Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why I say my son is a Martian.

I know there are going to be some sensitive folks out there who think I am being insensitive. I mean, I am basically calling my son an alien from another planet. Before I am judged too harshly, let me tell you why I came up with this name for him.

When he was little, before we had any idea that he had Autism, allergies, or Epilepsy, my son had rather odd food preferences and eating rituals.

Story 1: Daycare Eccentricities.

Before I quit my rather lucrative sales career to stay at home/go back to school, my son would go to a very nice daycare facility literally 1/4 mile from my house.  He started there at 6 months, this is right before his first seizure, and well before he got the Autism diagnosis. Needless to say, I was oblivious to his oddities and had no concerns until the day "Nancy" (changed name.) called me at my office to come and see something in regard to James.  James was about 10 months by this time, so a little older. Well, being a first-time mom, I completely panicked and rushed right over. I went to James' room, the infant room, and guess what I saw? James, like the other three babies, was sitting in a high-chair, nothing weird right? However, while the other "babies" were picking up their cheerios and feeding themselves, "Nancy" was having to drop the cheerios in James' mouth like a baby bird. Was it odd that he would not pick them up? Yes, and a little concerning. But that was not the strangest part. The strangest thing of all is that if she did not drop the cheerio in his mouth just right, he would spit it out and drop it on the floor, using his HAND. I am not kidding. So for some reason only he knows, he could not or would not pick up the cheerios, but could drop them on the floor. Finally, at about 17 months, he started to really feed himself, despite having a serious bout of seizures and a consequential hospital stay. However, it would take me two more years to get him to use a fork,spoon and napkin.

Story 2: Just leave a trail of crackers.

As I mentioned in my first blog, James used to live off of bread items, milk, and starburst. All very bad for him. When he was about two years old, he went through a bout of not eating anything I put in front of him. He would sit at the table with us and eat nothing. When he would grow tired of our begging and pleading to eat, he would get down and go play. Eventually, my husband realized that James would eat things if we just left them "out" . Ken would place goldfish crackers, or something of this nature on the table, coffee table, or some other reachable surface. James would sneak over and pick them up and eat them. However, like a spooked bird, he would leave the food if he thought we were looking at him. Don't ask me why this is so, I have no idea. I thought this was a singular affair until a friend of mine, who also has a kid with autism, told me a similar story of how she fed her son in a similar fashion. Eventually, he grew out of this phase and started eating at the table with us. Honestly, because I have no inner sense of dread, I thought it was a cute habit of his.

Story 3: James the Cookie Monster

This is an ongoing story for me.  James is now at a phase where he seems to eat a crazy amount of food for his size. (49 inches and 55 lbs.)  I remember the first time I told his doctor how much he eats for breakfast. He struggled to disguise the amazement in his eyes.  Let me tell you and you can judge for yourself. By the time James was 4, he was averaging: 4-5 eggs, 2-3 pieces of bacon, and 1 bowl of cereal with milk every single day. Before you think this sounds excessive, please understand that I sweep my kitchen floor roughly a thousand times a day because at least 3/4 of the food ends up on the floor.

The reason I call this phenomenon the "Cookie Monster Anomaly" should be obvious to anyone who watched or still watches Sesame Street. Cookie monster was always eating cookies, but, because he is a Muppet, he obviously does not have a digestive system. (Trust me, I know, I am a nursing/nutrition student.) Therefore, all the cookies he "ate" ended up on the platform in front of him or on the floor. Now that you have that mental image, you can surely understand what I mean when I say James eats like Cookie Monster.

My theory as to why he does this has led me to conclude he is, in fact, a Martian. I mean honestly, if Martians have invaded our planet, they would want for all of us to think that they are "eating" our food, even though they are not. Plus, if they live with someone as oblivious as me, they know that person will sweep up food crumbs for years without an ounce of suspicion. Honestly, that is what I have done.

Finally, when James finally starting eating real food and gaining weight, I had to go against everything that I had heard was healthy from my Mother, Grandmother, Great-grandmother, the FDA, and my son's pediatrician. The truth is, even though Calcium and Vitamin D are very important, some kids simply cannot tolerate dairy products. Although whole grains are very important to digest health, gluten can damage the intestinal linings for some. So, James has a particular diet, which negates roughly 148 foods, and preservatives. A true "Martian Diet". You know what? He has never been healthier. So, I guess I can maintain his diet until he has to go back to his home planet and report to his Martian superiors.

I hope it isn't too soon though, I love that little Martian!

Cheers and have a great day!!!

