Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Doodle's Autism Journey

As 2009 comes to a close, it's a good time to stop and reflect on the incredible progress Doodle has made this year. She's come such a long way in a short amount of time! I was thinking this evening about the journey we have made since discovering Doodle had autism and thought I'd take the time to post a few thoughts about our journey in the coming weeks.

A typical day back then consisted of the following:

Wake Doodle up at 7:00 and try to get her ready for daycare. Most days this usually involved one of us crying before ever arriving at daycare (sometimes both of us). Picking her up from daycare resulted in a knock-down, drag-out Meltdown that could easily last 2-3 hours. I'm not talking the kind of tantrum an ordinary kid throws to get their way, either. I'm talking about high pitched screaming and crying for hours on end and nothing will console Doodle. I'm talking about Doodle getting so mad she would go somewhere in the house and pee all over the floor (ew!). I'm talking kicking and screaming so intense that you will walk away bruised and beaten if you get anywhere near her. I once naively thought that a friend of mine's daughter was too spoiled because she would throw tantrums in public. Boy, was I wrong! Payback's a bitch!

When Doodle wasn't throwing a tantrum, she would often wander through the house repeating random phrases. Holding a conversation with her was often like listening to random soundbites on the radio - nothing really connecting any two thoughts together. Phrases like "I'm going to Valleyfair." would follow "Emily has an orange ball." over and over again.

I often had the feeling that Doodle didn't understand what I was saying to her. I would constantly have to say "Doodle stop. Look at me. Where's my eyes?" to get her to listen long enough to hear what I was saying. When she looked at me, she would immediately avert her eyes, point at me, and say "Dun, Dunh."

At pre-school, Doodle had a difficult time talking with other kids. She had no idea how to initiate a conversation with another child, let alone play with them. She had one close friend from daycare that she could interact with, but other than that, she had a hard time initiating play. She preferred to speak with adults and they commented that her conversations were always off topic. People often commented that she was lost in her own world.

Finally, Doodle lacked focus. She could not ever sit through an entire meal at dinner. She could not focus long enough to write many of her letters at school. She couldn't focus long enough to use a scissors to cut a straight line across a piece of paper.

Yet she had an extremely vivid imagination - something that always amazed me. You could tell in her world things fit together differently - yet they were amazingly beautiful to her. She saw things differently than most of us - saw the little details that we so often miss. I always pictured it as if she had a bubble around her playing fantastic movies all day long that she was enraptured by. Occasionally, those of us on the outside would get a brief glimpse into her world to enjoy the magic.

That's how I will always want to remember Doodle's autism. A gift sent to us to treasure and cherish - teach us about our ability to restore, recover, and create our own magic. I will always be thankful for that.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dairy Free Truffles

I had the ambition this year to try to make home-made, dairy free truffles. Back in the day, before kids, I made this treat every holiday season. Seems like the past few years time has slipped by and my truffle making days were over. I was determined to make a dairy free version this year. Unfortunately, every treat I have tried to make this year has ended in disaster! Bad baking soda, not enough chocolate in the ganache. Instead of truffles, it looks like I was successful in making chocolate blobs. Maybe these will become a new holiday tradition!

Try for yourself, see if you have more success than me.

Dairy Free Chocolate Truffles (aka Blobs)


1/2 cup Coffee Rich Non-Dairy Creamer
2 Tbsp Corn Syrup
1 1/2 packages Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

1. In a sauce pan, bring the non-dairy creamer and corn syrup to a slow boil over medium heat.
2. Place chocolate chips in large bowl. Pour Cream mixture over chocolate chips and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
3. Stir together until chocolate mixture is smooth. Add additional chocolate chips if mixture does not thicken up.
4. Place in refrigerator for 3-5 hours (or longer).
5. Using a melon baller or pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip, form loose balls and place on parchment or wax paper.
6. Here was my critical mistake - refrigerate again for 2-3 hours until firm - a step I forgot to do!
7. Dust your hands with cornstarch and roll balls until a nice ball forms. Refrigerate again for 2-3 hours.
8. Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. This step is critical if you are dipping in tempered chocolate - as cold chocolate will cause the tempered chocolate to seize and you will have a bigger mess on your hands than just a bunch of blobs!

To Temper chocolate:

1 - 2 packages Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

9. Place chocolate chips in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 1 minute. Stir chocolate. Repeat, reducing the time with each round. Stir until all chocolate is incorporated.

10. Check the temperature - tempered chocolate needs to be no hotter than 90 degrees. Add additional chocolate chips and incorporate in mixture until temperature comes down to 90 degrees. You now have tempered chocolate.

Dipping the truffles

11. The easiest way to dip the truffles in the chocolate is with a candy dipper - I don't own one, so I use this method: wear latex gloves and brush a small amount of tempered chocolate on your hands. Roll the ganache ball over the tempered chocolate until covered.

