Tag: food allergies

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Almost five months ago, our little Peanut was born. (Six month update below.) I intended to breastfeed exclusively by nursing during my twelve week maternity/family leave and then nursing and pumping after returning to work. I did not need to think long and hard about the decision, I just knew that was what we would do. In fact, I was more nervous about picking out a pump then I was about nursing. I figured that mothers’ bodies naturally produce milk and babies instinctively know how to get the milk.

Unfortunately, our breastfeeding story did not go according to plan.

In fact, it turned out to be more of a journey than a story. Some parts are very challenging and others rewarding. So let me take you back to the beginning.

Peanut was born small. 4 pounds and 11 ounces, to be exact, though he dropped down to 4 lbs. 7 oz. after he had his first bowel movement. Though he was a mighty tiny thing — able to lift his head moments after birth — his small size created a challenge to nursing. We tried hard throughout the night and into the afternoon of Day 2 to get him to nurse even just a tiny bit to get the colstrum he needed, but he just could not get his tiny mouth around my large nipples.

Jacquelyn's baby at two days old and only 4 lbs 7 oz.
Peanut at two days old, the morning we were discharged from the hospital.

Around noon on Day 2, we had our first visit with the Lactation Consultant. She helped me position him, tried coaxing him, and then wrapped him onto my chest for skin-to-skin. She said not to worry and try nursing again in the evening, but I was starting to worry. Something just was not right. Babies are supposed to know how to nurse instinctively, right? I tried to put on a cheerful face when Bradley’s side of family came to visit, but when my parents came later, I shared with them my concerns. My mom tried to cheer me up.

That night, after quite a few more failed attempts to nurse, a nurse helped me select the right size flanges and pump the first time. We collected .5 ounce of colstrum and fed it to Peanut using a syringe. The next day, they were concerned that Peanut had not nursed even the tiniest bit. Due to his tiny size, he had to eat just once, even a tiny bit, before we would be given the all clear. If he did not eat and began to lose more weight, he might have ended up in the NICU.

Despite regularly pumping, after that first time, I was not getting enough colstrum to even get into a syringe to give him. Just a drop on my finger.

So the nurse brought us formula.

I was terrified.

Here I was, only three days into being a brand new mother to this tiny little fellow, and I was praying desperately that Peanut would eat something… anything. I barely slept that night. Lying on the bed with my hand in the bassinet to touch his leg, I just prayed. Please, Lord, let him eat a tiny bit, keep his blood sugars steady, and not let him loose any more weight.

I could not get him to eat from the bottle, the Lactation Consultant was able to get him to eat just a small amount, and a few hours later, my mom was able to get him to eat about 1 ounce. I was relieved yet still a little worried. I thought to myself: “Just once or twice on the formula, and then surely he’ll figure out how to nurse.” After all, he rooted for my breast, he put the tip of nipple in his mouth, he was was showing all of the right signs. Was it just his tiny size? Was I too big for his little mouth?

The Lactation Consultant visited again – a wonderful lady – and worked with us some more.

She then noticed something all of the rest of us missed: Peanut had a severe tongue-tie.

He could not lift his tongue nor move it forward, two motions vital to latch on the nipple and draw the colstrum/milk out. Until the tongue-tie was fixed, there would be no possible way for Peanut to nurse. Unfortunately, the hospital did not perform these minor surgeries anymore, and we would have to visit with a pediatrician after being discharged to arrange for the procedure. It could take days, maybe up to two weeks, before the tongue-tie was fixed!

I was disappointed.

Peanut would have to eat formula until the pumping resulted in actual colstrum/milk that I could give him and the tongue-tie was fixed. Now let me share a disclaimer: I know there are many reasons for mothers to formula-feed their babies. Sometimes it is by choice and sometimes it is the only option. I have nothing against anyone who uses formula. It just was emotionally disappointing for me to learn that, for reasons outside of our control, Peanut needed formula because it had been my desire to breastfeed. I had not even imagined a scenario that would make breastfeeding impossible.

On the day we were discharged from the hospital, my parents bought the pump that was recommended to us and I continued trying to pump every two-three hours. I was determined to get him off the formula and onto my colstrum/milk was soon as possible. Still nothing. By Day 5, my breasts were engorged as the colstrum began turning to milk but the pumping expressed nothing! I tried the electric pump, I tried hand expressing, I tried hot showers, I tried massages, I tried everything to get the milk to express. Nothing would come out! My poor breasts just kept getting bigger and more painful. It became agony to touch them, agony to move, agony to sleep!

