Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Looking for Equal at Walmart Canada | #Cbias #EqualCanada

Every dietary restriction has its challenges, I know first hand what it means to live a life without gluten and feed a child with sensitivities to gluten, dairy and soy.  Food is important to me and finding a way to eat the food I love regardless of dietary restrictions is not optional in my opinion.  My continued search for Equal Sweetener has really made me stop and  think about all the people that can't have sugar. Of course my thoughts immediately went to all the goodies that I could make with a canister of Equal, but that's just me.  My very good friend's husband is diabetic and she's lactose intolerant, so I'm definitely going to make them something tasty.
Walmart queensborough

My sister Kat
and I headed off to the Queensborough Walmart in New Westminster BC, which was recently expanded into a Supercentre with a complete grocery store.  On our last trip I spent so much time in the food we barely had a chance to look at the rest of the store.
welcome to walmart
As we shopped the grocery aisles I assumed that I would find the Equal with the sugar and baking supplies and when I didn't find it there, it took me a moment to remember to check the pharmacy, which is exactly where I found it.  The yellow Equal Canister I was looking for was on the middle shelf , but I found it kind of odd that the blue Equal products were on the bottom shelf with a different brand of sugar alternative on the shelf between the two.
Equal - yellow canister
Equal - blue packets and tablets
 The Equal yellow canister is their new sucralose sugar alternative and it can be substituted 1:1 for traditional sugar which makes baking adaptations easy.  The 275g canister  is equivalent to 5lbs of sugar and at a price of $7.97 it feels like a pretty good deal, particularly for a specialty item.  Although the yellow canister was on rollback price, only the blue Equal products were displaying rollback tags.
walmart mcdonalds

After a quick stroll through the clothing, we headed for the checkout.  We accidently ended up in the express lane; somehow we didn't see the sign that the central area of cashiers were all express.  Fortunately it wasn't very busy and our cashier was very gracious about the situation.

After our shop both Kat and I were feeling thirsty so we headed to the McDonalds for a smoothie, but were dissapointed they didn't have any.  We ended up grabbing some french fries and hitting the Starbucks drive through on the way home instead. walmart garbage and recycling

Although I had noticed them outside on the way in, the inside recycling and garbage cans were completely photoworthy and thus worth mentioning.  I love garbage cans that emphasize recycling and I think its great that Walmart is making an effort to help their customers, help them, reduce their waste.

Now I just have to find the perfect recipe, something gluten and dairy free that will travel easily from my home to my friends.

You can find #EqualCanada on the web, on Twitter and on Facebook and you can view the rest of my pictures from this trip on Flickr.

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias #Cbias however all opinions are my own.

Cupid's Cash $850 Giveaway | MamaNYC

Welcome to the Cupid's Cash Giveaway hosted by MamaNYC!  I have teamed up with a number of amazing bloggers to bring you yet another fabulous cash prize.

One lucky reader is going to WIN
$850 USD in Paypal Cash.

To enter the Giveaway please use the Rafflecopter Widget below.  This giveaway is open to residents worldwide; 18+.  Winner must have a PayPal account in order to claim this cash prize. All entries are optional, but the more completed entries – the higher your chances will be to win this prize.


Cupids Cash $300 Giveaway | Sober Julie & Kidsumers


Welcome to the Cupid's Cash Giveaway Event hosted by Kidsumers and Sober Julie Doing Life.  I have teamed up with a number of amazing bloggers to bring you a fabulous cash prize, just in time for the Valentines Day!

One lucky readers is going to WIN
$300 USD in Paypal Cash!

To enter this giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter widget below.  This giveaway runs February 1st at 12:01 AM EST until February 14th at 12:01 AM EST and is open worldwide.  The winner will be announced through the Rafflecopter widget and notified by email by the end of the day on February 17th, 2011.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

McDonald's Fruit Smoothies are gluten-free, dairy-free and delicious | #cbias

There's something about smoothies I love, so I was excited to try McDonald's new fruit smoothies, I did my research and not only are they gluten free, when made without yogurt, they are dairy free too.  A fast food treat that I can enjoy is always cause for celebration in my books.  I'm certain I  had seen some coupons for McDonald's smoothies around my house, but I have a tendency to keep and lose coupons until after they expire so I didn't bother looking for them.