12. Place on a clean sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.

Here's to hoping you have better success than myself! Hope your holiday season is filled with wonderful treats and the joy of time spent with close friends and family! Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Stars

More holiday baking is on the horizon today. One of the more simpler cookies I am baking is the traditional peanut butter cookie with chocolate stars. Seems these cookies are everywhere during the holiday season and they are on my list to bake as well. This simple recipe comes from the Kid Friendly ADHD and Autism Cookbook. It's quick, simple and so easy to make.

For the chocolate stars, Brach's Dark Chocolate Stars are conveniently dairy free. Place the chocolate stars on top of the cookies just as they come out of the oven and the chocolate will melt slightly making the perfect, mouth watering cookie that will be gobbled up in no time.

Peanut Butter - Chocolate Star Cookies

1 16 oz Jar Creamy Peanut Butter
2 Eggs
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 bag Brach's dark chocolate stars

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In large bowl, cream peanut butter with mixer on high speed.
3. Add egg and continue to cream.
4. Add remaining ingredients and blend until well mixed.
5. Drop by teaspoon full onto baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.
6. Remove cookies from oven and immediately place chocolate stars on top of cookies - 1 per cookie. Cool slightly. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.

Makes 1.5 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Baking

The holiday season seems to have snuck up on me this year and I feel like I am under-prepared and over-whelmed. Usually, by this time, I have my Christmas cards completed and am preparing them to mail. I am well on my way to holiday baking, and much of my Christmas shopping is complete. This year, I've done none of the above. Fortunately, the weather turned frightful tonight - as there are blizzard like conditions outside. What a perfect opportunity to snuggle in and get some holiday baking done. Never mind that the house is a pigsty -there are cookies to bake! Company isn't coming for 3 weeks - plenty of time to clean before they arrive!

Tonight I made one of my favorite cookie recipes from childhood and adapted it to be gluten/dairy free. The recipe calls for Oats - typically people who are gluten sensitive need to steer clear of oats, as they are not considered gluten free. I recently learned that oats are not considered gluten free because farmers often rotate oats and wheat in the same fields. Gluten Free oats, however, are grown under strict circumstances nowhere near a wheat field. So I purchased these GF oats from Bob's Red Mill tonight and made some Chocolate Drop Cookies, just like I remember from my childhood.

Chocolate Drop Cookies

2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Dairy Free Butter
1/2 Cup Dairy Free Milk Substitute
1/2 Cup Dairy Free Cocoa Powder
3 Cups Gluten Free Oats
1/2 Cup Coconut

1. In a large saucepan, combine Sugar, Butter Substitute, Milk Substitute, and Cocoa Powder.

2. Over high heat, stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil 5 - 10 minutes or until a small amount of chocolate mixture forms a soft ball when dripped into ice water.

3. Add GF Oats and Coconut. Stir together.

4. Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper or parchment paper. Let cool. Enjoy!

The best part of this recipe is that it's quick, easy, and you don't even have to turn on the oven! If you don't like coconut, just add extra oats into the chocolate mixture.

Next up for my holiday baking...Sugar Cookies and Dairy Free Truffles. Can't wait to try out the truffles soon!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gluten Free Graham Cracker Crust

Turkey day is over and my fridge continues to be stuffed with too many leftovers. I went over board on the desserts this year - not wanting Doodle to feel left out when it came to the dessert table, I made her 2 allergy friendly pies, on top of the cheesecake and regular pumpkin I made for every one else. For Doodle's desserts, I made one with a gluten free pie crust and one gluten free graham cracker crust. The GF pie crust was a disaster! It was hard as a rock once baked and I could barely cut through it. I took this straight from a recipe book, but will have to experiment with my own version for the next time I try to make a pie. The GF graham cracker crust, however, turned out perfectly. It was the perfect crust for the dairy free pumpkin pie I made. I'll definitely use this recipe again.

Gluten Free Graham Cracker Crust

1 package GF Graham Crackers
1/4 cup Dairy Free Butter - melted
1/4 cup Sugar

1. Place GF Graham Crackers and sugar in a food processor and pulse into a fine crumb.
2. With food processor running, slowly pour in melted butter.
3. Once butter in incorporated stop food processor. You may need to stir the cracker mixture to fully incorporate the butter.
4. Place in pie pan, tart pan, or cheesecake pan. Use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to pat the crumbs and even out the crust.
5. Cook on 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and chill.
6. Fill with your favorite pie filling and enjoy!

For Doodle's pie, I filled it with the pumpkin pie recipe from the Kid Friendly ADHD and Autism Cookbook - one of the first GF/DF cookbooks that I purchased. I was pleasantly surprised at the texture and taste of the filling - it rivaled that of a regular pumpkin pie.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dairy Free Caramel-Chocolate Pecan Pie

Tonight I am embarking on making 4 different pies for Thanksgiving - 2 for dinner at our house and 2 for dinner at a friend's house. I'm aiming to make all pies gluten and dairy free, as well. Last year, I made my first gluten/dairy free pie by adapting a recipe from the December 2008 Cuisine At Home magazine (my favorite cooking publication). I was pleasantly surprised by the results - it was rich, sweet, and decadent. Perfect Thanksgiving dessert.