At 3am during one of my unsuccessful pumping sessions, I searched the Internet for any piece of advice for how to get the milk to come out. I was terrified that I would end up with mastitis. Most sites and forums dealt with nursing or formula-feeding, and I was finding very little helpful information for pumping. Then I stumbled on to the Exclusive Pumping section of KellyMom.com and one of the first articles I read recommended ice on the breasts for 20 minutes before pumping to counteract the swelling and allow the milk to be expressed. That day at my parents’ house, I rolled two frozen water bottles all over my breasts for 20 minutes. It was sooo cold and hurt sooooo bad, but I was desperate.

That pumping session, I produced 10 ounces of transition milk and the engorgement was gone. I was so relieved that I cried. For the next five or six sessions, I had to roll the frozen water bottles on my breasts before pumping. Gradually, the milk began expressing without the need to freeze my breasts. It was nearing the end of Week 1, and I was finally producing milk. I was able to feed Peanut on mother’s milk and put the formula bottles away.

Though we saw the Pediatrician quickly, the soonest we could schedule Peanut’s procedure to correct the tongue-tie was at the very end of his second week. I was worried it had taken too long. He had been exclusively bottlefed (first formula and now with my milk), and I had heard of and read about “nipple confusion” where bottlefed babies are supposedly never able to nurse again. Fortunately, one of the nurses at the Pediatrician’s office told me that her son had been born with a tongue-tie that took almost a month to diagnosis and fix, and he went from bottlefed to nursing without a hitch. That gave me hope!

Jacquelyn's baby about a week old.
Little Peanut at about a week and a half old. He was still so tiny and thin, but that adorable smile!

Hope died during Weeks 3 and 4.

I was completely unprepared for the Week 3 growth spurt; I did not even know it existed. Week three rolled around and suddenly Peanut was ravenously hungry! I was not producing enough milk to satisfy him. I was determined, though. I pumped every two hours for anywhere between 20-30 minutes. I literally pumped my poor breasts raw and was in pain from blisters. I tried everything to produce more milk. Despite my valiant efforts, I could not keep up with him.

In the middle of the night, as Peanut cried in his bassinet for milk I did not have, my loving husband gently said: “I’m going to give him a bottle of formula.” He picked Peanut up and walked to the living room. I buried myself underneath the blankets and pillows and wept.

I was devastated.

The one thing that was supposed to be natural for every mother, I could not do. I could not provide enough milk for my baby. I had to resign myself to the fact that in addition to what I pumped, Peanut would need supplementing with formula. We bought a can of a standard formula (same brand as the hospital gave us since he did not seem to mind it). After a few days supplementing, I was growing concerned about using a milk-based formula.

You see, I have a severe dairy allergy.

While I was a little apprehensive that my son might have inherited this allergy from me, what really concerned me was that I was beginning to react to the powdered formula. It is impossible to scoop the powder from the can and get it into the bottle without spilling even a little bit. My hands were starting to react whenever the powder touched my skin (my hands would get red and itchy), and as I fixed a bottle, I noticed that some powder always gets into the air. I was concerned that I would accidentally breathe the powder and have an allergic reaction.

Now my allergy to dairy is not lactose intolerance. It is a severe allergy on the same level as many peanut allergies: even trace amounts of dairy will cause me to break out in hives, suffer bad itching fits, and experience respiratory difficulties (meaning I cannot breathe). This was not something to be taken lightly. I began researching non-milk based formulas, but most of the soy-based formulas were over 50% corn syrup. That did not seem right to me.

I did more research and remembered that my dad, when he was a newborn, could not have milk-based formula either. His parents had to give him goat’s milk, and he is one of the healthiest people I know. So I began looking up goat’s milk formula — extremely expensive and not always available — and found websites that shared how to make your own goat’s milk formula at home.

Since I was still pumping and the majority of Peanut’s nourishment was coming from my milk, I just needed something to supplement with. I gave Peanut goat’s milk and waited. He seemed fine and his appetite was finally appeased. Then my mom helped us mix up a batch of goat’s milk that was fortified with some additional nutrients.

Towards the end of Week 4, my husband also found Earth Mama Angel Baby Milkmaid Tea at our local Target. I began drinking it twice a day, and my milk production increased significantly. Soon, we no longer needed to supplement with goat’s milk. A little while after that, I was expressing enough extra milk to start filling up the freezer to use later when I returned to work.

Throughout the first month while all of these things were happening, I was still trying to nurse Peanut. Every other day, I would try to nurse him, but even after the tongue-tie was fixed, he just could not latch. I watched videos and read how to articles. I did everything I could, but Peanut could not latch.