I piled my boys into the car, dropped the boy off at preschool and the baby and I were on our way.  Once again, we headed to the Ironwood McDonalds so the little man and I could enjoy our visit in the Playplace.


When we arrived the baby was in good spirits and there was no lineup, so I had a chance to really look around.  Pretty much the entire menu and all the signage inside the restaurant reflected the McCafe branding. I like the clean look and style, though I'm pretty sure not all the items available are on the menu boards anymore and sometimes I find that a little frustrating.


But I digress, when it came time to make my purchase, I knew without a doubt I would be trying the Mango Pineapple Smoothie, I'm a sucker for the tropical flavours and I'm not actually a huge strawberry fan.  Raspberry on the other hand, I would have a hard time passing up.  Although I was certain I'd only be having a smoothie, I couldn't help but order a Big Breakfast at the last minute.  I recently discovered that without the english muffin, the eggs, sausage and hashbrown are all gluten-free and dairy-free and for only $3.49 its hard to go wrong.


Despite missing his nap, even after an extra 15 minutes of driving, the baby was an amazing date; he happily had a little snack and a few bites of hashbrown while I enjoyed my Mango Pineapple smoothie and Big Breakfast.  The smoothie was delicious, the flavours blended well and tasted natural and fruity.  Almost as important as taste, the texture was smooth, the ice was uniform and the entire drink melted evenly making it easy to drink every last drop.

Before we left the baby had a quick crawl around the PlayPlace to burn off some steam.  One of my favourite things about the PlayPlace is that the room feels very safe and secure; there is only one entrance and that all of the edges are padded and protected.

After that we headed off to pick up my new menu planner from Staples and brief stop at home before running back to preschool to pick the boy up before lunch.

You can check out all my photos from this shop on Google+ and you can find McDonalds on Twitter @MCD_Canada.

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias #CBias, however all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gung Hay Fat Choy

With yesterday's new moon, a new lunar year began.

In Chinese culture, that's the only year that matters.  In fact, my grandmother can't even tell you her exact birthday since she counts it on the lunar cycle rather than the traditional calendar.  Much like the traditional new year, our family celebrates on the eve of the new year.

Although I'm sure there were fantastic parades and festivals around Vancouver, our family simply gathers at my grandmother's house for a home cooked meal and of course the exchange of the lucky red envelopes.

As you may know, although I am half Chinese, I don't speak Chinese and as such my knowledge of Chinese culture and traditions is minimal, though I have travelled to China three times, including my most recent trip when the boy was only 8 months old

When I was young, red envelopes were a cause for celebration; married relatives must provide the unmarried children with cash filled lucky envelopes.  As far as I know, there are only a few simple rules.

  • Each adult must provide each child with a lucky envelope, couples may not give a single envelope.
  • All envelopes must be received with two hands, accompanied by the appropriate thanks, dough-ja in Cantonese.
  • One must NOT open their envelopes and count their money until they are in the privacy of their own home, to open them when received is simply rude.
  • Lucky money must NOT be spent on bills, groceries or other household expenses.  It is meant to be enjoyed, so its a perfect excuse to splurge on something unnecessary.

Although I'm a day late, I want to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gluten Free Expo Vancouver

As a purveyor of all things Gluten-Free, I'm always on the lookout for tasty, new products and I welcome the opportunity to speak directly with the company about the foods they produce.  I'm more than a little excited about the Gluten Free Expo taking place in Vancouver today.

January 22, 2012
11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Croatian Cultural Centre
3250 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
Entrance by Gluten-Free Food Bank Donation

This event will bring together Gluten-Free exhibitors and the public in a forum to taste, talk and enjoy the gluten-free life.  Exhibitors include large well known companies such as Kettle Cuisine (who sent me some of their delicious soups to try out), Martins Marvelous Naturals (their gluten-free granola is fantastic), GlutinoUdi's gluten-free, and O'Doughs as well as a number of smaller companies that I'm excited to try out.