Simple Frostings that are preservative-free, and GFCF

My children have birthdays coming up, and this got me to thinking about what cakes I am going to make this year. James, my oldest, is not one for the sweet tooth but he loves chocolate, therefore, he is easy. My youngest, Andy, does inherit his sweet tooth from me, therefore, I have to be more creative.

I will tell you that there are alot of lovely cake mixes on the market. Even Betty Crocker (TM)  has one.  I actually don't often find the cakes to be the problem. It is the frosting and the icing that is somewhat difficult. You see, James has a seizure disorder and food coloring really affects him neurologically. Therefore, food coloring is out.

I always find that when I need a color, I can use natural food colorings. For example, I have been able to find natural food colorings made in India that have beautiful hues. However, the downside is that I have only been able to find this at Whole Foods and the ink set is $25.00 there. It does last for a very long time, but it is quite an investment.

There are also other "natural coloring dyes" on the market as well. Currently, in my pantry, I have the following: a blueberry, a annato, and a carrot dye. The downside to these is that they require alot of the dye to get a good hue.

My favorite fall back is to use the following: the juice of kale or spinach for green, fresh raspberries or cherries for red, and lemon makes a lovely pale yellow.

So, I will say that it is somewhat limited. The best thing to do is to experiment with the colors and flavors you prefer. Both of my children love raspberries, blueberries and lemons so they make appearances often when I am making frosting for cupcakes.

Below, I have two of my favorite "everyday frostings" for you to use. I love making cupcakes and using these frostings for them.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting:
9 oz of GF/CF chocolate chips (usu. Enjoy Life (TM))
2 Tbsp of CF Ghee butter or Soy butter if tolerated.
2 Tbsp of milk alternative.
1 Tbsp of powdered sugar (again, GF!)

Melt the chocolate, milk alterative, and ghee over medium heat, stir constantly to make sure that they are well incorporated.  stir the powdered sugar into the mixture and ice your cakes! It will harden a little, but it is so good!

Fresh Raspberry Frosting.
(I love this frosting during the summer months and will often garnish with raspberries, blueberries and strawberries for 4th of July events.)

8 tbsp of soy butter or any GF/CF butter alternative
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 handful of fresh raspberries.
2 tbsp of milk-alternative

Beat the butter until smooth and creamy add the powdered sugar
add the milk alternative. Finally, on low-speed, incorporate the raspberries.

Frost your cupcakes and enjoy.

Next month, since James has a birthday, I will post a few cake recipes I have collected and created over the years. Some of them are not mine, and some are actually modified from family recipes (pumpkin spice for example,) so I think I have a good selection for every taste. I hope you enjoy my frostings and I wish you luck.

Chocolate Souffle' and Halibut with Lemon butter Caper Sauce (Date Night!)

Occasionally, when the mood would strike us, I would make a special meal at home for my husband and I.  This is one of our favorites. I usually would do a 3-course meal and start with a nice salad with homemade Caesar sauce (non-dairy,) and then move on to the Halibut, and finally, my favorite, the dessert!

Believe it or not, both of my kids would eat the left over souffle' and would really enjoy it. But then again, who doesn't like chocolate, I mean, seriously?

I know how hard it is to find time with your husband/wife after kids are born. I also know that it is doubly hard when you have a special kid, (READ: Martian,) who is not exactly the easiest child to find a babysitter for. Well, that is precisely why I came up with this particular meal plan. Even if I can't get the kids to bed, it is still a meal that my kids will eat, (modified with GF breadcrumbs!) Plus, it makes us feel like we are at a nice restaurant, even if we are not.

1st Course, Salad with Caesar Dressing:

1/8 teaspoon of dry mustard powder, or pulverized mustard seeds
1/8 of each: cracked pepper and sea salt
1 clove of garlic (for rubbing around the bowl)
(you could also use garlic-infused olive oil and omit a step!)
1/2 of an anchovey. (no extra flavors!, packed in olive oil is the best)
Juice of one lemon
4-5 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

1st: mix the dry ingredients, rub the garlic along the sides of the bowl to extract the juices.
2nd: add the 1/2 anchovey, smash it with a fork or spoon and incorporate it with the dry ingredients
3rd: add the lemon juice, whisk the dickens out of it!
4th: Slowly add the Olive Oil to it and continue to whisk so that it becomes emulsified!

Pour over and toss the greens of your salad! (I prefer Arugula, Romane, etc. with tomatoes.)

2nd Course: The Halibut:

I find that the recommended portions for Halibut are a little too large for me. However, you may go up or down. For two people, 1 lb total is a good size.