Dairy Free Caramel-Chocolate Pecan Pie

3/4 cup Dairy Free Cream (I use Rich Whip)
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
6 oz Dairy free chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted, divided

Caramel Pastry Cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup hot water
2 1/2 cups Dairy Free Milk Substitute (Almond Milk)
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp dairy free butter substitute (Earth Balance)

Whipped Topping
1 package Rich Whip
Powdered sugar to taste

Gluten Free Pie Dough - cooked for 10 minutes.

1. For the Ganache, combine dairy free cream and corn syrup in a sauce pan. Bring to boil. Place chocolate chips in a bowl and pour cream mixture over the chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes. Whisk together until smooth.

2. Place Ganache in pie shell and top with 1 cup pecans. Press the pecans into the ganache.

3. For the Caramel Pastry Cream: boil sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat for the caramel. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon for 15 minutes or until light brown in color (like iced tea).

4. Whisk together milk substitute, brown sugar and corn starch together in a sauce pan over medium heat until blended. Add in egg yolks and salt - whisk together. Do not let mixture boil. When the caramel is done, slowly pour the milk mixture into the caramel - whisk constantly. Mixture will sputter.

5. Continue cooking mixture until combined and begins to thicken into a custard. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until thick. Boil for 1 minute.

6. Off heat, stir in butter substitute. Cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Spread over ganache. Cover with plastic wrap and press into custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight.

7. Prior to serving, whip Rich Whip according to package instructions, adding in powdered sugar as a sweetener. Top pie with whipping cream mixture and garnish with remaining pecans.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is less than a week away and I am busy deciding what to make this year for our holiday feast. We are dining with our neighbors this year, as all of our family has decided to travel out of state and we decided to stay home. Here's a look at my menu so far:

All Natural, Anti-biotic free brined Turkey from Trader Joe's
Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes
Homemade Apple Cranberry sauce
Wild Rice Hotdish
Roasted vegetables
Some kind of sweet potatoes - I'm still deciding what to make
Dairy Free/Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

Last year, I included a delicious gluten free corn-bread stuffing. It was the hit of Thanksgiving dinner and my very picky Uncle said he really enjoyed it. While I'm not making this dish for 2009, I thought I would share for those of you who are making stuffing. I adapted this recipe from Cusine At Home December 2006 issue. The cornbread recipe I found at

Gluten Free Apple Cornbread Dressing

Gluten Free Corn Bread
1 Tbsp Dairy Free Butter
1 Cup Corn Meal
1 Cup GF All Purpose Flour
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 Egg
1 Cup Dairy Free Milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dairy free butter in 9 inch square baking pan or cast iron skillet. (I use the cast iron skillet). Place the pan in the pre-heating oven until butter is melted. Remove from oven and coat pan with melted butter. Set aside.

2. Mix corn meal, flour, salt, brown sugar, and baking soda together. Add egg, dairy free milk and melted butter. Mix together with a wooden spoon - using a few strokes. Do not over mix. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

3. Cool corn bread and cut into cubes. To stale the corn bread spread on a baking sheet then dry in a 200 degree oven for about 2 hours (or let sit out for several days ahead of time).

4 cups Gluten Free Bread - cubed and staled
4 cups Corn Bread - cubed and staled
2 1/2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup Apple Juice
3 eggs, beaten

6 Tbsp Dairy Free Butter
1 cup Onion, diced
1 cup Celery, diced
2 cups Braeburn or Granny Smith Apple, peeled, diced
1 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh Parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh Sage
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme leaves
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray.

2. Fold breads, broth, apple juice, and eggs in bowl.

3. Saute onion and celery in dairy free butter in non-stick skillet over medium high heat until soft - 3 minutes.

4. Add onion mixture and remaining ingredients to the breads. Mix well, then pour mixture into prepared baking dish.

5. Bake 45 minutes or until top is golden brown.

I'll post more of my Gluten Free/Dairy Free Thanksgiving recipes later this week. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Soup Sunday

Fall has set in and our family has been craving soup. I have taken up the tradition of my family by serving soup every Sunday after church. Growing up, we would pile in the car and head to church. Every Sunday after church, we would stop by the local grocery store to pick up the Sunday paper, some rolls, and whatever we needed for soup. I've instituted the same tradition in our house (without the paper and rolls) by serving soup on Sundays. One of the soups that mom often served was Wild Rice Soup - a Midwest favorite. Doodle happens to love Wild Rice Soup, but we gave it up once she became dairy and gluten free. However, after much trial and error, I have finally perfected a dairy free/gluten free version of this classic soup. On the next crisp, fall day, cook up a pot and savor the last remaining days of decent weather.