I was an emotional wreck. I was severely sleep deprived. He needed to eat every two hours and it took an hour just to warm the bottle, feed the baby, and pump. Then I would sleep for an hour and have to do it all over again. My amazing husband did so much to help: he would often feed the baby and clean the bottles to give me even just ten or twenty minutes more sleep. He also calmly put up with my emotional outbursts: frustration, fear, self-loathing, fits of crying.

I felt like a failure.

Every time an attempt to nurse failed, every time someone casually said some variation of “Oh, so you’re not breastfeeding?” or “Don’t you know breast is better than formula?” when they saw the bottle of my milk, it was like another nail being hammered into my heart and ego.

Jacquelyn's baby around a month old.
In the beginning, babies sleep a whole lot and they are so cute when they sleep!

After an entire month, one morning I almost lost my temper with Peanut. Even though the logical part of my brain understood that his mouth was just too small to latch and it wasn’t his fault, the emotional part was very close to losing it. Nothing happened, but I was shocked at how close I felt I had come to possibly hurting him, even unintentionally. I laid Peanut back down in his bassinet and called my mom in tears. I told her I had tried for four weeks and I just could not do it anymore. For my sanity and the happiness of our little family, I had to stop trying.

My mom was so supportive and calmed me down. She told me she was so proud of me for trying as long as I did and that I had to do what was best for us. Her words helped get me back in the right frame of mind, and I am so grateful.

That morning, I finally came to terms with something I should have come to terms with weeks earlier: Peanut might never be able to nurse.

Sure, maybe one day in the future, he might outgrow the physical barriers that were preventing him from nursing, but in that moment I had to let go of my unrealistic “dream”. I had to make myself “ok” with the idea that he might never nurse, that I would have to continue pumping to provide him with milk and that, in his next growth spurt he might need to be supplemented again. I had to embrace that reality and let go of my fantasy.

I had to stop treating myself like a failure.

I had carried this beautiful little boy for 38 weeks, gave birth, and was now raising him. I loved him so deeply and would do anything for him. I would gaze at his tiny face while he slept in awe that this precious gift was our son. I was not a failure. So what if he could not nurse? So what if he got his milk from a bottle? So what if sometimes he got a little extra that wasn’t from his mother? He was happy, healthy, and growing incredibly fast.

For all of month two, we did not even try to nurse. We simply lived and were happy. When the Week 6 growth spurt hit, I was producing enough milk that we did not have to supplement even though he was sometimes gobbling up 9 to 11 ounces in one sitting!

At the beginning of his third month, Peanut was rooting around while we snuggled on the couch one morning and so, merely curious, I offered him the breast. To my surprise, he latched! It was a weak latch but a latch! He drank a little bit (not much) but he actually nursed for ten minutes!

At the middle of month three, we introduced the pacifier. He got the hang of it pretty quickly and the pacifier helped to strengthen his sucking muscles. We would attempt a nursing session every few days, but it was very relaxed… nothing like during the first month when I was so stressed out. Just a week after introducing the pacifier, he was strong enough to nurse!

By the middle of Week Thirteen, Peanut was nursing twice a day. We would nurse early morning and once in the evenings. We still fed him a 5-6 ounce bottle of expressed milk before putting him to sleep to help him sleep longer. By then he was usually sleeping 9pm to 4-5am.

Jacquelyn's baby at four months.
Little Peanut around four months. He grew a lot and got a bit chunky!

Today as I write this, Peanut is just shy of five months, and he nurses as if he had been doing so his whole life. I still pump during the day, especially during the week when I’m working, but I try to nurse him before work, after work, and on the weekends. He also is bottlefed during the day and always gets one bottle before bed to help him sleep through the night. He has absolutely no sign of the dreaded “nipple confusion”. He goes from breast to bottle to pacifier and back without even hesitating. Just yesterday, he had his first taste of real “food”. His grandma (my mom) fed him a little bit of oatmeal, and he actually ate it! (It was so adorable.)

Update (March 6, 2017)
Our little one is six months now, and I wanted to share a quick update on our breastfeeding journey. He is still primarily eating breast milk, and he is experimenting with baby food. He loves peaches and applesauce, severely dislikes peas, and has tried tiny amounts of avocado and hummus.

Unfortunately, at the end of December, my menstrual cycle began ramping up again. At four and a half months postpartum while breastfeeding, it was definitely not welcome. I’ve had a period twice since then. While my cycle is not “back to normal” yet, it is causing a lot of problems with my milk supply. The week before my period, my milk supply plummets significantly. So much so that we had to start supplementing with soy-based formula.

