Help Wanted: Eating GF more wisely, cheaply and saving time. Got tips?

I bet you think I’ve fallen into a large hole around here and have lost internet access, huh?

Well, I have, kind of.

School started.  Just last year I had 135 students a day (5 classes/high school) and this year?  Oh no… this year I see 171 students (same five classes) and it’s A LOT.  Add that to the fact that the baby youngest toddler is a moving, shaking, running, jumping, climbing and the eldest is well…. keeping up and you can see why I’m dead tired by dinner time.

We’re back on the treadmill people.  Up at 5:15, home by 5:00, dinner, play, baths, and bedtime…then school work.  Bedtime comes around 11:40 or later.  Seriously…this is going to be a long winter!

Top that with the fact that our house, just like yours I bet, has been hit by our lovely economic woes.  Thankfully, we are both employed.  However the loss of pay in the form of pay cuts (8% between the two of us) and double to out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance (EEK!) and we are in re-set mode.

We are intentional about the food choices we make.  More than ever now as well.  We have to stretch that dollar farther and we are still choosing to maintain a completely gluten free home.  But as all of you know, that means some serious creativity.

Couple all of that with the fact that time to cook dinner is LIMITED.  Kids (and parents alike) are wickedly hungry come 5:30.  Providing snacks before dinner doesn’t seem like a positive solution at all.  We worry that then we are just giving them outs from dinner – and we want to eat all together as a family.  THAT is important to us.

So.. I guess this post is a conversation starter.  One that I hope will get you all commenting and helping with tips and pointers for ALL of us busy, working gluten-free families.  What are YOU doing to save your brain, your money and your family (health and time together)?

 Home-made GF Quesadillas – add eggs or avocado, etc too

See recipe below signature


I have limited tricks for getting dinner on the table quickly.  This has a lot to do with my brain.  I am NOT the one in my family who can open the cupboard, see what we have on hand and then whip out dinner.  Nope.  Especially not when there are two kids practically pulling my pants off as they try to get my attention after we rush in after work/daycare at 5PM.  And,  I don’t do mania very well at all.  (Can you believe I do mania REALLY well in the classroom – but just not at home?  I don’t get it either – but it is true.)

Sometimes I am organized enough on the weekend to layout a dinner menu for the week.  I get organized after we pick up our box of veggies at the Farmer’s Market on Sundays and start planning.  Each meal we have to include things that are accessible to the kids – as I’m not a short-order cook and we’re going to all eat together.  Sometimes we make miso soup for them (they LOVE tofu) in addition to whatever we are having, but they usually just eat right along with us.  Once I see what we have for the week, I can easily lay out dinner menus on the calendar at home (or the google calendar we share so I can see it on my phone or at work, if needed).  I love those weeks.  I know what I need to do, when, etc.  It’s so helpful when work things pop up last-minute or unplanned after-daycare doctor visits (my pediatrician should have a frequent-flyer coupon card for free coffee after 10 visits or something… I”m just saying…).

Sometimes I’m not so fabulously organized.  And these are the weeks that are (1) most common and (2) the MOST stressful for me.

Like this week.  Unplanned, but at least there is food in the fridge.  These are the days that my husband finds to be the easiest.  Seriously, in 3 minutes flat he can make a meal plan and get it started.  Me?  OMGosh – I have to know what’s in the fridge for the WHOLE day before I can even begin to figure something out.

Take today, for example.  I know there is ground turkey at home.  I can make lettuce wraps or tacos or chili (oh wait… I don’t have any beans on hand) … k then… I could make meatballs with rice (no pasta either), or.  Dang it.  I don’t know.  When my feet hit the kitchen, I will decide then.

More than just meal planning, however, is saving money.  Cheap Gluten Free Eats!  (Yes, they do exist.)

Here’s the list I’ve been working with this last month.  You can see I’m in need of some change-ups, people. One can only eat so many apples with peanut butter before you just don’t want to even look at them again.  So please.  Let’s work together on this.





Cinnamon Chex

peanut butter/apples or celery sticks


lettuce wraps

fresh fruit


hard-boiled egg



cheese & pears

cheese cubes


GF Granola

hard-boiled egg

Trio bar (my spendy snack)

Lundberg risotto + protein and veggies mixed in

Hard cheese & GF tortilla chips

rice noodle soup (so much cheaper!)

Fresh fruit

Cantonese-style family chicken & mushrooms


miso + tofu soup

small salad


yogurt smoothie

meat/cheese or avocado roll

meat/cheese or avocado roll

Chinese Chicken & Corn Chowder

homemade GF torillas with eggs/cheese

nori wraps

nori wrap

Tortilla soup


homemade tortillas/quesadillas


grilled meats/fish and veggies/frui

What are your favorite cheap and convenient GF foods/meals?

Let’s get talking, people!