To begin, make sure you have the following ingredients:
2 fresh lemons or natural lemon juice (about 1/4 cup)
Olive Oil, extra virgin about 2 tbsp.
1 tbsp of ghee butter
a generous handful of capers
finely minced garlic, about 1/8 of a tsp
a small bunch or sprinkle of fresh thyme.
and of course, the Halibut.

To begin, dry pat the halibut with a papertowel to get excess moisture off.
Salt and Pepper to taste on both sides of the fillets.
take a pan and heat on med-high heat, add olive oil.
heat oven to 425 degree F.
put the fillets of halibut in your pan once you see little ripples in the EVOO.
cook on one side for 2 mins, flip over carefully. For the love of Pete, please do yourself a favor and use a spatuala, do not use tongs, the fish will fall apart.
Cook on the other side for two minutes.
Stick in pre-heated oven. (either directly in the same pan, or do what I do and move over to a grill pan and put in oven for 10-12 minutes.)
take your pan and deglaze with the lemon juice. If you are going to use fresh lemons, use either a squeezer you can get at a kitchen supply store or a fork. (if you use a fork, let the lemon juice go through your fingers to pan so that you can get the little seeds.) Use a soft spatula to get all of the lovely little bits of fish that are stuck to the pan, let the juice cook down a bit, stir in the tablespoon, or pat if you will, of ghee butter.
add the garlic and capers and a little splash of water.
Pull the halibut out of the oven, make sure that it is cooked enough (fork an edge and make sure it flakes!)
pour the lemon-caper sauce over the top and you are done!

For the best part:
Here is the fun fun part!

Here is what you need:
6 oz of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
1 tsp of cocoa powder or organic powdered sugar with cornstarch.
2 tbsp of ghee butter or coconut oil for greasing the ramikins
2 tbsp of ghee butter for the recipe
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp of GF vanilla (again, the real stuff!)
a pinch of cream of tarter (no other additives!)
a pinch of sea-salt
2 tbsp of organic cane sugar or sugar alternative (stevia)

First, take a good pan or use a double boiler and melt the chocolate and 2 tblsp of ghee butter over LOW heat. (you burn it and you will not have a good souffle')
once it has melted and they are well mixed together, take the mixture of heat and add the vanilla. Once it has cooled down a bit, add some of this chocolate mixture to the two egg yolks, that have been slightly beaten. this will ensure that you do not have curdled eggs. add the yolk mixture into the chocolate mixture incorporate well by hand.

With a hand mixer or a stand mixer:
beat the sugar, salt, cream of tarter and egg whites together until stiff peaks form.

Now it is time to incorporate the two! This is very tricky, so pay attention.

pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl. Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to it by folding gently with a rubber spatula. add another third, same thing, fold gently. Finally, the last third, it should look like marble. Do not incorporate it completely, this makes for a dry mixture.

take four small ramikins, grease with ghee and dust with cocoa powder (make sure it is GF/CF!) or the powdered sugar or even shavings of Enjoy Life chocolate bars.  pour the mixture of the souffle' into each. Clean the edges with a slightly damp paper towel, or the souffle' will not rise. Place the ramikins in a shallow water bath. (use a cake pan, add some warm water to it, but make sure that you do not get water in the ramikins.) Stick in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.

When they are done, take them out of the oven and garnish with fresh fruit and powdered sugar! Enjoy your date night!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Muffins for Martians. (How to get carrots into your child!)

Before I had my lovely sons, I used to have couples over for Sunday brunch.  I always made sure that we had bagels when they came over. There was this lovely Bagel shop right by my house, Big Apple Bagels.  I didn't go there for the bagels, though, no way, I went for the dozen little muffins that came WITH the bagels.  They were fantastic and came in a variety of different flavors and textures.  Needless to say, I would eat the muffins on the way home and tell no one that they ever existed.  Seriously, that is how addicted I am to muffins!  Needless to say, my son, James (the one with Autism,) is a muffin maniac as well. The problem is, we had to make our own without dairy, wheat, nuts, bananas, honey, etc.  It took me quite awhile to create a recipe that accommodates his needs and that he would actually eat.  Not to brag or anything, but they are good!  The best part? They don't have gluten, dairy, nuts, bananas, honey, or even sugar!  Plus, they have carrots, applesauce, and a few chocolate chips thrown in for good measure. Without further jabber, here is my recipe for my carrot, applesauce, and chocolate chip muffins:


1 cup of white rice flour (I prefer Bob's Red Mill.)
Bob's Red Mill Stone Ground White Rice Flour, Gluten Free, 24 oz (1 lb 8 oz) 680 g by ClubNatural
1 small carrot, finely shredded
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of GF Baking Powder
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of organic applesauce
1 egg
2 tablespoons of Canola Oil
1/2 cup of dairy-free alternative (I use almond milk or Van's dairy-free, use what your child can tolerate.)
1/3 cup of Enjoy Life Foods Chocolate Chips
Enjoy Life Foods Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips 10 Oz

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and carrot shreds together with a spoon (Do not user a MIXER!)

