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!