It's all happening today so if you're looking for a delicious (and gluten-free) way to spend your Sunday, head on out to the Expo and make sure to say hello if you see me, my sister, my dad and my baby strolling around.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Still Potty Training | Two & a Half Weeks Later

Toddler Potty

The word training sometimes feels synonymous with hard work, determination and frustration; especially when said training involves a toddler.  As you know, we started potty training in late December and although I was skeptical about 3-day potty training, I was willing to give it a try.

We didn't leave our house for five days, I washed countless pairs of 'big boy undies' and we kept our 'proud parent' hats on at all times.

So the moment of truth, is the boy potty trained?

Two and a half weeks, oodles of stickers, tic tacs and marshmallows later and the answer is still no.

Does he want to wear big boy undies? Yes.
Does he want to wear diapers? No.
Does he know he's supposed to pee in the potty?  Pretty sure that's a yes.
Does he want to sit on the potty? HECK no.

So what do we do?  We were making great strides, we were down to a totally manageable one accident a day when suddenly, as if a switch flipped, we were back to square one.  Refusal to sit on the potty, crying and screaming; literally all things no.

I'm fairly certain its a control thing and the truth is, he's right.  I can't make him sit on the potty and I certainly can't make him pee on command, but I'm also not sure where to go from here.  I've been offering him a diaper, reminding him to tell me when he has to pee and swooping him onto the potty when he does pee.  I've been giving ridiculous amounts of praise when he sits on the potty, even if its because I managed to get him there mid-stream.

But is that enough?  I'd let him wear diapers and lay off the training for a while if I thought that would help, but he's as adamant about not wearing diapers as he is about not sitting on the potty.

Honestly, its exhausting and I need a bit of inspiration.  I'd love to hear your suggestions on how to get through this particularly trying segment of potty training.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cranberry Orange Muffins | a gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free recipe

cranberry orange muffins
I love good recipe swaps.  I recently swapped my quinoa minestrone recipe for a cranberry orange loaf that I used as the basis for this cranberry orange gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free muffin recipe.  These are so tasty that the hubs just ate half of mine after stealing 'just a nibble'.  I’ve made these muffins twice this week; the first time batch I split with my sister Kat, but this time I’m keeping them all to myself.

This recipe uses more sugar than I usually do, but I think the tartness of the fresh cranberries kind of needs it so I’m hesitant to cut it back.  You could probably substitute honey or ¾ cup of agave with good results if you wanted to keep the recipe clean.

cranberry orange muffins You need to chop up an entire bag of cranberries for this recipe, it’s kind of a pain to do, but it’s worth it if you want little cranberry pockets that ooze flavour in your muffin.  I guarantee you will think you have too many cranberries, but I promise you don’t.  Stir them in, all of them, you won’t be sorry.  I’ve also added a completely optional sprinkling of sugar on the top of the muffin.  I just love that little crunch of the sugar with the tart of the cranberry.

This recipe uses my gluten-free flour mix but I'm sure any good gluten-free mix would work.  Also, don't skip the ginger ale, that little bit of carbonation really lightens up the muffin.  If you don't have any ginger ale, I'm sure any clear carbonated beverage would work, even just soda water.

It’s hard to believe I could love these muffins so much, I don’t even like oranges or orange juice.
gluten-free cranberry orange muffins
Cranberry Orange Muffin Recipe
gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free

  • 2 cups gluten-free flour mix
  • 1 cup sugar + more for sprinkling*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp xantham gum
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • zest of one orange
  • ¼ cup ginger ale
  • 1 bag (~3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, prepare muffin pans.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk the oil, egg, orange juice and orange zest together.
  4. Gently stir the ginger ale into the wet ingredients before pouring the wet ingredients into the dry.
  5. Gently stir the batter, as soon as it starts to come together, fold in the cranberries until blended.
  6. Nearly fill the muffin cups, then sprinkle lightly with sugar*.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes, turning once during baking, until tops are evenly browned and lightly firm to the touch. 
  8. Allow muffins to cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to finish cooling.
Yield: 15-18 Muffins
* optional

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Balance in 2012 | One Word Goal

Happy belated New Year, I don't want to start off with apologies or excuses, so I'll simply say, it's been busy.

