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!