Thanks for joining me along the journey! I'd love to hear what you want to know ... do you have questions about sensory processing disorder, gluten-free/dairy-free diets, homeschooling, faith, life in general? Send me a note or post a comment and I'll try to write something that addresses your interests and questions!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Six Months and Six Years -- Wow!

Where DOES the time go?!  Seriously!  Within days of each other, my firstborn had his sixth birthday and my youngest turned six months, and I'm reeling.  Josiah is a third of the way out of the house (assuming he moves out around age 18) and Malachi is halfway to a year -- and I feel like I JUST had them a week ago!
Ever since Malachi arrived, Josiah has seemed so huge and grown up to me.  I consistently underestimate the strength it takes to sweep him up, and how high I need to keep my arms to keep him from hitting the ground when I swing him in my arms.  Don't get me wrong, he's still small for his age -- he just seems so huge to me these days!  And perhaps it is the presence of the new (does that term still apply at six months?) baby, but he seems so much more "different" after this birthday than he has at any other, so much more grown up and mature.  His catch-phrase for at least a week following his birthday, anytime he did something we were complimenting him for, was, "Of course, mom, that's what six year olds do!"  Well, gosh, if I'd known that, I'd have turned him six much sooner!  (Or maybe I wouldn't have!)
There are still plenty of areas that keep him behind his peers (due to his SPD) -- he still doesn't sleep well, still has lots of potty accidents during the day and sleeps in a diaper at night, still makes too much noise and moves too much compared with other kids his age -- but he's growing up so much lately!  He seems to be gaining an awareness of what it means to be growing up, and where many kids revert to more babyish behaviors when a younger sibling arrives, he seems to have embraced his big brother role for what it means to be older and more capable.  And I'm simultaneously celebrating and mourning that!
For his part, Malachi is growing like a little weed himself.  He moves around much more than Josiah did at his age -- not exactly army crawling, and not entirely using rolling as locomotion, but a strange combination of twisting and spinning that propels him around the floor.  He no longer stays exactly where he was put -- if we leave him on his back, head facing north, we'll find him on his belly, head facing east two feet from where he was originally, in just a few minutes!  And he's beginning to sit on his own -- he can support himself and keep his torso upright, but his balance isn't quite in tune yet :)  He's also getting better and better at using his hands to reach out and grab what he wants and manipulate it somewhat.  And there is NOTHING he isn't interested in grabbing!  And most of it goes into his mouth to be chewed on and tasted :) 
The cutest thing he's doing recently is "talking" to us.  He's only just beginning to discover his voice and the range of noises it can make, and his babbling does resemble any actual words just yet, but he is clearly grasping the concept of using it to communicate.  The other day, I had him in his baby swing while I was folding laundry.  For a long time, we were both quiet, he focused on the fish twirling above his head and me on the laundry.  When I finished I sat down across from him and caught his eyes, and he looked straight at me and started babbling noises with the most adorable "Mom, you should have seen this!" expression on his face.  He seems to really be paying attention to the signs we are showing him, and while he doesn't use them yet (except for mik -- I *think* he's using that one sometimes), I think they are helping him sort out words and learn language already.
I can remember being so excited at every new milestone Josiah made as a baby, feeling the newness of his growing abilities and intellect right along with him.  Knowing that Malachi is most likely my last baby, these moments are more bittersweet -- I treasure them even while I mourn the loss of a stage he has passed and will never return to.  Gone already is the tell-tale newborn sound to his cry and voice, the tiny face and features of a newborn, the downy-soft newborn fuzzy hair, even the dramatic startle reflex.  In some ways I feel like I missed so much of those early stages just trying to keep him from crying all day and night (he was "colicky" for the first two months, until I cut gluten from my diet!), and I sense the loss of it even while I celebrate the new skills and features he develops.
Someone once shared with me a quote about motherhood, something along the lines of "The days seem to last forever, but the years fly by!"  Such truth, and while it's easy to get lost in the monotony of the everyday, fighting the same discipline battles and food challenges and chores struggles -- and playing the same games and reading the same stories -- over and over again, I pray I will not lose sight of just how fast it all really does go by.  Someday, far sooner than I realize, I'm sure, I will pine for the days when several rounds of Guess Who and requests to pick up the Go Fish cards while I stir the soup with one hand and balance a fascinated-with-life infant on my hip with the other filled my days and weeks.  Oh, there will be new joys, to be certain -- but never again will things be as they are right now.  And as hard as the days are sometimes, as the years fly by, I realize more and more just how blessed these days are!

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Cooking for Isaiah" Review

I've been busy :) Part of what has kept me busy is this excellent new cookbook full of dairy- and gluten-free recipes!  Written by the editor of the Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine (and a former bakery owner), the recipes were created for her adolescent son with gluten- and dairy-intolerances.  Her goal was to make GFCF foods that are just as yummy, or even more so, than their gluten- and dairy-filled counterparts.  And she succeeds! 