Wild Rice Soup

4 Tbsp Dairy Free Butter
1 Medium Onion, chopped
1/2 Cup Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour
3 Cups Gluten Free Chicken Broth
2 16 oz cartons Coffee Rich Non-Dairy Creamer
1 1/2 Cups Wild Rice - cooked
2 Large Carrots - Shredded
1 Cup Ham - Cubed (prefer nitrate/nitrite free ham)
1/8 cup Sherry (optional)
1/2 Cup Slivered Almonds (optional)

1. Over Medium High heat, melt butter in a large pot. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent.
2. Add in Sweet Rice Flour to make a roux.
3. Whisk in chicken broth. Continue whisking until flour is dissolved. Cook for 2 minutes.
4. Whisk in non-dairy creamer - mixture should thicken. If too thick, add a bit more chicken broth.
5. Add in Wild Rice, Shredded Carrots, and Ham. Simmer until heated through. Add Sherry and Almonds, if desired.

I experimented with several different gluten free flours for this recipe and found that Sweet Rice Flour works best. It thickens the soup nicely, yet doesn't leave any after taste (as so many GF flours do.) I've also found that Sweet Rice Flour makes the best pancakes and waffles - they are light, airy, and crisp up perfectly. If you haven't tried Sweet Rice Flour for your GF baking, pick some up and see for yourself.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Gluten Free Banana Bread

My girls used to gobble up a bunch of banana's in a matter of days. I typically buy 2 bunches of organic banana's and, in our household, that will last about 4 days. So, this past week when I went grocery shopping, I didn't think twice when I added banana's to my cart. To my surprise, they just sat on the counter - no one touched them all week. Needless to say, I now have some very ripe banana's and a perfect opportunity to make some banana bread.

Growing up, my mother always made the best banana bread around. It was delicious! I have adapted dear old mom's famous banana bread and made this recipe gluten and dairy free for Doodle. The loaf just came out of the oven and it smells wonderful - tastes great too. Moist, flavorful, and just like I remember mom's.

Gluten Free Banana Bread

1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
4 T Dairy Free Shortening
1 Egg
3/4 Cup Almond Milk (or other milk substitute)
3 1/2 Cups GF Flour Blend
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 T & 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
3 over-ripe banana's - mashed

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 bread loaf pans.
2. Mix sugar, agave nectar, shortening, and egg with a mixer.
3. Add in almond milk and banana's with mixer.
4. Blend dry ingredients in until combined.
5. Split mixture between prepared loaf pans. Bake in oven for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted in loaf comes out clean.

We served this bread right out of the oven with some dairy free butter. Next time around I may add some dairy free chocolate chips to the loaf - I'm sure it will add a nice flavor to the loaf.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Candy

It's Halloween and let the trick-or-treating begin! My Doodle this year has decided to dress up as Moses. Moses, of all people, where does she come up with these ideas? She also informed me that I was going to be the burning bush and her dad needed to be the Red Sea - parted. Oh my!

Halloween presents its challenges when trying to eat gluten and dairy free - but we have learned to adapt. I was so pleased this year when Doodle's preschool teacher was kind enough to purchase a Gluten Free cake mix for the kids to bake cupcakes with. Her daycare was equally as kind by purchasing candy that Doodle could enjoy without feeling left out. I thought I would take a minute to share some of our favorite Halloween treats:

1. Skittles, skittles, skittles
2. Gummy worms
3. Fruit Snacks
4. Smarties
5. Dum Dum Suckers
6. Mary Jane's
7. Blow pop's

Candy we avoid:

1. Anything with chocolate
2. Tootsie rolls & Tootsie pops
3. Anything with Caramel

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pumpkins, Glorious Pumpkins

One of the best parts of fall is the annual trip to the local pumpkin patch. We started this tradition in our family 3 years ago when we moved back to the Midwest. There's a local apple orchard that has a very large pumpkin patch. We enjoy taking a ride on the hay wagon down to the patch and combing through all of the pumpkins to find just the right pumpkin for each member of the family. This year, mine was a blue squash, and Doodle found a white pumpkin. When we started the tradition Doodle found a pumpkin just the right size for a 2 1/2 year old. She immediately named him "Charlie". Charlie went with her every where! When he started to rot, Grandpa tried to swap him out with a similar pumpkin. She waltzed in the room and immediately declared "Where's Charlie? That pumpkin is not Charlie." There was no fooling her. Last year she found Charlie the Second, who was accompanied by two small gourds whom she referred to as her new brothers "Jimmy and Jerry." Charlie and Jimmy are pictured above with Doodle at the orchard. Jerry lives to this day - Jimmy didn't survive through the winter last year.
This year's trip to the pumpkin patch was no exception and she has named her white pumpkin Charlie the Third.

In honor of Charlie the Pumpkin, I made Gluten Free Pumpkin muffins today. Here's the recipe.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
2 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups GF All Purpose Flour Blend
1/2 Cup Almond Flour (if you don't have almond flour, add 1/2 cup more to the GF all purpose flour)
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp ground Cloves
1 16 oz can Pumpkin Puree
1/2 cup Canola Oil
1 tsp GF Vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins or spray with non-stick spray.

2. Blend together Sugar, Agave Nectar, and Eggs. Beat Well.

3. Add remaining ingredients and beat well - 1 to 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins and place in oven.

