~ Picky Bars ~

One might venture to call me a picky eater.  I eat a mostly vegan diet and I have a sensitive stomach.  There are certain things that my body just won’t tolerate most days of the week (dairy and gluten, in particular).  When I’m getting ready for a run I have to be especially careful to avoid those foods otherwise my stomach will go into over-active mode and that just isn’t fun to have to deal with.  And when I’m done with a hard workout and need to eat something soon after to begin my recovery, I can be finicky and have very little appetite for a while.  Figuring out what works for me has been a long and ongoing process.

A few months ago I started hearing about a new bar out there that was made with picky eaters (who are also athletes) in mind.  People with food allergies and sensitivities.  People who need to be careful and mindful about what they put in their bodies, whether they are getting ready for a workout, taking a rest day or recovering from a hard effort on the track.  Picky people who are not only picky about what is (or isn’t) in their food, but who also like yummy things and want their food to taste good.

People like me.

I had to know what they were all about.  So I placed an order to see for myself. 

I am SO glad that I did.

Picky Bars (http://www.pickybars.com/) are the perfect snack for me. They taste great.  They are packed with nutritional yummy goodness.  They are all completely dairy and gluten free.  I have tried all three flavors and my stomach has not been upset from them once. 

I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite flavor because I love them all, though the “Nutless Wonder” may win out because it is free of both peanuts and tree nuts (foods my 5 year old son Will is very allergic to).  Before letting Will have a taste of my new “Mommy Bar” as he calls it, I emailed the company to inquire about their manufacturing process and see what efforts were taken to avoid cross contamination.  I was so grateful and amazed with the response I received.  Lauren Fleshman (who is one of the creators of Picky Bars and who also happens to be an incredible professional runner who I really really admire) replied to my email with a very thorough, thoughtful and honest response.  They are extremely careful to avoid cross contamination but of course cannot guarantee it won’t happen (they are human), which was honestly what I expected her to say.  But Lauren took the time to go into a lot of detail for me so that I would feel very well informed about how the bars are made (right in their home kitchen) and I could make my decision about whether or not it would be safe to let Will have a taste of the Nutless Wonder.  I’m pretty certain the chances of him having an allergic reaction are pretty slim based on everything Lauren told me about how cautious they are.  I did let him try it and he does like it, but it is not something I will give to him regularly because I’m just really conservative about this kind of thing and feel it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to my son’s food allergies.

I enjoyed my first order of Picky Bars so much, that I placed a second order.  When more than a week went by without receiving my package I looked into it and realized that PayPal had somehow messed up the shipping information in my account and sent my order to an address I lived at more than three years ago.  I was so. very. bummed.  I knew it wasn’t the fault of Picky Bars, but I emailed them to let them know what happened and to see if they had any suggestions or ideas about how I might be able to get my order to arrive at my house.  I was so surprised to get another email from Lauren, this time giving me her cell phone number and asking me to give her a call ASAP so we could “get to the bottom of it.”  She was apparently at the airport and that moment would be a really good time to chat.

Ummmmm …. really?  Call Lauren Fleshman on the phone, like now?  Right this minute?  Ok.  I can do that.

I tried not to be a dork, but that was pretty much impossible. 

We talked about my order and got right to the bottom of it immediately (my old address is now completely deleted from that account, which it should have been anyway), and Lauren insisted they would send me my order again – this time making sure it would be delivered to my current address.  Then we talked about the food allergy thing and then I may have gushed a little (or a lot) about how inspiring I think she is, for her running but also for her companies (her other company is called Believe I Am (http://believeiam.com/) — you must check it out if you haven’t already!).  She was modest and sweet and cool and professional about it all.  Of course.

And then after we got off the phone, I decided I wanted to be a member of the Picky Club (which basically means I want to order Picky Bars regularly and have them sent to me every month).  The bars and the customer service have all just won me over.

I am stoked about what came in the mail today …

it’s official!

And, of course my tee-shirt:

the back says “picky eater.”  yepp, that’s me.

As a member of the Picky Club I will get a delivery of 18 bars each month (should be enough), will get to try out new sample flavors, have this awesome tee shirt and who knows what else they will come up with.

Being a picky eater has never been so much fun.

Have you tried them?  If not, you should!!

Creative Kid Food – "Hot Dog-a-Pus"

Sometimes when 5:00 rolls around on a week night I have ZERO motivation, desire or creativity when it comes to making dinner for my family.  We get home from school after 4:00PM and everyone is a bit crabby and demanding.  It is not my favorite time of day.  Not even close.

My kids are always hungry right when we walk in the door, but since it is so close to dinner time I don’t want them to fill up and then not eat a balanced dinner.  They are allowed to snack on as much fruit or veggies as they want though – I will never say no to that.  So they usually grab an apple or a banana or have some carrots or cucumber with hummus to tide them over until dinner.  If they are especially grouchy (which is honestly usually the case), I will put a television show on for them around 5:00 while I make dinner – so I can have some peace and quiet and actually THINK about what I’m going to cook if I haven’t had a chance to do that already (which is also honestly usually the case). 

I’m going to be brutally honest here and tell you that cooking dinner for my kids stresses me out and I do not enjoy it.  With my son’s food allergies (dairy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, garlic, mustard, sesame, shell fish) and my vegetarian/vegan diet we have some limitations around here.  I am a creature of habit and don’t need fancy foods – steamed veggies and brown rice always make me happy – and my kids are pretty easy going when it comes to that, too.  We all love tofu with soy sauce.  Fresh green veggies and fruit are a staple.  Noodles are served a LOT around here.  Keeping it simple helps minimize the stress for me.

Sometimes though, I feel like one of those boring moms who never does anything fun for her kids in the kitchen.  Desserts don’t count here – I am great at baking cookies, brownies and cakes – but let’s face it those foods are fun just because they have sugar.  I’m talking about regular meals and ways to make them fun for kids.  My son’s allergies prevent us from having those easy and fun go-to things like Mac n’ Cheese or whatever.  So I have to be a little more creative.  

I was really excited when a babysitter shared the following idea with me.  It involves hot dogs so is definitely not a *healthy* dinner, but it is something you can make with and for your kids, it is EASY and it is FUN, so I was eager to try it out.  It was a BIG hit in my house, so I thought I would share here for you moms out there.  I wasn’t sure what to call it and when I asked my kids what they thought, they insisted that we call them “Hot Dog-a-Puses” because when cooked these things look like octopuses.  I actually think they more resemble jellyfish, but we’ll go with it.

How to make a Hot Dog-a-Pus Dinner:

1. Boil water for pasta
2. Cut hot dogs into thirds
3. Stick spaghetti noodles into hot dog pieces.  You can be creative with this – there is really no wrong way to do it as long as you just make sure the noodle is really stuck in there so it won’t fall out while cooking!

4. Place noodle-stabbed hot dogs into the boiling water.  You will want to gently press them into the pot as the noodles soften, to make sure that they are completely immersed in the boiling hot water.

5. Boil for 10 minutes.

6. Drain them and serve.  My recommendation is to serve them with some colorful, nutritious foods that your kids will eat such as steamed broccoli and fresh strawberries.

7. Watch as your kids enjoy their meal – giggling and smiling instead of complaining and grumbling at you.

That’s it!  Hopefully you will find that your kids enjoy this as much as mine do.  It is super easy and fun and will definitely turn a grumpy kid into a happy one at dinner time.

Now, I have to ask you to share!  What tricks do you have up your sleeve for easy, quick, healthy(ish) and fun/creative meals for your kids?