One of the things I like best about this cookbook is that she doesn't try to substitute a lot of soy products for the dairy; instead, she uses other ingredients and spices for flavor and texture, like mashed beans to make a creamy soup and adding sundried tomatoes to pancake mix to make wafflebread for sandwiches. 

Some of the recipes are a bit labor intensive, especially if you're just getting started.  For example, the chocolate silk pie (which I haven't yet tried but looks delicious!), requires that you (1) make Silvana's All-Purpose Flour Mix, (2) make chocolate cookies so you have them for (3) crushing the cookies for the crust -- not to mention all the rest of the work for the pie filling (which involves separating eggs and double-boiling multiple times).  You could buy store-bought gluten-free cookies to crush (if you can find them), but I would think best results would be using her own recipes. 

Other recipes, though, are super easy!  The first thing I tried was a recipe for pumpkin muffins with crumble topping -- once you've mixed the flour (which is easy, and only needs to be done every several recipes, as one batch will last a while), it's really very quick and simple to add the rest of the ingredients, pour into cupcake liners in a muffin tin, and bake.  And they were tasty, with a fantastically fluffy, crumbly texture!

The most recent recipe I tried was her "mom's banana bread" recipe.  Like the muffins, super fast and simple -- and this was at least as good, if not better, than any banana bread I've ever made.  Both my husband and my 6-year old ate it up in one afternoon, and they are both incredibly picky eaters, so that's really saying something.

I also love how creative she gets with things to make gluten-free foods fun and appetizing.  For example, she uses slices of the banana bread to make grilled peanut butter and bacon sandwiches (think grilled cheese, with peanut butter and bacon on banana bread instead of cheese on wheat).  So creative and exceptionally tasty!  She also uses the waffle iron to make all kinds of breads, both sweet and savory, particularly for making sandwiches (sandwich bread is the hardest to replicate in gluten-free varieties). 

While not unhealthy, the priority in this cookbook is taste -- she's not afraid to use oils and sugar and white (instead of brown) rice to make things tasty.  Some have criticized that there are healthier GFCF cookbooks on the market, and while I'm sure that's true, there are times I just want things to taste like they did when I cooked with gluten and dairy, even if it isn't uber healthy, and for that, this cookbook delivers.  There are still plenty of healthy options as well (recipes loaded with good veggies and proteins), giving it the perfect balance for my family.

In the foreward, Rachel Ray writes that it "boggles [her] tastebuds" that the recipes lack gluten and dairy, and given my husband's two-thumbs up approval of every recipe I've tried so far, I'd have to agree.  If you're trying to find innovative ideas and fantastic taste/texture recipes that will entice even your picky eaters to enjoy GFCF foods, this cookbook will be your new best friend :)  It is quickly becoming mine!

*Fine print:  I paid full price for this cookbook on Amazon and was not offered any incentive whatsoever for trying or reviewing it, nor do I expect to at any point in the future -- I'm quite certain nobody associated with publishing this book has any idea I'm alive or using the cookbook.  I'm just sharing a great thing I've found!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free Recipe: Pancakes

These pancakes are SOO yummy even my gluten-eating husband eats (and enoys!) them!

1 C rice flour
3 T tapioca flour
1/3 C potato starch
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 eggs
3 T canola oil
1 1/2 to 2 C milk substitute (rice, almond, hemp, etc.)

Sift together dry ingredients.  Stir in wet ingredients until very few lumps remain.  Pour into heated, oiled pan on medium heat; flip when bubbles begin to form on top.

*We add a variety of things to the batter to make flavored pancakes: blueberries, bananas, chocolate chips, cinnamon and brown sugar/maple syrup, vanilla, etc.  You can also add ground flax seed for some extra fiber.

TIP: I make several half-batches of the dry ingredients and store them in ziploc baggies so I can make a quick batch of pancakes by only adding an egg, oil and milk to the dry mixture for a faster breakfast!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free Recipe: Pumpkin Soup (Sauce)

Here's my current favorite creamy-pasta substitute :) It's actually a recipe for a pumpkin soup, but I make a few alterations to the recipe and make it a sauce for a pasta dish. Here's the original recipe with some notes ...about my alterations:

Pumpkin Soup (sauce)
1 C sliced carrot (I do about a cup and a half)
3/4 C coursely chopped green pepper
1/2 C chopped onion
(I also add about a cup of thickly sliced zucchini and/or broccoli just to add more veggies, because I like them!)
1 Tbs cooking oil (we use olive oil, usually, though coconut oil would probably work splendidly in this as well)
1 can unsweetened light coconut milk
1 can pureed pumpkin
14 oz reduced sodium chicken broth
2 Tbs packed brown sugar
1 medium fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbs snipped fresh cilantro
(I'm not a fan of cilantro or jalapeno so I put in a dash of chili powder for some spice and added peanut butter to give it a more Thai flavor)

In a large saucepan, cook carrot, pepper and onion in hot oil over medium heat, about five minutes or until almost tender. Remove from heat. In a bowl, combine pumpkin, coconut milk, and broth. Stir in brown sugar, jalapeno pepper, salt and ginger (and/or chili powder, peanut butter, etc.) Stir pumpkin mixture into cooked veggie mixture (and add more delicate veggies now, if you plan to, like zucchini and/or broccoli).

