a good job anyway. Present wrapping is not always the easiest thing, but I can definitely wrap most gifts nicely! My tip for anyone struggling is to master the art of wrapping a square/rectangular box first. Then, if you ever find yourself with an odd-shape gift, you can always fall back on putting it in a box and then wrapping it!

7. Figuring Out the Tip MASTERED

Hint: Many smartphones and/or apps you already have installed on your phone have a tip calculator built in. I discovered that one of the apps I used all the time has a built-in tip calculator where you can choose your own percents (10%, 15%, 18%, 20%, whatever!) and also how many people to split it with. This is an invaluable tool!

8. Creating a Monthly Budget MASTERED

Our budget is not as nailed down as I would like, but I do track the money coming in and out pretty strictly. I keep a very generous “cushion” in the checking that I use as my own, pretend zero balance. This cushion is only to be used in case of emergencies (like car repairs, an unexpected bill, etc.) and not for everyday expenses. Then on a monthly basis: 10% automatically goes to tithes with a little extra for offerings, 10% automatically goes to the savings (not to be touched!), bills (one set at the beginning of the month and another in the middle of the month) are always paid immediately after the paychecks are deposited, and then normal living expenses (groceries, clothes, etc). At the end of the month, if there is any “extra”, it is moved over to the savings.

9. Effectively Packing Luggage MASTERED

As someone who moved fairly regularly growing up and also have gone on countless trips by air and by car, I am quite confident in my packing abilities.

10. Mending Clothing FAILED

I am sad to say that mending and sewing are not my area of expertise. Last year, the button of a brand new pair of dress pants popped off (the thread as loose apparently when I bought them), and I tried so very hard to re-attach the button. A week later, it fell off again. I am terrible at mending clothing. In fact, one favorite pair of black dress pants has a hole in the seam along the outside of the left thigh. I have temporarily mended it by using tiny black safety pins. *face palm*

So what is my tally when it comes to the ten life skills I should have mastered by age 30?

Mastered: 6
Failed: 2
In Progress: 1
Does not apply: 1

Hmm… It looks like I have a little work to do! How about you? Which life skills have you mastered?

Anniversary trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Anniversary trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Since moving to Arizona in late 2012, I have visited the South Rim of the Grand Canyon twice. The first time was in October 2013 when my close friends, Mary and Vanessa, flew out to visit me, and the second was April 2014 as part of my honeymoon with my wonderful husband. Bradley and I love visiting State and National Parks, and the plan for our first anniversary was to take a four day trip up to Utah and visit Brice Canyon. Unfortunately, I returned quite sick from Pathfinder’s camporee the weekend before our trip. I was sick for a week and had to take 4.5 days off from work. That disrupted our anniversary plans, but we’re flexible.

I saved up my vacation hours so Friday, May 29 through Sunday, May 31, we were able to go on a shorter, three-day trip up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We could not find lodging for a decent price, so a few days before we were set to leave, I suggested we camp instead. Camping with just the two of us, just like we have wanted to do for a year! We loaded up the Nisson xTerra with everything a couple would need for camping at high elevation and cold night temperatures: brand new instant tent, air mattress, warm double sleeping bag, extra blankets, a canopy (in case of rain), warm clothes, cooking sets, firewood, and more food than we probably needed. With no reservation anywhere and with a prayer, we were off on our adventure!

On the way up, we made use of our brand new annual National Parks access pass and stopped by Sunset Crater, a little north east of Flagstaff. We stretched our legs by walking around and taking pictures. Wehad visited Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Monument two summers ago when we were dating, so it was nice to see it again.

 

That evening, shortly before sunset, we found the last available campsite at De Motte Campground in Kaibab National Forest, just a few miles outside of the park’s entrance. Praise the Lord! There was a little path lined with stones and dandelions from the parking to the campsite itself. So quaint! We were able to pitch the tent and set up most things before dark. Then I prepared dinner over an open fire, and it was a lot of fun. I realized quickly that cooking on an open fire is fast. It is the clean up (all that black soot everywhere!) that is not as pleasant.

northrim_bible01 Sabbath morning, we are a hearty breakfast, set up the canopy after feel a few raindrops and had worship. We sang our favorite hymns – most had to do with nature like This Is My Father’s World and All Things Bright and Beautiful – and read the Bible. I read Psalm 104 and Bradley read from Job. After a quick lunch, we packed up the food and snacks for a picnic dinner, jumped in the xTerra and went down to the Grand Canyon. (We have a pass so we do not have to pay any fees.)

My favorite part was spending Sabbath afternoon up at Point Imperial (the highest point of the entire canyon at 8,803 feet above sea level). We had read Psalm 104 earlier as a devotional, which praises the Lord as Creator. It was fitting! Standing there overlooking a canyon that literally drops one mile below you was truly breathtaking! And you get a very real sense of how small, yet precious, you are.

northrim_03 We ate a picnic dinner looking out across the canyon to the Painted Desert. We hiked through the burn-lands in the backcountry. A fire in 2000 destroyed a large part of the Ponderosa forests. It is a little sorrowful to see the wide empty expanse of fallen trees dotted every so often with the burned-out trunks of old Ponderosas still standing like sentinels over the hills blanketed with new growth in the form of hordes of tiny aspens and thorn-brushes. It brought to mind the phrase: “Beauty for ashes.” We returned to the Point to watch the sun set and close out Sabbath listening to the ka-kaws of ravens and the finals calls of the songbirds.

Though the canyon and the park were beautiful, I also loved camping in the boreal forest with towering Ponderosa pines, bushy spruce, elegant firs, and white-trunked aspen. We saw easily over a hundred mule deer in the meadows and enjoyed listening to the machine-gun-like chattering of the Kaibab squirrels with their silvery tails. And birds… there were birds every where and of all kinds! The air was filled with melodious birdsong!

northrim_02 If you have children, I recommend the South Rim with their safety railings, paved trails, and shuttle buses that can take you from point to point. The North Rim is rugged and ideal for those who are up for picnic meals, hikes in high altitude, and driving quite a few miles along narrow, windy forest roads to get to the (far fewer) scenic views. You are almost at 9,000 feet; I experienced mild altitude sickness myself Sunday before we left due to the thinner air and probably going just a little too far on the hike the day before. The entire weekend, we hiked close to 8 or so miles.

Sunday morning while packing up camp, I was fatigued and light-headed with a faster-than-usual pulse, but that did not stop me from enjoying the canyon one more time… just at a slower pace and from a chair at the viewing deck of the Grand Canyon Lodge.

North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
View of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from the Lodge. May 30, 2015.