Before the new year there were a lot of inspirational posts, I really liked Tara's One Word Goal for 2012 and even though I don't really do resolutions, the idea really started to grow on  me.  One word, something broad but not unattainable; a single word to guide the focus of an entire year.


It always feels so elusive, but surely its worth striving for.

25 First Foods for Baby | Starting Solids

As we all know there is a plethora of information available on what foods to introduce to your baby and I've discussed my thoughts with regard to introducing solids as well.  Sometimes rather than wading through a bunch of information, a simple list is easier to follow, so here are the first 25 foods (and a brief explanation for each) that I fed to my little baby boy.

1.     Rice cereal - an easy and common first food that can be mixed with nearly all other introductions.
2.     Avocado - a smooth creamy texture and loaded with good fat, avocados are easy to transport and are an ideal early food.
3.     Sweet potato - another common first food, sweet potatoes are full of nutrients and have a sweet silkiness that babies love.
4.     Pears - have a light sweet flavour that can be mixed with anything to make new foods palatable.
5.     Chicken - Health Canada recommends meats as a first food to refill depleting iron reserves; I always mix chicken with other foods. For my boys 'chicken & sweet potato' and 'chicken & pears' were hits on the first feed. 
6.     Quinoa - nutritious and delicious, this super grain is loaded with protein and fibre.  Quinoa baby food is easy to make and the baby gobbles it up, again mixed with pears or chicken.
7.     Zucchini - a summer squash that's abundant in Vancouver, this moist and mild vegetable is great for blending, but resist the urge to add extra water when pureeing, it thins out a lot.
8.     Prunes - at this point I noticed the regularity of the baby's poop's decreasing and the crankiness increasing so I introduced a daily dose of prunes.  I simmer the prunes with a little bit of pear to tame down the richness.
9.     Banana - I dislike bananas, but they are great food for travel and I was about to head off to Blissdom Canada so I mashed some up and gave them to the boy.  In truth, he's not super fond of them either.
10. Carrots - easy to make, easy to eat, easy to blend.  It's a common first food for a reason.
11. Peaches - my aunt brought me some peaches from her friends farm so of course I cooked them up for the baby.  After that, I just used canned peaches; its far more convenient and the baby only likes them mixed with other fruits anyway.
12. Broccoli - we eat a lot of broccoli in our house, so its natural that we'd introduce it early.  At our house it was a hit mixed with zucchini and some rice cereal.
13. Tofu - a great protein source that once again can be blended with just about anything.  The dietician told me to make sure you boil it before feeding it to your little one.
14. Blueberries - this sweet purple treat is abundant in the summer here in Vancouver and its another common food in our house.  Although the bright purple colour can be intimidating, this antioxidant rich treat is worth it.
15. Potato - Not my favourite, nor my boys, but it’s a welcome addition when you start making dishes that are more ‘meals’ than simply vegetables.
16. Pumpkin - After a visit to the pumpkin patch I had some delicious sugar pumpkins to roast and the baby was happy to partake in their sweet, mellow flavour.
17. Oatmeal - I made my own oats for the boy by grinding up some gluten-free oats and boiling them on the stove before mixing them with fruit for a new breakfast option.
18. Spinach – a nutrient rich veggie I was excited to introduce this to the baby using Annabel Karmel’s superfood puree recipe. Blended with chicken thighs and sweet potatoes, my little man can’t get enough.
19. Parsnips – a readily available root vegetable with a creamy texture, I hoped to use this to blend with foods the baby wasn’t so keen on.  Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to care much for parsnips.
20. Green beans – another plentiful, local vegetable, I introduced these so that I could prepare one of the boy’s favourite recipes for the baby with my next introduction.
21. Tomatoes – personally I only like cooked tomatoes and skinning fresh tomatoes is just too much work, so I always use canned tomatoes for my baby food.  The boy loved ratatouille made with a hearty mix of tomato, broccoli, zucchini and green beans.
22. Pork – after slow roasting a pork should for pulled pork, I blended up some of the unseasoned meat with some pears for the baby boy.  Just like pork chops and applesauce, only with pears.
23. Apple – I waited to introduce apples to both my boys simply because some varieties give me an oral allergy; that is they make my throat and inside of my ears uncomfortably itchy.  Granted I don’t get that reaction when the fruit is cooked and removing the peel on fresh fruit generally prevents the reaction, but given that my boys loved pears, there never seemed to be a reason to rush to introduce apples.
24. Egg yolk – an quick and easy to prepare finger food, I introduced egg yolk to add a little protein.  He likes it more now that he can feed himself, I separate the egg then fry the yolk firm without breaking it. 
25. Chickpeas – legumes are rich in fibre, protein and nutrients and if we want our kids to eat them it just makes sense to introduce them as babies.