Bring to boiling; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently. Stir in cilantro before serving.

**My other changes: I also added a bit of cornstarch during the simmer to thicken it up just a tad. Served over grilled chicken and some gluten-free pasta, this makes a yummy creamy sauce loaded with veggies and flavor!
See More

Tips for 'Transitioning to a Restricted Diet

It's been almost two years since we've had Josiah off gluten, dairy and soy, and in that time, I have gone gluten-free for Malachi and even Josh (daddy) has tried eliminating gluten.  While it's much easier now, the transitions are always tough.  Having done it a few times, I've learned a few things, so here are my tips for making a transition to a restricted diet:

(1)  Add new foods BEFORE you start eliminating!  In every case, the transition has been easier when we delay making the full transition for a few weeks while we introduce new foods that fit the restricted diet so there are foods they are used to and enjoy before you eliminate things they've been used to.  For example, we introduced gluten-free Koala Crisp before we started taking away Cheerios, and we offered him gluten-free Pretzels before we took away his toast and sandwiches.  That way, when the gluten foods are eliminated, there are still lots of things he's already enjoying that don't have to go away!

(2)  Shift to eating more whole foods.  While processed foods are convenient, they aren't nearly as healthy as prepared whole foods anyway, and most processed foods won't be allowed on a restricted diet.  Almost EVERY processed food in the American diet has gluten, dairy or soy in it (if not all three).  It takes a bit more time and planning, but the food almost always tastes better anyway, is far more nutritious, and saves money -- and you'll be able to make "old favorites" in versions that fit your restricted diet.

(3) Focus on what you CAN eat, rather than on what you can't.  On a gluten/dairy/soy free diet, there is still a LOT you can eat, especially if you do some whole foods cooking.  Any meat, nuts, fruits and vegetables are safe and encouraged, and there are also still a lot of grains you can eat and cook with (rice, quinoa, lentils, potatoes, etc.)  Instead of making lists of off-limits foods, make menus of foods that fit your diet.  A snack list might include: apple slices, raisins, peanut butter with gluten-free pretzels or crackers, frozen blueberries, red peppers and hummus, pickles, carrot sticks with dipping sauce (Josiah loves the dip I make by adding curry powder, salt, pepper and lemon juice to some mayonnaise).

(4) Read labels meticulously AND be informed about all the names/ingredients that might include your restricted foods.  For example, sodium caesinate is found in lots of "dairy free" items (like whipped topping and coffee creamer) but is derived from milk and can be problematic for many people on a dairy-restricted diet.  "Spices" and "Natural Flavorings" often include dairy and/or gluten proteins.  When in doubt, keep it out :)  And you can always call the company to ask whether a specific product contains gluten or dairy (or whatever restricted ingredient you're dealing with).

(5) For some meals/dishes, you can find good substitutes that fit your dietary restrictions; for others, it's best to just alter the recipe or dish to something different.  For example, spaghetti is easy to do GFCFSF (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free) by making sure your pasta sauce doesn't have cheese or cream in it (we like Newman's Own sauces as they are all natural ingredients and only a couple have dairy in them) and serving it over a bed of gluten-free pasta (if you can eat corn, the corn-quinoa blend by Ancient Harvest is my favorite).  Sandwiches, on the other hand, just aren't the same with gluten-free breads, so we just do deli rolls instead -- on a slice of deli meat, spread mayo or hummus, add a couple leaves of spinach and a thin slice of tomato and roll it up :) 

(6)  Consider throwing out some of your "food rules" while you're making the transition.  For example, we normally wouldn't allow candy on a daily basis, but while we were transitioning Josiah off gluten, we let it slide and would let him have a small piece of candy after lunch if he had eaten well.  We already had fairly relaxed rules regarding table manners (our SPD kid still has trouble sitting still for a full meal and using his utensils consistently, but we do insist on politeness like excusing yourself if you burp, etc.) but we also added other "gimicky" things like carpet picnics, where we'd all eat together on a tablecloth on the floor of the living room, to make eating more fun while he was getting used to the new diet.  (Actually, we enjoyed carpet picnicking so much that we still do it fairly frequently!) 

(7)  Along the lines of number 6, find a treat you (or your child) enjoys that fits your restricted diet and reward yourself with it on difficult days.  When I eliminated gluten, I found some Udi's Double Chocolate Muffins that, while relatively unhealthy and expensive, taste SOOO yummy.  I keep a pack in my freezer for those days when I'm really bummed about having to avoid the cake at a baby shower or am craving a bagel and cream cheese :)  It's the pat on the back (or belly, as the case may be) that I need sometimes to keep pressing on!