4. Cook for 20 -25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean. Cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

I added in the Almond Flour to this recipe because I like the extra protein it provides Doodle. You may not have almond flour in your pantry, so just substitute an equal amount of GF All Purpose Flour instead. We may find some Dairy Free cream cheese (i usually buy Tofutti brand) to make some Cream Cheese Frosting to top off the muffins, but I try to keep Doodle's exposure to soy at a minimum. The muffins taste great without the frosting, so I may skip it this time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fried Plantains

Finding good Plantains in the middle of nowhere is a rare treat for my family. Being that 3/4's of my family has some kind of Haitian blood in them, plantains are a favorite food among my crew. If you're not familiar with plantains, they are cousins of the banana and come with a thick, hard peel. They are typically about twice the size of a regular banana with the peel on and are much starchier than a banana. Unfortunately for me, most of the plantains carried at the local grocery store are often too ripe, almost rotting when I do my shopping. So, when we find the bright green variety at the store, I usually snap up the whole lot. Inevitably, the cashier will ask me what they are and how I prepare them. If done properly, they taste like a thick, crunchy potato chip. If your looking to try something new, fried plantains make a great side dish for dinner - especially with Jambalaya or Creole Pork. Here's the technique we use for perfect plantains.

Perfect Plantains

1-2 Green Plantains
1 Cup Oil (or enough to fill a deep fryer)
1 Cup Water
Sea Salt

1. Trim the ends off the plantain and peel. Peeling can be tough - use your knife to slice through the skin on both sides of the plantain. Then slide your finger underneath the skin and gradually work your way down the plantain. The skin should come off easily once started.

2. Slice plantain into 4-5 large chunks.

3. Heat oil in frying pan or deep fryer. Once oil is hot enough, place chunks in oil until light brown.

4. While plantains are frying, place water and salt in a bowl.

5. Remove plantain chunks from oil and place on a paper towel lined plate. Next, flatten each plantain chunk. I use to small pieces of wood which we received as a gift from my Haitian mother-in-law. You can also place the plantain between 2 sheets of wax paper and flatten with a can of beans (or whatever).

6. Dip plantain's in the salt water and place back in the hot oil until crispy and golden brown. About 2 minutes.

7. Remove from oil and serve.

We like to eat these plantains fresh out of the fryer. Occasionally, we will make some Au jus and serve on the side to dip the plantains in. My husband particularly likes this, but they are great straight from the fryer.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yellow Rice

My family is an avid consumer of rice. I'm not particularly fond of the dish, myself, but my husband and older daughter originally are from Haiti, so rice is a staple in our home. Doodle especially loves it when her daddy makes rice & beans with sardines. (Definitely NOT on my favorite list of foods!) To spice up regular rice, I often make yellow rice - it's simple, easy, and quick and makes the meal a little more interesting.

Yellow Rice

1 Cup White Rice
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 Cups water
Salt to taste

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In an oven proof sauce pan over high heat, add Olive Oil and Turmeric. Add rice and cook for 1 minute on stove.

3. Add water. Bring to boil on stove. Cover.

4. Place rice in oven and cook for 20-25 minutes until water is evaporated. Remove from oven and serve.

This rice will not be as moist as traditional white rice recipes. That's just the way we all like it. If it's too moist, most of my family will not eat it. Cooking in the oven allows for a shorter cooking time - perfect for a busy mom like myself.

GF Chicken Nuggets

One of the foods Doodle used to eat regularly was chicken nuggets, chicken fries, and chicken strips. Since we have gone gluten free, she has had to give that up. Until now! I have finally found a decent way to make gluten free chicken nuggets that can be done with not a lot of effort. I adapted this recipe from the August issue of Cuisine at Home (my favorite cooking magazine.) The version to the left is actually made with Pork, but tastes equally as good with chicken.

Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets

1/2 to 3/4 cup GF All Purpose Flour
2 eggs
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 to 3/4 cup GF bread crumbs
2 thick boneless, skinless chicken breasts - sliced lengthwise in half
salt/pepper to taste
4 - 8 Tbsp Olive Oil

1. Whisk together eggs and dijon mustard in a small bowl.
2. On a large plate, pour GF all purpose flour. On a separate plate, pour the GF bread crumbs.
3. Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. With a mallet pound down the chicken breasts until about 1/8 inch thick. Salt & pepper the chicken breasts.
4. Dredge each chicken breast in the flour, then dip in egg mixture. Finally coat in GF bread crumbs.
5. In large frying pan heat olive oil. Once hot, place chicken in olive oil and fry until golden brown on both sides, turning as necessary.
6. Cut chicken into strips and serve.

Doodle especially likes this dish when I serve the nuggets with Honey as a dipping sauce. Pictured above I served the nuggets with my yellow rice and sauteed asparagus.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Flour-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I ran out of Kirkman Labs Pea Protein Powder this weekend and needed to bake snacks for the coming week for Doodle. I decided to snoop through my pantry for an alternative protein source for chocolate chip cookies. I dug out a jar of Almond Butter and decided to give it a try. I had made Peanut Butter cookies for the KId Friendly ADHD and Autism Cookbook and decided to adapt the recipe with Almond Butter and Agave Nectar. The original recipe called for a cup of Brown Sugar and I try to avoid using sugar in most of my baking. I substituted Agave Nectar for the brown sugar and came up with the following recipe.