PS.  Making your own gluten free corn tortillas is SUPER easy (and much tastier, by the way).  Use equal parts corn flour (masa harina or masa harina para tortillas) and warm water.  You can also add a bit of olive oil or spices to your dough, if you’d like. (I added paprika and chili powder in the ones in the photo.)  Mix the corn flour with the warm water slowly until it forms a soft pliable ball.  Pinch off pieces and flatten in your hand to make tortillas (or thicker ones for sopes).  Cook on a hot, non-stick skillet.

Gluten Free Granola – Vanilla-Maple Granola

Gluten Free Granola –, originally uploaded by Kate Chan.

So we are snowbound. Something rather unusual for where I live in the Pacific Northwest. A few years ago when we moved here from Chicago, we lived with my sister and her family until we found our own place to be. One morning (on a school day) I woke to find a light sprinkling of snow in her yard – maybe 1/2 inch. The grass was still poking out from under the light snowfall. Let’s just say, that I clearly remember the yard being more green than white when she told me that school had been canceled for the day. I was dumbfounded. What? School was canceled? How could this even be possible with such little snowfall?

Now I know a little better. It’s canceled because (1) the city has no plows because snow usually just sticks around one day and is gone within the next two and (2) it rarely snows here – maybe 1 or 2 days. More often than not, school is delayed a few hours because of icy roads or flooding, not snowfall. We don’t even have “snow days” built in to our school calendar which just means that we have to make up the three days of school that were canceled last week due to snow.  We got a bit more than the 1/2″.  Right now, I think our yard has about a foot and a half of snow.  Here we are, buried but happy:

Snow Days - Day 4

I think I’m going to hate that come June, to be honest, but right now? I love being snowbound. It’s giving me time to do a few things I normally wouldn’t do – like start sewing project for the baby. I’m going to attempt my first, super-simple quilt. Give me strength, people, I can’t cut nor sew a straight line to save my soul. But hey, it’s totally the love/thought that counts, right? One day, our daughter will look at this quilt I will have labored over and either think that I was crazy to attempt such a thing or love me for even trying, right?

Anyway, while preparing to be snowbound, we did a little grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon. We wandered about the store picking up things that we knew we could cook if the electricity went out (we have a gas range… but electric everything else). I decided I wanted to get some cereal for easy breakfasts or snacks. We ventured down the cereal aisle in search of the gluten-free goodies, but my heart sank when I realized that I would have to buy a cereal targeting kids.

I don’t know about you all, but sometimes I don’t want a cartoon face staring back at me on the breakfast table. I really wanted the box of granola that sat nearby. I knew I couldn’t buy it – first, the oats weren’t GF and the little warning label about “possibly containing wheat”, was all I needed to see. I just had to read the ingredients list though, just in case. (I was hopeful, anyway.)

And then it hit me, granola is NOT hard to make. I was done whining or feeling down about the “lack of convenience or adult gluten-free cereal” that was available at this market. (My poor husband had to listening to me whining….) I knew I could just make my own granola and that FRESH granola always tastes better too!

Even my kid-cereal lovin’ spouse thinks this granola beats out any others. I can tell by the way he has been sneaking handfuls every time he passes through the kitchen.

Before I give you the recipe, please note that you need Certified Gluten Free Rolls Oats for this. While some people use quinoa flakes as they don’t tolerate oats, I have only tried this with GF oats.

It’s worth the whole 8 minutes it will take you to assemble the ingredients and the 25 minutes of baking. Really. It’s easy. And it really is great tasting, if I don’t say so myself.

Gluten Free Granola -

GF Vanilla-Maple Granola with Pepitas and Almonds
3 cups GF rolled oats
1 cup pepitas (raw, hulled pumpkin seeds)
2/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup flax seed meal
2 teaspoons +/- cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter, melted (or a CF option to make this recipe CF too)
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract


  1. Preheat your oven to 325F
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Melt the butter in a large bowl or glass measuring cup in the microwave.
  4. Add the maple syrup and brown sugar to the melted butter. Return to the microwave for 20 seconds or so to help the brown sugar melt. Add the vanilla extract. Stir together well and set aside.
  5. Combine the dry ingredients (oats, pepitas, almonds, flax seed meal and cinnamon) in a large bowl.
  6. Pour the maple syrup mixture over the dry ingredients. Mix together to coat everything evenly.
  7. Pour the mixture on to the parchment lined cooking sheet.
  8. Bake for a total of 25-30 minutes, stirring every 8 – 10 minutes to avoid burning. Bake until toasted brown.
  9. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Calories 290
Total Fat 17g, Saturated fat 2g, Trans fat 9g
Cholesterol 2mg
Sodium 9mg
Total Carbohydrates 31g, Dietary Fiber 6g, Sugars 14g
Protein 10g

Enjoy your granola for breakfast as cereal or on yogurt – or by the handful!
Even use it as an apple crisp topping.
Oh! It’s good!