Combine the canola oil, egg,dairy-free alternative, and applesauce together, stir into dry mixture.

Do not, DO NOT over-stir! A little lumpiness makes for a good muffin.  Fold in the Chocolate Chips.

Pour into muffin tin, should make a dozen regular-size muffins and about 20 mini-muffins, and six large muffins if you want to keep them all to yourself, MWAH-HA-HA!

Put on medium rack of a 425 degree F pre-heated oven for 18 minutes.  Let them cool a bit, as the chocolate chips might burn little mouths. Enjoy them with your beverage of choice.

I would love feedback on this recipe so let me know! Cheers and Good Luck!

Brownies are for Martians, too!

Have you ever tried the gluten-free, dairy-free brownies on the market? Terrible, aren't they? I actually think that they make them bad on purpose so we are forced to get slim. That is my theory anyway.  Because they are so mind-numbingly, waist-cinching awful, I decided it was time to make my own. So, I did, and they are chewy and good! Here is the recipe, I modified it from an old, very quality recipe. Don't make them if you are alone, though, you will eat the entire plate! Trust me! I have and was wracked with semi-guilt for the rest of the day.

Martian gooey-kablooey Brownies:


6 oz of Enjoy-Life Chocolate chips.
1/2 cup of ghee butter
2 eggs (or equivalent egg replacer.)
1 1/4 cups of organic brown sugar
2/3 cup of GFCF flour (multi-purpose, without baking powder.)
1/8 teaspoon of guar or xantham gum
1 teaspoon of baking powder. (Gluten and Aluminum Free!)
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon of vanilla (the real stuff! Imitation is no good and often not gluten free!)

Some people like to mix in nuts, we can't, however, many nuts have Omega fats and are good for neurological stabilization and growth. (Makes you smarter, or so I have heard! :)
I prefer to mix in extra Enjoy-Life chips, or dried fruit, (organic, sulfite-free!) and sometimes, to be devilish, I pulverize the leaves of a bunch of kale and will add 1/4 cup to this recipe. Trust me on this, PULVERIZE! If you don't, they will find it with their incredible eyesight and pick it out! Kale has a wonderful flavor and is hard to discover with taste.  Don't use spinach, I don't care what other cooks say, kids taste the slight bitterness, trust me.  Kale is great because it provides calcium, B-vitamins, and Iron. These are things our kids lack. 

So now, to the recipe:

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate chips and ghee butter. Let melt slowly and stir often.  Once they are completely melted and well-incorporated, scrape the vanilla bean, or add the vanilla to the mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.

Now, lets incorporate the other ingredients:
In a tabletop or stand mixer, do the following:

Slightly beat the eggs, add the brown sugar and mix on medium speed until the mixture becomes pale brown, almost tan. 

Sift the GFCF Flour, xantham or guar gum, and baking powder together. Sift this mixture into the egg/sugar mixture. (You don't want fava bean, tapioca, or rice flour lumps!) Mix until well incorporated, scrape sides as needed.

Now for the fun part, take this mixture off the stand, grab your sauce-pan of chocolately-goodness and poor it in, 1/3 at a time. After each pour, fold in with a spatula, gently. The mixture should look marbley or streaky. If it is all one color, you stirred to long and your brownies will be dry. Trust me, just fold it in well enough so there is not a big glob of chocolate in the middle.

Take an 8" square glass pan, cover it with the ghee and parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan and stick it in a 350 degree F, pre-heated oven. Here is the tricky part, put it in for 37 minutes. My original recipe called for 40 minutes, but this is too long and the brownies fell apart. Don't worry if they seem undone when you pull them out, they will set up! After taking the brownies out, pull them out by the parchment paper. Put the brownies, parchment paper and all, on a cooling rack. After about an hour, (show some restraint!,) cut the brownies and eat! Enjoy. This is my son's favorite treat, and honestly, mine too. Good luck and cheers!

Spaghetti and Meatballs, Martian-Style.