It was a decision we made because, unlike before when we used the goat’s milk as just a little “extra” now and then, this time we needed something that would provide for 50% of our little one’s nutrition for two weeks straight. And no amount of trying to boost my supply would carry our little Peanut through two weeks. Since I’m working outside of the home, a lot of the “tricks” that sometimes help are just not feasible like nursing on demand or pumping every two hours. So we found a soy-based formula that is fortified with everything he’ll need during the time my milk supply is low.

Fortunately, by the end of my period, my milk supply goes back up to normal. I’m also trying hard to increase my supply during the plentiful times by drinking more tea and eating more oats. This is hard for me because I cannot stand oatmeal and most gluten-free oat cereals taste horrible. So I’m risking eating Cheerios to try to get the benefits that oats have on milk supply.

Cheerios are not made with certified gluten-free oats, but they now use a process that removes most of the contaminated grains from their oat supply. Unfortunately, every once in a while, I’ll get a box from a batch with just a little too much contaminates; it causes my face to break out and I bloat… the initial signs that I’ve had small traces of wheat/gluten. Still, it is worth it if it helps boost my milk supply for my son.

Sometimes I really feel like everything is against our efforts to breastfeed. If I let the negative thoughts in, I begin to feel like every time we achieve success, something comes along to sabotage us. However, I refuse to let the challenges get me down. I’m still determined to make it to ten months, and when we cross that line, we’ll see if we can make it to twelve months.

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

It is my hope that by sharing our long, sometimes painful, breastfeeding journey, I might encourage another mother who is also struggling. My advice is to take all the advice out there with a grain of salt. Some of it is garbage, others might not apply to you and your baby’s unique situation, and some might be helpful. Listen to your maternal instincts. The Lord gave us these instincts and intuition for a reason. And don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help when you need it.

Also get rid of your perfect plans and dreams. The first few weeks after the baby is born is an emotional roller-coaster anyway, do not add even more stress and anxiety by trying to make a dream reality. Embrace whatever path is best for your precious baby. If it is pumping, pump! If it is supplementing, supplement! If it is formula, find the right formula for you and your baby!

You are NOT a failure! You gave birth to or adopted this beautiful, precious little one. You love him or her dearly so treasure those quiet moments with your newborn. They grow so fast and every stage is unique and beautiful in its own way. Don’t be afraid! Don’t worry about the future!

Be present in the moment and be happy!

Oh, and remember that breastfeeding is not synonymous with nursing. While nursing is one way to breastfeed, pumping is another way. In both methods, the baby is eating his or her mother’s milk. One just is from a bottle and the other is from “the tap” sort to speak. Don’t let anyone make you feed less than because you are pumping, whether from choice or necessity.

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?

Quick Fried Rice

Quick Fried Rice

Have you ever had those days where you do not feel like spending time preparing a lavish meal? I would like to share with you a very quick dish you can whip up in five minutes and it tastes delicious!

The trick with this meal is that you need to have at least 1 cup of rice already prepared, because the rice is the foundation of this dish. If you are preparing this dish for more than one person, it is best to do a ratio of 1 cup of rice per person. This dish also works great if you have some frozen vegetables or pre-cut fresh vegetables.

Quick Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pre-cooked rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
  • 1-2 cup frozen or pre-cut fresh vegetables (however much makes it look “balanced”)
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (GF)
  • Favorite seasonings: salt, garlic powder, italian blend, basil

If your rice is cold, add a teaspoon or two of water and microwave for 40 seconds. Heat your olive or grapeseed oil in a medium-sized pan on medium-high heat. Add the rice and stir. Microwave frozen vegetables for 40 seconds to 1 minute, depending upon the strength of your microwave. Add to rice and stir. Add your favorite seasonings, the Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or your choice of soy sauce or gluten-free Tamari), and the optional gluten-free hot sauce. Cook until vegetables are tender. Stir often to prevent food from sticking to the pan. You may have to adjust your heat. If food starts to stick, add a dash of water. When it is hot and the vegetables are of the texture you like (hard, lightly steamed, or soft), move contains to a bowl, at a dash of salt, and enjoy!

Bonus: Eat your quick fried rice with chopsticks! 😉

Really, this dish is so simple, you can add WHATEVER you like, and it cooks up fast! The frozen or fresh vegetables can be anything you have on hand. I have used frozen peas and carrots; fresh broccoli, cauliflower and carrots; leftover sauteed veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, etc.); even brussel sprouts and onions! I have also added leftover tofu, black beans, baby spinach leaves, fresh basil, etc. Quick fried rice is a superb choice for a fast lunch or a lazy dinner!

