Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

December has been a crazy, hectic, snow filled month here in MN. Hard to believe Christmas is just 4 days away (as Doodle reminds me every morning!) It's been a crazy month in our house this year and I've had little time to post. Doodle heads to have an umbilical hernia repaired the day after Christmas and I am frantically studying for a major certification test in my field - throw Christmas on top of all of that - and I'm darn near a melt down.

Here's wishing you all a Merry, Peaceful, Bright Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See you in 2011!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gluten Free Cake Balls

Have you heard of Cake Balls? Their delightful! I recently made my first batch, completely by accident. I had no intention of making cake balls, but found that the cake mix I had mixed up was too crumbly when I pulled it out of the pan. There was no saving it! So, when life gives you crumbly cake....make cake balls! The recipe is simple and the results are delicious. Try some this holiday season to delight your co-workers, party guests, or just as an every day treat.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Cake Balls

1 Package Gluten Free Cake Mix - mixed up dairy free
3/4 Can Dairy Free Frosting - I use Pillsbury brand
1 Package Dairy Free Chocolate Chips

1. Bake cake mix according to the diary free instructions - it doesn't matter what size pan you choose.
2. Cool cake. Remove cake from pan and crumble into a large bowl.
3. Add packaged frosting and stir until cake and frosting are mixed thoroughly. Form cake batter into small balls using a melon baller.
4. Place cake balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Place in freezer for several hours.
5. Prior to taking cake out of freezer, melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl or in a double broiler. If using the microwave, melt for 30 seconds and stir. Melt in 15 second increments, stirring frequently, until all chocolate is incorporated. I usually stop microwaving when the majority of chocolate is melted and stir the remaining chocolate mixture until all chips are melted. This ensures you don't over cook the chocolate.
6. Drop the cake ball into the chocolate mixture. Lift out with a fork. Using a spoon, drizzle the chocolate over the remainder of the ball until completely covered. Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to cool. Repeat until all balls are covered.
7. Allow the balls to cool and enjoy!

These are a great holiday treat and very addicting - you can't eat just one!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gluten Free Pizza

Our family LOVES pizza! One of the hardest things for Doodle to give up when she went Gluten and Dairy Free was my home-made pizza. Some say (mostly my nephew) that I make the best pizza around. It's an old recipe I inherited from my mother. The pizza has a perfect thin crust, delicious sauce, and I pile on the pepperoni - since you can never have too much pepperoni on a pizza. When we have pizza night, Doodle usually has to settle for pepperoni kabobs or pizza made from GF biscuit dough with tomato sauce and pepperoni, since we lack any casein free cheese in the area. Not anymore!

GFCFMom introduced me to Daiya Cheese. It's a GFCFSF cheese substitute that is pizza worthy. It melts similar to regular cheese and tastes pretty decent too. On a recent trip to civilization, I picked some up at Whole Foods Market - both the Mozzarella and Cheddar varieties. I couldn't wait to try it out on a GF DF pizza for Doodle!

For the pizza dough recipe, I found a reasonable recipe online that I tried out. Making GF dough is a bit different than my normal variety of pizza dough. For one, you don't knead the dough. It also doesn't roll out the same, but the end result was pretty tasty. Here's the recipe that I used:

The Pizza Sauce I make is very similar to the spaghetti sauce I make. It's actually just about the same exact recipe - minus one can of tomatoes. Here it is:

1/2 Cup Onion - diced
1-2 Cloves Garlic - diced
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Can Italian Style Tomatoes
1 Can Tomato Paste
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 Tbsp Basil
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Italian Seasoning

1. Heat Olive Oil in a medium sized sauce pan over high heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic for 1 minute.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to boil.
3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
4. Top pizza crust with sauce and pile on your favorite toppings. Finish off with Daiya Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheese.
5. Cook pizza in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes - or until crust is brown and cheese is melted.

For Doodle, I made an entire pizza while the rest of the family ate regular pizza. I cut the pizza in 10 slices and froze the slices she did not eat. Now, when we make pizza, I grab a slice or two of Doodle's pizza from the freezer, heat it up in the oven, and she enjoys her pizza right along with the rest of us!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fall Conferences

Last week Doodle had her first ever parent teacher conferences as a Kindergartner. I was nervous as to what to expect. I wasn't sure how she would keep up with the other Kindergartners. Worry wort mom should have had more faith in her child because she is doing great!

First up were her test scores...I was so amazed to see that she was in the top of her class for language and math scores - in the 95 to 100 percent range! She was also the ONLY child to recognize all of her capital and lower case letters in the whole class! I told her teachers if only they knew how far she had come, they would realize what a great accomplishment this was for her.  Two years ago she couldn't look someone in the eye, she could barely write a letter, and she would repeat everything you said (termed echolalia). 