Flour Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 14 oz jar of Almond Butter
1/2 cup Agave Nectar
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Cup Dairy Free Chocolate Chips
1 Teaspoon GF Vanilla

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place Almond Butter in a medium sized bowl and blend at high speed for 2 minutes.
3. Add Agave Nectar, Egg, Baking Soda, and Vanilla. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes.
4. Stir in Dairy Free Chocolate Chips.
5. Refrigerate dough for 10 minutes.
6. On a greased cookie sheet, place spoonfuls of cookie dough 1-2 inches apart. Place in heated oven and bake for 9 minutes or until light brown.
7. Remove from oven and cool on cookie rack. Dip in glass of dairy free milk and enjoy!

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Such a simple thing...

I'm sitting in our office/toy room posting on my Facebook account, when I look over to find Doodle drawing a picture and writing some words. I am amazed and surprised that she has just spelled the word 'Foot' all by herself - no help from Mom! The letters are formed perfectly and in exactly the right order next to each other on the paper. This seemingly small achievement for most 5 years old is monumental in our house. Just 3 months ago, we could barely get Doodle to consistently form letters - let alone in a straight line and in a coherent word.

What is the big difference? School would tell you all of the work they do with her - physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. These things are helpful, but she's only been back in school for 2 weeks and she has made tremendous progress over the summer - more than all of school year put together last year. The difference, I have discovered, is the extra Vitamin D she started taking in June of this year. Clerks in the store comment how much more verbal she is. Sunday School teachers make the same comment. Daycare comments that she initiates play with other children now - something she had never done before and certainly something most autistic children avoid. Her attention span has dramatically increased - something I wasn't sure we would ever get under control without medication. Vitamin D has made all the difference.

Doodle's vitamin regimen is as follows:

L'il Critters Gummi Vites

L'il Critters Omega 3
L'il Critters Vitamin D
Nordic Naturals Children's DHA (for a small amount of additional Vitamin A)
Kirkman Labs Zinc Sulfate Topical Cream (Zinc is needed for your body to retain vitamins - plus it helps during the long, cold midwest winters to keep Doodle healthy)
Kirkman Labs Probiotic

I've tried other vitamin combination's - B/12 Magnesium vitamin, added Epsom Salt to her bath for additional magnesium, and a liquid vitamin with extra B6. None of these vitamins seemed to make a difference for Doodle, so I have stopped using them. I typically introduce one new vitamin at a time and watch for a difference in behavior. I started simple with Zinc lotion and the Gummi Vites. I then added the Omega 3 vitamins and noticed an increase in verbal ability. I then tried the B/12 Magnesium combination - which didn't make a difference for Doodle. I then added the Nordic Naturals and again noticed an increase in verbal ability. Finally this summer I added the vitamin D and that is when things really turned a corner.

I would recommend checking with your doctor before starting any vitamin regimen. I have done most of the research and work myself - checking with my sister-in-law who has a master's degree in nutrition. There is a lack of decent medical doctors in the rural area that I live - let alone a doctor that would believe that diet makes a difference. I tried a child nutritionist who is 60 miles away and walked out of the appointment completely exasperated, frustrated, and crying. I vowed to figure it out myself through patience, research, and trial. This approach has worked for me, but if you have the resource available near you, please use them.

I may be optimistic, but I am hopeful by next year when she starts Kindergarten she will need minimal services at school and will be nearly recovered.

My health insurance company recently sent a newsletter which contained some common questions about Autism in it. One of the questions "What are some myths about Autism?" Their answer: "Some parents believe that changing a child's diet can help autistic children. While it can't hurt to change a child's diet, there is no proof that it helps." I'm here to tell them they are just plain wrong. I have living proof in my home that diet and supplements make a world of difference! It's frustrating that a large insurance company would publish such unsubstantiated remarks. The fact is, there have been relatively few studies on the impact of diet on Autism - so to claim there is no proof, is misleading. There is no proof because you have never funded a study. My life and Doodle's life have been made infinitely better by a simple change in diet. I would never go back.

So, to all of those nay-sayers and skeptics, I say "Phooey to you!" I'm going to keep on doing my best to recover Doodle - with or without you. I know what's made a difference and that is all that matters.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cookies & Cream Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Doodle had such a good week at school this week. It's amazing how much she has achieved in just 3 short months. The teacher sent home a note saying that she cut out her raccoon all by herself. I know this seems like such a small thing that most 5 year old's can do. But, fine motor skills are so difficult for Doodle and a simple thing like concentrating long enough to cut around an object was near impossible for Doodle 3 months ago. So, I was so excited to hear this great progress on the first day of school. Doodle also was asking me how to spell words this weekend and would hold up each letter after she wrote it and exclaim - "Look, Mommy, I made an awesome 'V' (or whatever letter she was making)." Sure enough, I would look, and she had made the latest letter absolutely perfectly! Again - something she could not do 3 months ago.

