I am a member of an online Mom’s group. I don’t necessarily participate all that much, but when the twins were infants and we had just moved here, it was a lifesaver. There was always someone around to “talk” to. I still check in from time to time, to chat with my book club friends, get advice on a restaurant, or help a new Mom know it’s going to be okay. While I was visiting with my online ladies yesterday, an interesting question caught my eye.
One Mom explained that she needed to take a treat in for her toddler’s pre-K class. The problem was that there were several food allergies to contend with – nuts, gluten, dairy, and soy. She turned to the boards for help. And one thing I can say for those boards is that there’s always a lot of opinions. The eager Mom was soon supplied with a variety of suggestions: Newman’s version of Oreos, Rice Krispie treats, fruit snacks, Twizzlers, lollipops, gluten free pretzels, and a variety of cake mixes.
I have to admit I was a little surprised. I guess I have a weird idea of what’s special because my response (probably predictable to you) was fruit. What kid doesn’t like fruit? If it’s a special day – get out of season fruit like watermelon or pineapple. My kids would think watermelon in May was a celebration for sure. Wanna be extra awesome – do something like this. Still simple fruit, still just a few minutes to prepare.
I’m not trying to say that the responders weren’t well intended or that they were wrong, even, I just think sometimes we make things really complicated. This Mom ended up taking in 5 different packaged treat options – 5! I’m guessing she spent a bloody fortune. I’m reasonably sure she could have gotten a fresh pineapple and a fresh watermelon for way less, spent 20 minutes cutting and had a whole room full of happy kids. Why does it have to be so big, so colorful, so limitless, and WHY do we have to always offer so many choices? Frankly when I’m in the store every now and again I’d like a smaller selection to deal with. I’ve noticed the same with my son. If I give him too many options, I get a blank stare. I narrow it to two or three, we’re good to go. I narrow it to two or three that I actually want to give him? We both walk away happy.
When we face a dietary limitation – either one that we’ve imposed upon ourselves or one that comes because we’re trying to provide for someone else, it seems to me that there is a bit of a panic. When faced with the prospect of not knowing what to do, and only being certain that the choices we would usually make are inappropriate, we throw ourselves into the hands of the food makers. ”Someone please make this weird food for me.” Perhaps our first step should be, rather than buying a VERY labeled package, doing a quick mental survey of what we already eat that meets those criteria. If there’s nothing, cruise the cold parts of the store – a real food solution surely awaits.
I lose track every once in a while myself. Especially when time gets short. I start seeing the dietary choices I’ve made as limits and I try to hurriedly prepare some of the fabulously complicated dairy free food in the world to convince myself that I don’t miss cheese (which I don’t most of the time). I freak out when it’s not going well. I get upset with my kids because I don’t have time to do everything, and usually the rushing produces a sub-par cooking result. There – that’s life in the real world, eh? We make a lot of great food around here, but sometimes it could be a lot better, and sometimes it comes at too high a price.
Faced with a larger load than usual, I’ve been making a conscious effort to simplify the food a bit. To remember that what we need to do is to eat, eat healthfully, eat deliciously. I do not need to be a five star chef. I do not need big food to solve my problems for me. Some of the answers to culinary questions are really VERY simple. As simple as fresh fruit. In celebration of the impending return of summer – the high holla time for those of us into plant-strong eating, I’d like to offer you two simple salads that we enjoy immensely.
Strawberry-Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette - yes, you’ve probably seen it before, but have you had it lately? And do you make a supah balsamic vinaigrette? I do.
- Lots of spinach – torn or cut into the salad size you like
- Fresh, luscious strawberries cut how you like
- toasted pecans (dry warm pan, flip or stir periodically, take out of pan when you smell nuts), optional but awesome
Throw in bowl. Toss. Done.
- 3 Tbs olive oil, divided
- 1 Tbs dijon mustard
- 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- salt to taste
Whisk together 1 T olive oil and the remaining ingredients. Whisk until fully incorporated and smooth. Set aside until is time to go to table. Add the last 2 T olive oil and whisk until smooth and delish. THIS is how you make vinaigrette. Play with these ingredients and you will never be short of an amazing dressing again. We served our spinach strawberry salad with fresh whole wheat bread AND….
- 2 cups chickpeas
- 2 tsp Tbs olive oil
- juice of about 1/2 small lemon
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbs chopped celery leaves (or parsley)
- ground black pepper to taste
Throw in bowl, toss, done. Simple. Real. Fabulous. No label necessary.
And for those of you with little ones, I’d like to offer you a list of simple foods that really are stunning – just the way they are, with no colored icing, no fanfare, served with just a smile and a hope you will enjoy them as much as I do. No, they are not all EVERY allergy free, but some of them are, and many of them will serve most kids. Best enjoyed with a big smile.
SIMPLY YUMMY KID SNACK FAVORITES
- popcorn (no, not the bagged chemical-y stuff) – take the 7 minutes and pop it on the stove or (if you MUST HAVE IT NOW), put 1/2 c in a brown paper bag in the microwave, fold the bag down and set it on full blast for about 4 minutes (listen – do not be the one who burns the popcorn) – dress as you like – I use a little olive oil (predictable) and salt
- cut fruit
- Whole grain crackers with a blob of peanut butter or jam or whatever
- veggies cut in unusual ways
- nut butter spoon
- plain yogurt (yes, mine really do eat it)
- low sugar whole grain cereal mixed with nuts
- celery with nut butter (and raisins)
- nuts (mine favor pistachios and cashews)
- dried fruit
- whole grain bread with nut butter, jam, coconut butter (or oil)
- whole grain bread with sunflower cheese
If you have a few minutes to cook, click on the Treats category on the Sidebar. No panic shopping necessary. Delish.
This post was shared on Fabulously Frugal Thursday.