They also listed several concerns, which I will work harder on this year. Doodle definitely still has attention issues. She needs quite a bit of redirection during class. I thought we had this licked last year - she worked with an Occupational Therapist last year, but seemed to be doing much better when I put her back on Zinc. I haven't been giving her probiotics lately, in addition to the Zinc, so note to self that I better get back on the program. It seems to help. I'll have to be more regimented about her vitamins, as last year they really seemed to help conquer the attention issue. All in all, though, her special ed teacher agreed that Doodle no longer would qualify for an autism label - which is a wonderful affirmation for all of our hard work over the past two years!

Friday, November 5, 2010

You're My Sweet Potato Pie

When Doodle was a baby, before she ever became known as Doodle, I used to love to call her My Sweet Potato Pie. Sweet potatoes were one of her favorite baby foods to eat and we would listen to Ray Charles and James Taylor sing Sweet Potato Pie from the Genius Loves Company CD. Now that Doodle is older, we all enjoy sweet potatoes with dinner. Our favorite is roasted sweet potatoes. Using Organic sweet potatoes makes for the most flavorful dish - if we don't have the organic variety in the store, I don't bother buying sweet potatoes, as the conventional version can't even compare in taste.  This recipe is simple - but takes about 45 minutes to bake - so leave enough time when preparing dinner.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2-3 Organic Sweet Potatoes, washed and peeled.
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cut sweet potatoes into small cubes (no bigger than 1")
3. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and sprinkle with olive oil and kosher salt. Toss thoroughly with your hands.
4. Place in oven and bake for 35 minutes.
5. Change oven to broil and broil the sweet potatoes for 10 minutes - stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and serve as a side dish. 

These sweet potatoes are also wonderful on a spinach salad. I like to use any leftovers (which is rare) to add to a salad the following day for lunch.

On another note, Doodle has been enjoying playing Webkinz on the computer these days. I've been impressed by how much she can do by herself now. I used to have to navigate for her and play the games for her. Now, she does almost everything by herself. She's got down how to drag and drop items all by herself. Another great site for reading development is - we've been using this to help Doodle with phonics and learning new words. She can do this site all on her own.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Favorites

Autumn is definitely in the air here in SW Minnesota. Trees have turned, pumpkins are perched on our doorstep, flower beds have been laid to rest, and shivers are felt at the morning bus stop. As fall sets in, I find myself seeking all things that are cozy and warm. Doodle and I enjoy our morning routine snuggling in front of the fireplace while getting ready for school. I also find my dinner dishes have turned from all things made on the barbecue to cozy fall dishes. I've broken out some of my favorites this week:

Wild Rice Soup
Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes
GF DF Apple Crisp 
Hot Dish
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
and Easy Chili especially get me in the mood for Autumn.

Easy Chili

1 Pound Ground Beef
1 Pound Italian Sausage
1 small onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 Tbsp Chipotle Chili Powder
1 tsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Basil
1 can Organic Kidney Beans
1 can Organic Black Beans
2 cans Organic Italian Style Tomatoes

1. Brown ground beef and Italian sausage in a large pot. Add diced onions and minced garlic.
2. Add seasonings. Pour in kidney beans, black beans and tomatoes. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Serves 6-8.

We like to eat this chili with corn chips or some gluten free corn bread. The Italian Sausage gives the chili a little kick - so adjust the Chipotle Chili powder to your own taste - it can get a bit too spicy if you use too much.

Doodle has her first Kindergarten conferences on Tuesday. I'm anxious to see how she is doing this school year. We continue to work hard on her recovery and the progress has been wonderful. She's actually reading parts of stories to me - I feared she wouldn't have the concentration to sit and read a book - but have been wonderfully surprised by how quickly she is catching on!  Look for an upcoming post on progress once I hear the report.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gluten Free Waffle Cookies

I tried my hand at something new today - waffle cookies. I'd never heard of these cookies before, but found a recipe in my Scrapbooks etc. magazine, of all places. I thought they looked interesting and easy to make - so why not modify the recipe to be gluten free and give it a whirl? It was a great activity to try with Doodle's new friend who came over today for their first play date together. I let each girl take their turn adding ingredients and using the mixer. Best part was, this normally picky eater of a friend, didn't even know the difference between these cookies and a regular cookie. They tasted wonderful!