This is probably the first big meal we created on the GFCF diet.  I am actually quite proud of it, for many reasons. The main reason, however, is that my grandmother created the original and I just modified it for James' diet.  There is nothing better than having a cherished family meal retained in this restricted diet.  I know that many of you have probably been through the, "We will never eat like we used to," Blues.  This is perfectly natural and perfectly right, of course.  The truth is, there is rarely a restaurant you will get to eat at anymore, McDonald's is out, for one, and so is Pizza Hut.  However, if you can retain some of your favorite recipes, they can be modified to become a close facsimile of the original.  Trust me on this, if I can modify my recipes, you can too! So back to my Grandmother's recipe:

I prefer to use ground lamb for this recipe, however, you can use ground beef if you prefer:

Spaghetti and Meatballs, Martian-Style


1 pound of ground meat.
1 egg, slightly beaten (with a fork, just make sure the yolk is broken.)
1/2 finely chopped carrot
1/2 finely chopped red or green bell pepper
1/4 finely chopped yellow onion
1/5 cup brown rice flour or GF cornmeal
1 tablespoon of flax seed flour
2 tsp of dry basil. (however, I use fresh basil, a good bunch chopped finely.)
1/2 tsp of oregano
1/4 tsp of herbs de provence mix (dry is good)
1 tsp of finely minced garlic. (not garlic salt or powder! it is often not gluten free!)
2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Grab a large bowl and hand mix the above until well incorporated. Grab a regular spoon and scoop out medium size balls of the mixture. Roll in your hands to create a meatball shape.
Place the meatballs on your baking sheet, give at least an inch of separation between them to allow the air to circulate and cook the meatballs thoroughly.

After all the meatballs are done, place the baking sheet in a 400 degree F oven, middle rack, for 20 minutes.

While they are cooking, get your water to boiling.  I prefer Tinkyada spaghetti, the texture is great and it separates well. However, if you like, there is also De Boles, Schar, King Soba, etc.  Salt the water really well! I usually boil rice pasta 2 minutes less than they recommend. The reason is that rice pasta is soooo starchy and I prefer aldente. I don't like pasta chunks!  Drain the pasta, don't rinse! This makes it hard for sauce to adhere to the pasta.

There are also many lovely pasta sauces on the market. I prefer to make my own and get bored with a simple marinara. There lovely thing about these meatballs is that they go with a variety of sauces. I have used Lemon-butter (ghee.), Swedish (GFCF, I will provide this recipe in a later blog,) and no sauce at all!  However, for this recipe, and with spaghetti noodles, I recommend marinara. 

Eden's Organic, Amy's, Seeds of Change, etc, are all very good options. Warm your pasta on the stove, don't microwave! You lose vitamins that are heat and microwave sensitive!

Take your meatballs out of the oven, place over the pasta, cover with the sauce, and voila! You have a fast and simple weekday evening meal.

I will do a whole discussion on sauces for those of you who want the weekend version. Good luck and I hope your little martian eats it up like mine do! Cheers!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why Autistic kids eat strangely. (Because they are not from this planet?)

I am a mother of an Autistic child. He is one of the most interesting people I have ever known. In fact, we get along great, mostly, with one exception.  I love food in all variations, cuisines, etc...and he would eat nothing but frozen waffles, french fries, and milk if he could.  In fact, for the first four years of his life, that is essentially all I could ever get him to eat, with the exception of a starburst here and there.  So, I worried and fretted about his dietary choices and started to take him to specialists.  I found an amazing group that tested him for not just allergies, but also food intolerances, deficiencies, etc.  (Not a big surprise that he had some!) After many tests and endoscopies, etc, a list emmerged of foods he should avoid for the sake of his health. The top offenders were milk, casein, gluten, wheat, peanuts, soy, and pineapple.  The total final list included 138 different food items. Needless to say, I had to act, react, and redact basically everything in my house. Sounds daunting, right? Well, I am not going to lie, it was. In fact, I still have nightmares that I am going to have to do that, again. However, we have since learned how to eat on his modified diet. Because he can't eat most foods that the average child would, I call his alternative diet the Martian Meal Dietary plan.  Because, honestly, it is out of this world what he eats. Now, being that it has taken me several years to perfect this diet, you would think I would selfishly hold onto it and not share. Well, you are wrong! I am going to share my recipes with other parents and/or other folks that have severe dietary restrictions. Many of these recipes do contain eggs, because oddly enough, this is not an item that my son has issues with. However, there are egg replacers on the market and a friend of mine actually said that duck eggs are a good replacement and less allergen-inducing than chicken eggs. So there you have it. I am going to post at least a Martian Meal and a Martian Dessert every week. I hope this helps all of you. Also, I will post all those lovely stories that may embarrass me, but perhaps you will enjoy. There you have it!