To celebrate these great feats, we made ice cream tonight! The recipe this time came with mixed reviews. The neighbor boy across the street claimed it was the best ice cream he had ever had - as did Doodle's sister. The neighbor girl and Doodle didn't have the same love for it. I have come to learn Doodle just isn't in love with coconut milk - so I will probably have to drop that from my non-dairy milk line-up. Oh well. Here's the recipe - try it for yourself and see what you think.

Cookies & Cream Coconut Milk Ice Cream

1 14 oz Can Lite Coconut Milk
2 Cups Original Almond Milk - or other Dairy Free beverage (no flavor added)
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (optional)
1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Package Gluten Free/Casein Free Sandwich Cookies (I use KinniToos Sandwich Cookies)

1. In a mixing bowl, mix Lite Coconut Milk, Almond Milk, Sugar, Agave Nectar, Xanthan Gum, and Vanilla on high speed until sugar is dissolved.

2. Add mixture to ice cream maker according to your manufacturers directions.

3. Churn for 20-25 minutes (according to Mfg directions) until thick.

4. Crush Sandwich Cookies and add to ice cream mixture. Churn for 5 more minutes to mix in.

5. Place ice cream in freezer safe bowl and freeze for several hours. Scoop up a dish and savor.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato Sauce

I love to make my own tomato sauce for spaghetti night. Today, after church, I discovered I was completely out of canned tomatoes - so I had to improvise and use regular tomatoes. I tried roasting the tomatoes with onion and garlic in the oven before mashing it into a sauce. The roasting brings out the flavor of the garlic and onions to give the sauce a nice full body. Doodle wasn't thrilled with the onions, but otherwise liked the sauce. As always, I made the sauce with Italian Sausage, as I feel this is the best meat for spaghetti sauce. Here's the recipe:

8-10 Roma Tomatoes sliced into wedges
1/2 Large Onion sliced into wedges
3-5 Cloves Garlic
1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Organic Chicken Broth (I use Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth)
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 tsp Basil
1 Package Bulk Italian Sausage
1 Package Gluten Free Pasta

1. Set oven to Broil. On a large baking sheet place sliced tomatoes, onion wedges, and peeled garlic cloves. Add Red Pepper Flakes and Sea Salt to taste. Toss with 2-3 Tbsp's of Olive Oil. Place under Broiler for 20 minutes - stir occasionally.

2. Prepare pasta according to package directions.

3. In a sauce pan cook bulk Italian Sausage until completely browned. Set aside in a bowl.

4. Remove tomato mixture from oven and place in sauce pan. With a Potato masher, mash the tomato mixture - especially the garlic to release the flavor. Add Chicken Broth, Oregano, and Basil. Stir for 2-3 minutes until sauce becomes thick. Add Italian Sausage.

5. Serve with Gluten Free Pasta.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rasperry-Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

For this recipe I modified the basic vanilla recipe from the Vanilla Brownie Ice Cream and added my own dairy free chocolate sauce and raspberry sauce. The chocolate blended into the ice cream, but left some nice chunks that melt in your mouth as you savor this treat.

1 1/2 cups Almond Milk (I use Pacific Organic Original)
1 1/8 cups Sugar
1 16 oz carton Coffee Rich non-dairy creamer (thawed)
1 8 oz carton Rich Whip non-dairy whipped topping (thawed)
1 1/2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1 small package Rasperries
1/2 bag Enjoy Life Dairy Free Chocolate Chips
4-8 Tbsp Agave Nectar

1. In a mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the almond milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Add in the Coffee Rich, Rich Whip, and Vanilla.

3. Turn on ice cream maker and pour the mixture into the compartment. Mix until thickened (for the Cuisinart machine it takes 20 - 25 minutes.)

4. In microwave safe dish, place chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir. Microwave another 30 seconds, remove and stir. Stir chocolate until smooth. If necessary microwave in 10 second intervals and stir until smooth.

5. Add 4 Tablspoons agave nectar to chocolate. If necessary, add additional Agave Nectar until chocolate is smooth and glossy looking. Set aside

6. Clean raspberries and place in bowl. Add 2 Tablespoons Agave Nectar and let soak. Once softened, use a spoon to crush raspberries into a sauce.

7. Once ice cream is thickened, add the raspberry sauce and chocolate sauce to the ice cream mixture. Continue processing until raspberries and chocolate are thoroughly mixed

8. Once thickened, turn off machine, scoop ice cream & enjoy! If a thicker ice cream is desired, place in freezer for 2 - 4 hours.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Refreshing Lemonade

We love to hang out on our deck and drink home-made lemonade. Before Doodle was diagnosed as being mildly autistic, I used to buy the frozen concentrate at the store and soak strawberries in the concentrate before adding water. Now, I try to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup, so we make our own lemonade and find it is much tastier than anything we can buy at the store. Summer is slipping away, so why not make a glass and enjoy while the you still can. I am.