GF Waffle Cookies

1 stick Dairy Free Butter - melted
2 Eggs
2/3 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Sweet Rice Flour
1/3 Cup Cocoa
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Dairy Free Chocolate Chips

1. Heat waffle iron.
2. Mix together dairy free butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add in sweet rice flour, cocoa, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. The batter should be thick. I added 2-4 more tablespoons of flour to thicken up the batter before baking.
4. Once the waffle iron is hot, place a small amount of batter on the waffle iron, close iron and cook like a waffle. After 1-2 minutes, remove cookie from waffle iron and cool on a cookie rack. Repeat.
5. Once the cookies are cool, add frosting (or peanut butter) as desired.

We mixed up an easy batch of frosting to go with these cookies. Doodle and her friend each chose a different color of food coloring for their frosting. Doodle, of course, had pink. These cookies will be a great lunch box treat for Doodle this week!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


What child doesn't love a great dish of classic spaghetti? When Doodle went Gluten Free, we were afraid she wouldn't be able to enjoy her favorite dish. Thankfully, our local grocery store carries several varieties of gluten free pasta. We were initially surprised at how close to regular pasta this tasted - what a wonderful surprise. It's easy to over-cook the pasta and have a mushy mess on your hands, so watch the pasta carefully in order to avoid a soggy pasta dish.

As for the pasta sauce for spaghetti - many a mom here in the Midwest reach for a jar on the grocery store shelf. I find these renditions of spaghetti sauce blase and boring. I find it equally as easy to stir up a sauce from scratch. It takes a total of 10 minutes and produces a rich sauce which arguably is better than any restaurant you will find here in town.

Basic Spaghetti

1 lb Ground Italian Sausage (or Hamburger)
2 Cloves Garlic, diced
1 Small Onion, diced
2 16 Oz Cans Diced Tomatoes
1 8 Oz Can Tomato Paste
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 Tbsp Basil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Tinkyada Gluten Free Pasta

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a large sauce pan, brown the Italian Sausage or Hamburger until cooked thoroughly.
3. Add Onion and Garlic and cook until onion is translucent.
4. Add in tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings to sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes and serve over pasta.

I usually save the leftovers of the spaghetti for Doodle to take to school for lunch. I've arranged with the school cafeteria for her to be able to heat up her lunch every day - so any leftovers are frozen and saved for another day. Makes planning school lunch so much easier!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Amazing Story

Thought I would share this amazing, inspiring story of an Autistic girl who finds her voice through the use of a computer at age 11. It's truly inspiring!

I hope all Autistic children are able to find their voice, just like Carly did! My quest is to continue to help Doodle find her voice and speak it out loud.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tired of the same old cookies, this week we decided to bake Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (with some extra added chocolate chips to make them even tastier!)  Oatmeal is typically not a gluten free food - so don't buy the regular oatmeal when making this recipe.  Typically, oats are grown in the same fields as wheat and therefore contain gluten. However, there are some farmers that are diligent in raising gluten free oats where the oats cannot be contaminated by wheat. Bob's Red Mill sells a variety that I used for this recipe. Some folks, who are extremely sensitive to gluten, may also have a reaction to these oats - so bake with care!

I have adapted this recipe from an old Crisco package.

Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin & Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 Cup Shortening (not butter flavored)
3/4 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
2    tsp Gluten Free Vanilla

1    Egg
1/3 Cup Almond Milk (or other Dairy Free Milk)
1 1/4 Cups Sweet Rice Flour
3    Cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oats
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Package Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
1    Cup Raisins

1. Beat together Shortening, Egg, Sugar, Agave Nectar, Vanilla, and Almond Milk until smooth.
2. Add Flour, Baking Soda, Salt, Xanthan Gum, and Cinnamon. Mix together until smooth.
3. Stir in Gluten Free Oats, Raisins, and Chocolate Chips.
4. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
5. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Drop by teaspoon full of dough on greased cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes. Remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

These tasted wonderful fresh out of the oven with a glass of Almond Milk. Here comes Doodle now, asking if she can have some - better go before she eats them all!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Progress Update

It's been three weeks since Doodle started Kindergarten. I'm so pleased with her progress so far! My biggest fear in sending her off to the big world of elementary school was that she would not be able to keep up in a regular classroom. You see, she has spent the last 2 years in a Special Ed classroom with 2 days integrated with a regular pre-school. She's had so much individual attention, I was a little afraid that she would get lost in Kindergarten and fall through the cracks.

I'm happy to report that Doodle is thriving in Kindergarten. Last week Doodle started learning to read "Star" words - basically words you should know by site. She picked these up easily and can read them in a book at home. She is so serious when she sings the songs she associated with these words. It's so cute to watch her!  I'm hoping she has the same success when the class starts to work on Math. We'll get an official progress report soon, but the teacher sends home notes each week declaring how hard she works in class. I'm so happy to hear this!