In general I steam the fruits or vegetable until tender and then puree them with a bit of the steaming water.  I use an electric food steamer (which also works great as a bottle sterilizer) which makes it easy to avoid oversteaming the vegetables to ensure they stay flavourful and minimize nutrient loss.

I’m curious which foods you introduced to your little ones; did I introduce anything that you absolutely wouldn’t?  Or perhaps I missed something that you think is essential, I’d love to hear what you think.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lunch on the run at @McD_Canada while on the hunt for #EqualCanada #Cbias

McDonalds Ironwood Plaza
I've never really been one for fast food, even before I was gluten-free, though I've always had a weakness for McDonalds cheeseburgers.  The hubs however, has a bit of a love affair with fast food and eats out a little more than he probably wants to admit.
McDonalds Playplace
In the past, we have taken the boy to the Ironwood McDonalds (in Richmond, BC), as its the only location that still has a Playplace, but we've always just had a beverage and shared some fries among us all.   Now that we are re-introducing wheat, dairy and soy into the boys diet I'm excited about heading out for more than fries.

So when my Mom and I were out with the boys doing a few errands and lunchtime was upon us, I knew exactly where I wanted to go.  We drove across town to Ironwood to pick up some coffees and chicken nuggets.
McCafe Entrance
I haven't tried the coffee since McDonalds unveiled their new McCafe branding, though I'd heard good things about both the taste and flavour.  I was happy they had decaf, though I did find that it tasted a little bit old (which frequently happens with decaf).

My Mom uses sweetener in her coffee, so when I was ordering ours, I inquired about Equal sweetener and found they didn't carry it.  I was surprised to find that they only have one sweetener option available.  I explained to the cashier that it would be great to see more sweetener options as many people are very specific about their sweeteners and also mentioned that Equal is available in Canada in two varieties, including the popular sucralose option.  In general I think that having more options for something as simple as sweeteners can really make a difference to the customer and as such is good for business.
McCafe Coffee's

To ensure that my opinion was heard I inquired about a comment card, however that cashier didn't seem to know what I was talking about and the assistant manager simply informed me there was no comment box available and that decisions 'like that' were made at a national level and would require discussion at the highest management level.  After explaining that was exactly why I wanted to leave a comment, the assistant manager was able to confirm that I could leave my comments on the website listed on the back of the receipt and that she would pass my comments on to her superiors.  Of course, I followed up with the online form when I returned home.

While I was ordering food and discussing Equal sweetener with the staff, my Mom and the boys had a quick play in the playplace before we ran home to enjoy our delicious McDonalds take-out.

You can connect with Equal and McDonalds on Twitter @EqualCanada and @McD_Canada and on Facebook at Equal Canada and McDonalds Canada.

“This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias #CBias, however all opinions are my own.