A Week of Grain-Free Lunches (with some breakfasts thrown in!)

I have been experimenting with the paleo diet/primal blueprint recently, or some variation of it, so I decided to pack a week’s worth of grain-free lunches to see how practical it was.  I realize tht many folks with gluten intolerance, Celiac’s disease, etc., don’t have a choice and always have to eat wheat-free, but there are no grains of any kind this week.  It is also not entirely “primal” since there is more fruit, sugar, and dairy than is usually allowed in those eating styles.  Most things were grab and go (some convenience foods like “bars” of various types) and others were leftovers.  I also included some food for breakfasts and snacks since I leave for work at about 5:45 in the morning and my body prefers to eat breakfast a little later than that.  Let’s see how I did!



Breakfast: Mother’s Milk Tea (in the stainless steel Kleen Kanteen), strawberries, organic yogurt. Lunch: Carrots and ranch dressing, marinated olives and roasted garlic cloves, Mexican coconut candies (those orange round patty things), mini cherry pie Larabar.  Snack: mini apple pie Larabar, roasted & salted almonds. Also featured: My fun byo lunchbag–an idea I got from other teachers who had them at my school.  They are so cute and they fit more than you would think!  Plus they come in lots of designs so you can always tell yours apart instead of hunting through all the plastic grocery bags that everyone else brings 🙂



Breakfast: blueberry FruitChia bar and macadamia nuts (a favorite on the primal blueprint). Lunch: Green salad with taco-seasoned ground beef and shredded cheese. Snack: Marinated olives and roasted garlic cloves, apple



Breakfast: blackberries and organic yogurt. Lunch: Parmesan-crusted baked chicken, spaghetti squash with butter and garlic, roasted asparagus. Snack: roasted & salted almonds, mini cherry pie Larabar



Breakfast: raspberry FruitChia bar and macadamia nuts. Lunch: Carrots and ranch dressing, apple and peanut butter. Snack: d-selva bar (dried bananas, dark chocolate, puffed quinoa)



Breakfast: Blueberry FruitChia bar and organic cottage cheese. Lunch: Carrots and ranch, apple and peanut butter,  mini cashew cookie Larabar. Snack: mini apple pie Larabar and macadamia nuts

Analysis: I think I did well in the beginning of the week, but Thursday and Friday were exhausted,  uncreative, grab whatever kind of days.  As the week wears on, I just don’t have the energy to prepare fresh lunches like I did with the day I made my salad the night before.  I reach for “bar” products that are easy and that I know are nutritionally sound (no long list of mystery ingredients).  I would improve my lunch habits by making some mini egg-based frittatas in muffin cups to pack for breakfasts that could be heated up, adding protein and making them more filling.  I might also pack all my lunches on the weekend and line them up in the fridge as a time and energy saver during the week.

Educational Notes: As mentioned before, many students at my school are on free and reduced lunch programs.  Those students who do bring their own lunch often tend to bring ramen noodles or something similar.  I realize that my “convenience” bars are much more expensive than their convenience food, but I wish healthier, whole convenience foods were more economically accessible.  One great habit that I see many students pick up is that they always grab extra fruit from the cafeteria as snacks.

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April here at Filling Minds and Stomachs is a month to think about how we get through the work week and still eat healthily and well. You may have noticed a lack of posts so far this month–and I think it’s because we’re all a little swamped with work! 4th quarter at most schools is the hardest for teachers and students alike.

Anyway, we would love to hear our readers ideas on how they make lunches ahead for the week or how they make their packed lunches a little more interesting. Then, we’ll share our own ideas with you!!

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Supporting Lactation–Cookies to Help Feed Your Baby :)


“My boobs are spraying like a fire hose.”

Not exactly the first line to a post about a recipe you would expect, eh?  But that’s what I ran across in my frantic search for lactation cookie recipes when I realized I was having low milk supply issues for breastfeeding my daughter.  Oddly enough, to me, it sounded like hope.

I had always wanted to breastfeed and know it’s the best food for babies that we mothers can “make.”  As I have mentioned in earlier posts, my little girl is too young for solid foods (she is two months old now!), so there is nothing I can cook for her, but I felt like I had lost my first motherhood battle when I gave in to mixing her bottles of formula.  My lactation consultant’s official diagnosis was “suspected breast hypoplasia” or insufficient glandular tissue.   When I said low supply, I didn’t mean “not quite enough.”  I meant ONE OUNCE of milk PER DAY after combining several pumpings.  A two-month-old can drink between 24 and 48 ounces of milk per day, according to Livestrong.com.  Yeah.

So, I threw myself into research on the subject.  I ordered books with titles such as  “Making More Milk,” and “Mother Food” when traditional breastfeeding books did not adequately address my problems.  I had also remembered hearing about lactation cookies at the hospital’s breastfeeding class, so I searched for a recipe that would help boost my production in addition to the herbs and pumping and other advice from my lactation consultant.