Doodle has limited intervention this year. Her Individual Education Plan (IEP) was reduced to just 2 services this year: Physical Therapy and a Social Interaction Group. She spends 2 days a week with her PT and has made great progress over the summer. She can now kick a ball quite far (something she couldn't do a year ago) and continues to build her muscle strength. Her coordination has also improved. She is throwing a ball better and is able to catch a ball.

In addition to her school work, Doodle has made tremendous strides in the swimming pool. Just a few months ago, I thought Doodle would never catch on how to float. One of her swimming instructors once commented "Doodle tends to sink." She really does - she's like a rock in the pool! But, she loves to swim. So, I have kept her in swimming lessons for the past 3 years, even though she repeats the same class over and over again. I feared she would never move up to the next class.

We had a breakthrough 2 weeks ago, where Doodle finally figured out how to do a back and front float! She was even able to hold it for more than 30 seconds! I was so very proud of her...I know how truly hard she has worked at accomplishing this seemingly simple task. A friend of mine taught me a technique to help teach her how to float on her back. I slowly lowered her onto her back with my fist in her lower back to help her form an arch. I then instructed her to make a big X with her arms and legs. Over time, I slowly removed my fist from her back and she was able to stay afloat for 1-2 seconds. Gradually she improved to 5 seconds and seemed to stay there for the longest time. I also took her swimming nearly every weekend, so that we could practice. As I said, 2 weeks ago we had an amazing breakthrough! She got it! She spent the majority of our time in the pool floating on her back and even swimming a little bit on her back! My heart swelled with pride and I gave her a generous amount of praise. How awesome it felt to see her succeeding!

Swimming is a great skill for autistic children to learn. It helps develop hand/eye coordination, gives them confidence in the water, and improves muscle tone. I encourage you to enroll your child in lessons, if you haven't already. It doesn't matter if they don't advance to a new level, the most important part is teaching them to try and to be comfortable in the water. I promise you won't regret it!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to School Carrot Cake Muffins

School is back in session and Doodle is on her way as a Kindergartner this year. She has waited so long for this day to come - holding a grudge against me all last year for sending her through one more year of preschool. Excitement was in the air as she picked out her first day wardrobe, loaded up her Tinkerbell back pack with back to school gear, and laced up her new pink and white sneakers. Don't you just love the first day of school?
Who's excited for kindergarten?

I was excited to hear that her school would accommodate a gluten free and dairy free diet. Conversations with the school nurse led me to believe that they would offer a gluten free/dairy free diet for Doodle. I thought this was very progressive for a school in the middle of nowhere! However, after talking with the head of the lunch room,  I soon learned that a GF/DF diet merely meant Doodle could eat anything IF it fell into a category she could eat - but there would be no special accommodations. How disappointing! I did, then, convince this woman that Doodle needs to be able to heat her lunch up in the microwave. I couldn't bear the thought of sending Doodle to school with ham sandwiches every day - blah! So, I am packing a lunch nearly every day for Doodle in her very own Mystery Machine lunch box. I'm also sending her with 2 treat bags - one for school and one for after school care.

Needless to say, I've been busy baking! One of my best creations follows - GF Carrot Cake Muffins. I was pleasantly surprised how delicious these turned out - moist, nutritious, and just the right amount of sweet. I didn't frost them, as I didn't think they needed it. Doodle enjoyed her first batch with a small dollop of dairy free whipping cream on them. They're the perfect treat to accompany what ever lunch makes its way into the Mystery Machine.

Gluten Free/Dairy Free Carrot Cake Muffins
(I adapted this recipe from the Joy of Cooking) 

1 1/2 Cups to 1 3/4 Cups Sweet Rice Flour
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp GF Baking Powder
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
1/2 tsp Salt
2/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Large Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Finely Grated Carrots
1 Cup Finely Chopped Walnuts
1 Cup Raisins
1/2 Cup Crushed Pineapple

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, spices, sugar, salt).
2. Blend in Agave Nectar, Vegetable Oil, and Eggs with a spatula.
3. Stir in Carrots, Walnuts, Raisins, and Pineapple.  If batter is too runny, add additional Sweet Rice Flour.
4. Prepare muffin tins with liners or grease tins to prevent sticking. Fill tins with muffin batter and place in oven.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes in tins. Remove from tins and cool on baking rack. 