To make this dish healthier, use brown rice instead of white, switch out rice for quinoa, or try using less oil or replace the oil with water. Want to add a hint of Thai to your fried rice? Mix in spoonful of peanut butter with a little coconut spread or coconut milk!

Also, due to the growing number of food allergies and sensitivities, you can easily substitute ingredients you (and your family) can eat without worry. Gluten-free? Use a GF sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce! Corn allergy? Skip the baby corn! Nut allergy? Just don’t put them in!

Two gluten-free vegan meals on the go

Two gluten-free vegan meals on the go

A while back, Bradley and I decided to start planning our dinner meals out on Sundays. This helped us to limit buying grocery items to those necessary for the planned meals, thereby saving some money, and also saved us a lot of time because I knew ahead of time what I would be preparing that evening.

Unfortunately, life seemed to go from busy to hectic in the last few weeks, and we have failed to maintain the weekly meal plan. We both get off of work late, which means by the time we get home, prepare and eat dinner, it is already dark and difficult to go do errands (as some stores close early). We feel rushed and frazzled, but we refuse to spend unnecessary amounts of money to eat out.

So I have been trying to find some fast fixes for meals on the go.

Classic soup and grilled cheese sandwich

For those who do not have to avoid gluten and dairy, your options are limitless. You can make soup from scratch or used canned soup. For those of us vegan and gluten-free, our options a little more challenging. Here is how I do it:

  • 2 slices your favorite bread (I used a gluten-free bread)
  • use a vegan spread such as Earth Balance (I prefer the organic coconut spread for sandwiches)
  • favorite vegan cheese (I prefer Daiya‘s slices and use one slice of cheddar and one slice of swiss together)

For those who want to mix things up, try topping your grilled cheese with spices (garlic powder, parsley, and crushed red pepper are my go-to sandwich spices). I also like to take the sandwich up a notch to Grilled Cheese Burger by adding a Sunshine Burger patty, sliced onions, tomato, and dill pickles. It is DELICIOUS! (And more filling.)

For soups, if I am in a hurry, I will use a canned lentil soup. If I have time or prepared it ahead, I will make my own lentil soup, butternut squash soup, Fresh Tomato Soup or, my absolute favorite soup of all time, Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings.

Fresh Veggie Tacos

The other day we needed to eat something quickly and I was craving vegetables. So I quickly diced up whatever veggies were on hand and sauteed them, popped open a can of refried beans, and make these delicious fresh veggie tacos (or burritos!).

  • Olive oil
  • diced onion
  • diced bell pepper
  • cut brussel sprouts
  • cut zucchini squash
  • cut yellow squash
  • frozen butternut squash cubes (thawed)
  • frozen spinach (thawed)
  • shredded cabbage or lettuce
  • 1 can refried beans (vegetarian, low fat/sodium)
  • optional: Vegan Chicken-free Strips (thawed)
  • favorite salsa (I used roast garlic salsa)
  • taco shells, tortillas, tostada… whatever you want (I used GF tortillas and Bradley used hard shell tacos)

Warm up refried beans separately and add more seasoning (cumin, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, salt, etc.) if needed. Thaw the frozen butternut squash cubes and spinach in the microwave. (I do mine for about 2 minutes at 70 or 80 percent power). Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in a heating pan, swirl it around to coat the bottom of pan. Add onions, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, and brussel sprouts. (Optional: add your thawed chicken-free strips either as strips or cut into cubes.) Toss to coat. Add salt and other seasonings to taste. Cook on medium to medium-high. When the veggies are almost to the right texture for you (you may prefer your veggies cooked lightly or cooked more), add the butternut squash and spinach. Mix well.

When the food is done, assemble your tacos, burritos, or tostadas. Start with a generous amount of refried beans, add your veggie mixture, and top with the shredded cabbage/lettuce and salsa. Bradley was so impressed with his three hard-shell tacos, that he went back and used up the last of our beans and veggies to make himself a burrito with a flour tortilla. I pilled my beans and veggies on top of a GF tortilla made from brown rice that does not roll with tearing, so it was kind of like a giant tostada.

Tonight is another night where we need to eat fast. I am thinking about doing a variation of the Fresh Veggie Tacos but using sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash and black beans instead of refried beans. I’ll probably cook the potatoes in the microwave and mash them a little with a fork. I also have a gluten-free vegan taco “meat” that I will cook up really quickly in a pan with onions, garlic, and whatever other vegetables I have on hand.