Happy Snowy Days!

GF: Peanut Butter Granola Bar

Okay… I had no idea the email that would ensue after the mere mention of granola bars in my kitchen.

Really. Mark me clueless.

However, I probably shouldn’t have been. I searched far and wide for a granola bar that met my gluten-free lifestyle to no avail for many years. Granted I have now fallen in love with Mrs.May’s (especially the Cashew Crunch and the Fruit and Nut bars.  All Gluten free, of course as well as all natural… and yummy!).

Granola bars, however, are a bit different.
If I dare say, granola is a bit personal too.Some like it crunchy.
Others prefer chewy.

Some like coconut.
Others would rather climb a coconut tree than eat it in their granola.

Some love fruit.
Others prefer chocolate chips.

Some like it sweet.
Others prefer it salty.

I could go on here, huh? I won’t. I promise.

Instead, let me just tell you this. I prefer my granola to be somewhat chewy with a small hint of crunch (usually from a nut… but sometimes from the grain/cereal). I prefer my granola to be on the sweet side too.

And peanut butter? Oh dear me. My love of peanut butter is definitely genetic. I distinctly remember watching my dad dig a huge soup spoon into the peanut butter jar and extract the largest mound of peanut butter that could possibly fit and jam it into his mouth. This was followed quickly by a slight moan of delight and a sticky-gooey peanut butter smile across his lips.

Now, I have never gone so far as to fill my mouth with so much peanut butter that I could breathe (or smile…… DAD!). However, nothing does my upset tummy any better than a piece of toast smeared with a little peanut butter. I am my father’s daughter, after all.

When I finally got the courage to make granola 6 years ago, I realized how stinkin’ easy it really is. There is no secret – just a million variations. These variations sometimes overwhelmed me as I just wanted a simple recipe. So I made one up. What the heck, I thought, can screw it up too badly, huh?

And indeed, I didn’t. In fact, it’s become a staple around here. The variations come only as the ingredients wax and wane from my pantry shelves. Below you will find the basis for two types of granola bars (my on-the-go breakfast during the work week). However, please know that in recent weeks (months?), my fellow gluten-free bloggers have been making granola of their own. Play around with the recipes and you will most certainly come up with one you LOVE as well.

  • Did you post a granola recipe on your blog and I missed it? PLEASE – let me know! I didn’t have a chance to gather all of my links before life took over and rushed me along again. Please drop me a comment or an email so I can link to your recipes as well. 🙂

Here’s my recipe for granola bars. Have no worries – it’s done in a flash (the longest time is waiting for it to cool- which is a necessary step – sorry!). Jump in to granola-land! You’ll love it!

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Granola Bars
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy) or almond butter (if you want to make almond granola bars)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups granola base
2 cups nuts/seeds
1 cup dried fruit

GRANOLA BASE could be:

  • Gluten free oats (toasted)
  • Gluten free cereal (like Maple Buckwheat Flakes OR Nutty Flax, etc)
  • 1.5 cups gluten free oats/cereal + 1/2 cup shredded coconut

NUTS/SEED combinations could be any combination of the following:

  • Pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
  • Almonds
  • Pine nuts
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flax seeds

DRIED FRUIT can be any combination (or single fruit) of the following:

  • Dried cherries
  • Dried blueberries
  • Dried cranberries (like Craisins, if you want sweet ones)
  • Dried apricots (chopped into small pieces)
  • Dried dates (chopped into small pieces)
  • Dried figs (chopped into small pieces)
  • Raisins
  • Prunes (chopped)


  1. Butter an 8 X 10 inch pan generously OR line it with parchment paper than also comes up the sides of the pan about 1/2 of an inch.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  3. Toast your nuts/seeds in the oven for a few minutes until slightly golden. While you are doing this, make your “granola glue” or peanut butter sauce.
  4. To make the “granola glue” or peanut butter sauce, combine honey and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Heat, while stirring, until the brown sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a simmer and simmer for 1-2 minutes until evenly foamy/bubbly on top. Remove from the heat. Add one teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir (it will steam a bit). Add peanut butter and stir briskly until lumps are gone and the consistency is uniform.
  5. Mix granola base (oats or cereal) with your toasted nuts/seeds. Pour peanut butter mixture over the top and stir until evenly distributed. Add dried fruit and stir again to distribute.
  6. Pour mixture into pan (on to parchment paper). Spread evenly and then press down in to the bottom of the pan. Press the granola together firmly.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes at 350F.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely (it will firm up as it cools) before cutting.
  9. Cut into bars (1″ wide and 4″ long). Wrap bars in cling wrap or wax paper and store in a Ziploc bag or airtight container on the counter until consumed. (I’ve store mine up to 10 days, but it depends on the weather.) These can be refrigerated; however, I haven’t tried freezing them yet.

Happy GF Eating!

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