Link to the original recipe here, along with several very, ahem, VIVID testimonials and additional ingredient combination suggestions:  http://www.bellybelly.com.au/breastfeeding/breastmilk-supply-increase-breastmilk-lactation-cookie-recipe#.UVKmzUnD9Ms

Lactation Cookies Recipe

  • 1 cup butter or margarine  (half butter and half coconut oil comes out nicely, too!)
  • 1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar  (I used combinations of lower-GI coconut sugar and erythritol to reduce the impact on my blood sugar)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (I used golden flax to blend in visually with the rest of the cookie)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup or more chocolate chips/sultanas/almonds/macadamia nuts (I used a hemp seed/chocolate combo for one recipe, and a macadamia nut/almond combo pictured above)
  • 2-4 tablespoons of brewers yeast (be generous–this is one of the key lactogenic ingredients.  I used 5 tbsp. in one recipe!)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

1) Mix together 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal and water, set aside for 3-5 minutes to thicken up.

2) Cream together butter (and coconut oil, if using) and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mix well.

3) Stir flaxseed mixture and add with vanilla to the butter mix. Beat until blended.

4) Sift together dry ingredients, except oats and chips/nuts.

5) Add to margarine mixture. Stir in oats then chips/nuts.

6) Scoop or drop onto baking sheet, preferably lined with parchment. Because the dough can be a little crumbly, it might be easier if you use a scoop.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on size of cookies. Makes approximately 6 dozen cookies.

The great thing about these cookies is that, even if you are not lactating, they are just REALLY good cookies.  My husband kept trying to steal them from me!  There is also the bonus that they are great for you.  Think of all the healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins in those things!  Additionally, you can always make a lower sugar version like I did in the modifications above.

I sincerely hope that this post helps anyone having low supply issues, because talking about my struggles here helped me.   We low-supply moms need to come “out of the closet” and not feel so judged!!  I was able, mostly due to the lactogenic herbs I am taking, to increase my supply  to 2-2.5 ounces a day, effectively doubling my production.  Here’s me with my daily record!


Even though it is not much, it’s what I CAN do,  and I give it to my daughter with pride.


Education notes: As a teacher, and an advocate of lifelong learning, I hope we can instill in our students the practice that I went through here.  If you have a problem, do your research, use all available tools, and make the best of the situation.

Learning about breastfeeding (as frustrating as it is that I can’t do it the way I would like to) has been FASCINATING!  The science teacher in me totally geeked out upon learning that mammalian young-rearing behavior is related to the protein/fat content of their milk.  Since human milk is in the lowest protein/fat content category, human babies are hungrier and must be fed more often, needing constant connection with the mother’s body.  More here: http://breastfeeding.blog.motherwear.com/2009/07/what-kind-of-mammal-are-we.html

I also learned that so many different factors lead to successful (or unsuccessful) breastfeeding, and I am working hard to tackle my other problem areas to help ensure a higher degree of success with my next baby.  Personally, I believe my weight and insulin resistance issues are involved (I was an insulin-dependent gestational diabetic, and insulin is a key hormone in milk production).  This whole complex pregnancy/breastfeeding journey has had me reading enough to get an honorary degree in nutrition!  Weight loss is my next big goal and I’m already doing my research into the paleo diet/primal blueprint style of eating.  I am pretty sure most of my upcoming recipes in this blog will be paleo friendly!  I guess that means no more cookies… 😛


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Apples & Oats for Baby


For Cooking for Kids month, once again, I needed to borrow my friend Cheryl’s kids.  Lauren is 8 months old and is trying new foods one by one in her diet.  It sounds like baby food is so easy to make–since much of it does not have to involve cooking–so I wanted to try a recipe that felt like “big people cooking.”  Never mind that you just throw everything in the blender in the end anyway. 😛

Since Lauren had tried apples and oatmeal previously (albeit separately), I thought this might be a good recipe that was just familiar enough but a little bit new with the addition of the raisins and cinnamon.  Nothing crazy, now!


The assembled ingredients


Cooking the fruit with the oats


Blending it up

lauren eating oatmeal



The recipe says it yields 3 cups but I got more like 4 1/2!!  What a deal!

My modification to this recipe was that I used steel cut oats and cooked them first, adding the apples in later.  I thought the blender would take care of the firmer texture of the oats but it probably came out much chewier than if I had done it with rolled oats or “baby oats” as the recipe suggested.  Since Lauren was trying this food for the first time, she was not super excited about it on her first try, but Cheryl assured me that on her second try (in the above picture) she loved it 🙂

Education notes: It would be a good math/home economics exercise to see what a similar amount of purchased baby food would cost and compare!