1 large lemon
2 limes
2 cans Pineapple juice
1/2 cup sugar (or more, depending on taste)
1/2 cup Agave Nectar

1. In a large pitcher, squeeze juice from lemon and limes.
2. Add sugar. (If you are adding sliced strawberries, do it now and let soak.)
3. Add Pineapple juice and Agave Nectar.
4. Fill remainder of pitcher with water.
5. Pour into glass over ice and relax!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Creamy Coconut and Graham Cracker Ice Cream

Just finished a batch of my first ice cream using coconut milk. Coconut milk is a great dairy alternative as it is known to have many healing properties. In ice cream, it makes a nice creamy texture and is naturally sweet. This go round I decided to add a teaspoon of Xanthan gum to ward off some of the ice crystals once the ice cream freezes for a few days. I also added Agave Nectar to lesson the sugar intake of Doodle without sacrificing any flavor. I topped it all off with some dairy free caramel. As I learned in this process, it's best to top the ice cream with the caramel just before serving, rather than add it to the Freezer Bowl while the ice cream is churning. Here's the recipes:

Creamy Coconut and Graham Cracker Ice Cream
2 1/2 cans Coconut Milk (14 oz each)
1/2 cup Agave Nectar
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
8 Gluten-Free Graham Crackers

1. Mix all ingredients with a hand blender in a large bowl.

2. Prepare ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. I use a Cuisinart with a freezing bowl.

3. Turn on ice cream maker and pour in mixture.

4. Process ice cream until thick.

5. In a plastic bag crush graham crackers and add to ice cream mixture. Allow crackers to process thoroughly.

6. Top with Dairy Free Caramel.

Dairy Free Caramel - I adapted this recipe from the October issue of Cuisine at Home.

1 8 oz carton Rich Whip
3/4 Cup Light Corn Syrup
1 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Stick Earth Balance Butter Substitute

1. Place Butter Substitute, 3/4 cup Rich Whip, Corn Syrup and Sugar in a sauce pan. Boil for 15 minutes, stirring frequently until the mixture turns a golden brown color.

2. Add in remaining Rich Whip and Vanilla. Mixture will bubble up - be careful! Stir off heat until ingredients are incorporated. Cool.

3. Top ice cream with Caramel.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Warm & Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies

I just finished baking a batch of Doodle's favorite chocolate chip cookies. We love to eat them fresh out of the oven with a glass of Almond Milk. This summer I've baked these a few times when some neighbor kids are over - they gobble them right up and can't even tell that they are gluten and dairy free.

I adapted this recipe from my friend Lori. I don't like to give Doodle a lot of sugar and the original recipe just had too much sugar in it. I substituted a good deal of the sugar with Agave Nectar, as it has a much lower impact on blood sugar. I also like to keep her blood sugar regulated with plenty of protein, so I exchanged some of the flour for some protein powder. I buy a pea based protein powder from Kirkman Labs and add it in to most of my starch based cooking. We find that it keeps Doodle on an even keel and we have far fewer meltdowns this way.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/3 cups GF All Purpose Baking Flour
1/3 cup Pea Protein Powder (if your not using this, just add equivalent amount of flour)
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 Cup Non-dairy Shortening
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1 Egg
1 Cup Enjoy Life Dairy Free Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the Flour, Protein Powder, Baking Soda, and Xanthan Gum and whisk together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat shortening, brown sugar, agave nectar, sugar, vanilla and egg until smooth. Slowly add in the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Chill dough for 10 - 20 minutes.

Drop cookies onto greased baking sheets and bake 9-10 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a cooling rack.

Dip in a glass of refreshing Almond Milk and enjoy! These cookies will disappear before you know it. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vanilla Brownie Ice Cream

Ok, so normally I am an organic or all natural nut. But, I wanted my first batch of ice cream to taste mostly like normal ice cream, so I cheated and added Rich Whip cream and whipped topping. As I get better at this, I will experiment with different dairy free organic milks to come up with the best combination. In the meantime, here is my first attempt at Dairy Free Ice Cream. I have to say, it turned out quite yummy!

I have modified this recipe from the Basic Vanilla recipe that came from my Cuisinart.

1 1/2 cups Almond Milk (I use Pacific Organic Original)
1 1/8 cups Sugar
1 16 oz carton Coffee Rich non-dairy creamer (thawed)
1 8 oz carton Rich Whip non-dairy whipped topping (thawed)
1 1/2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1. In a mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the almond milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Add in the Coffee Rich, Rich Whip, and Vanilla.

3. Turn on ice cream maker and pour the mixture into the compartment. Mix until thickened (for the Cuisinart machine it takes 20 - 25 minutes.)

4. Once thickened, add small chunks of your favorite brownies and continue processing until brownies are thoroughly mixed (I make these from Elana's Pantry - they are one of the best brownies I have ever had).

5. Once thickened, turn off machine, scoop ice cream & enjoy! If a thicker ice cream is desired, place in freezer for 2 - 4 hours.