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After School Snacks–Quinoa Bites


March here at Filling Minds and Stomachs is a month where we will be blogging all about cooking for kids and with kids.  However, when I thought about what I was going to write, I realized… I don’t have kids that can EAT yet!  My little girl is just shy of two months old, so there is really no cooking I can do for her yet!

Creative solution: borrow someone else’s kids and cook for them!  Enter my friend Cheryl, who I have known since high school and who was one of the first of my friends to have kids.  Ryan, her oldest, is an active kindergartener and loves to play on her local playground before his afternoon snack.   My challenge?  Balance healthy, tasty, and fun.

I happened to have some cooked quinoa leftover from making Katie’s quinoa and black bean patties, so I started with that, and looked for a quinoa recipe that wasn’t just some sort of salad.  I stumbled across this one, and loved how it also incorporated some hidden carrots and onions 🙂  Healthy?  CHECK.



These were easy to whip up and they were out of the oven just before we went to pick Ryan up from the bus stop.  In fact, the adults around (Cheryl, my husband, and I) all tried these and had a hard time not eating them all before Ryan got there!!  I was impressed when my husband kept sneaking seconds (and thirds) because he will let you know if he doesn’t like something!  Tasty? Double CHECK!!

When Ryan got home, he was ready for his snack but I was having a hard time explaining to him what this creation was… it’s cheesy… chewy… crispy… should I explain what quinoa is to a kindergartener?  Does it even matter when his response on eating one was, “I want a thousand of these!”?  I think not!  Cheryl even likened the taste to loaded potato skins.  Fun?  CHECK!


All in all, it was a big hit–we had a good time making it AND eating it!

Here is the recipe with my modifications

Crispy Cheesy Quinoa Bites (Makes ~30 bites)

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (cooled)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated cheese (cheddar jack blend)
  • ¼ – ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 a medium white onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp Lawry’s seasoning salt
  • pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Lightly whisk the eggs together, then add all the remaining ingredients, and mix well.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (we used a non-stick silicone baking mat).
  4. Using about 1 tbsp of the quinoa mixture, squish it/roll it into balls and place them on your baking sheet, about 1½ inches apart.
  5. Bake for 25-35 minutes.

Educational notes: Quinoa is a very interesting, multi-faceted food.  I can see class discussions springing from comparing its nutritional analysis to more commonly eaten grains (quinoa is actually a seed and has a higher protein content than most other traditional starchy foods).  A good high school bio project might be to compare it to other closely related foods and distantly related grains taxonomically.  Since it has risen to an elevated healthy status in North America, demand for South American producers has gone up and has brought up other social justice and economic issues.  You could look at quinoa from a biological, historical, economical, and social standpoint and it would make for some great school projects!

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Cooking for Babies

This month’s theme is “Cooking for/with Kids”. I love this theme. Jenn, Diana, and I are all mothers, and we all cook, thus, cooking for our kids and with out kids is an important aspect of our daily routines. 

Carmen, my adorably busy and opinionated girl is almost two and a half. I’m still not sure where all those days went. I just went to a baby shower over the weekend, and after drooling over the freakishly cute and tiny onesies and sleepers, I had a hard time picturing Carmen as a teeny-tiny newborn. Thus, the inspiration for this post: Cooking for Babies. 

Once it was time to embark upon the world of solid baby foods with Carmen, I found myself overwhelmed with all the baby food options. Canned, jarred, pouched, organic, Gerber, make your own…I thought my head was going to explode trying to figure out the best option for baby girl. We ended up doing a mix of jarred and making our own, which worked out well. We wanted Carmen to be a well-rounded eater, so we didn’t shy away from giving her a wide breadth of foods. Here are some of my favorite, easy-to-make, Carmen-approved baby foods:


Avocados are a great first food for baby. They have tons of good nutrients, and the texture is easy for babies to maneuver. I didn’t want Carmen to get sick of plain avocado, so one day, I mixed fresh mango and avocado in the blender. Carmen loved it! The flavors and textures went really well together.

Lentils, Kale, and Applesauce

One day, I was trying to figure out how to use up the tons of kale from our garden, and also a way to get Carmen some more leafy-green veggies. I blended up a random mixture of lentils, kale, and homemade applesauce (for sweetness). Another hit with the Munchkin. Score for hidden veggies and proteins, masked by the deliciousness of applesauce that no child can deny.

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A quick thought.

Two nights ago, I woke up out of a dead sleep with one thought in my mind. Turning meatloaf into spaghetti. I don’t know where this idea came from and I don’t know why it woke me up, but I’m glad that it did.

The next night, I sauteed an onion, four cloves of garlic, and the crumbled up meatloaf together. I then added two cans of no salt crushed tomatoes and two cans of tomato sauce. Chili flakes. Adjusted for salt. Simmered for an hour. It was ridiculously good. From now on, I will turn every pile of meatloaf leftovers into pasta sauce. I suggest you do, too.

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