Try one for yourself - they're absolutely delicious!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Becoming an Advocate for My Child

I think back to when I was pregnant with Doodle and all of the hopes and dreams I carried for her. Back when life is brand new, you rarely consider how much you will need to stand up for your child in this world. The world was in awe of my brand new baby, and so was I. As Doodle grew and sank deeper and deeper into autistic tendencies, I have learned how strong my motherhood instincts really are. It's really tough to go against the grain - to stand up for your child when every one around you disbelieves what you are saying. It's really tough to find strength and courage to say what you know is right.

The past two years I have learned how to be the voice for my child, when she couldn't speak. This past week I have had to stand up again and fight for what was right for Doodle. I learned this week that the Kindergarten teacher she was assigned to would not be a good fit for Doodle. A good friend's daughter had this same teacher and the experience in this classroom has had tremendous consequences for her daughter by giving her a fear of reading. I am so thankful I found this information out prior to school starting. I need Doodle to be successful - to enjoy reading and feel like she can do it (because she can!)

Out came the protective mama bear in me. I immediately called the principal and requested a new teacher. I also visited other local schools - just in case the principal was unwilling to move Doodle. Fortunately, the principal acquiesced, and found a better teacher for Doodle. I'm thrilled with the new selection and know Doodle will thrive in this new environment. 

I've had to do the same thing with Doodle's diet. So many people have been skeptical that a diet works for autistic kids. So many people think I'm crazy (including her doctor). I'm so glad I didn't listen to them. Doodle is thriving - a happy, social, well-rounded kid with tremendous potential. I encourage all you parents out there to hang in there. If you see progress in your child while on this diet, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and your child! I've been there, you, too, can overcome the doubt and uncertainty. Your child is worth it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How to Throw an Allergy Friendly Princess Tea Party

Princess Doodle in her Party Dress

Last weekend we threw a birthday party for Doodle. She turned 6 years old in July and each year I plan a celebration in August (summer gets to be hectic around these parts). This year Doodle insisted that she have a Princess Tea Party. So, being the devoted mother that I am, I set about making that dream happen.

Step 1: Make the invitations (I am an avid scrapbooker, so the only real choice for invites were handmade). I found some pretty pink ribbon, pink flocked paper and vellum to create a royal looking invitation:

"The princess Doodle requests the honor of your presence at her royal tea birthday party. Come dressed in your tea party best or whatever princess attire you so desire." 

All the little girls came dressed in their gowns and tiara's, ready for a royally good time.
The Princesses in Their Tea Party Best

Step 2 - Do a lot of baking!  The menu was as follows:

My Refreshing Lemonade (to substitute for tea)
Mini cakes frosted with Princess Pink frosting (I used Betty Crockers Gluten Free Cake Mix
with Pillsbury Frosting)
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (strawberries dipped in melted Enjoy Life Chocolate)
Individual Lemon Tarts
Fresh Fruit (strawberries, melon, bananas, and nectarines)

Step 3 - Deck out the table.  My mother-in-law gave me a pretty silver tea set when we were married. I have never used it, but it came in handy for such a special occasion as a princess turning 6!  I poured the lemonade in the teapot and served all of the princesses with it. Each princess had their own tea cup and the table was dressed with nice linens and cloth napkins. I used crystal serving dishes and a beautiful cake platter.

Step 4 - Decorate magic wands. My friend Sarah is quite crafty and was gracious enough to help me create magic wands for the kids to decorate. Very simple to do -

1. Spray some styrofoam balls with gold glitter paint.
2. Attach balls with hot glue to the pointed end of a wooden skewer (the kind used for kabobs)
3. Wrap skewer in pretty pink ribbon to cover up the wood and glue down.
4. Tie curling ribbon (like for presents) at the top of the wand (just under the gold ball) and use a scissors to curl the ribbon. Add a bow, if desired, and glue in place.
5. Purchase "gems" from the local dollar store and have the girls glue them on their wands to make it their own.

Step 5 - Bring on the princesses and have some fun! The whole afternoon was just a delight for Doodle! She absolutely loved her party, getting dressed up in a fancy dress, wearing a tiara, and having her friends over for a special celebration. We played a few princess games (pass the tiara and princess limbo), ate lots of food - and danced.

Most amazingly was that not one of the children could tell that this party was Allergy Friendly. No one complained about the taste of the gluten free cake or could tell that I used dairy free topping on the lemon tarts. How great is that? 

The Princess and her Gluten Free Cakes


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The MOST Amazing Sorbet

Last weekend our family had game night - a monthly activity with the families of two close friends. It's an awesome time where we eat too much, laugh hysterically, and the kids completely destroy the house of whomever is hosting that month.  All go home happy and utterly exhausted.

For such an event, you can imagine most of the food brought is not allergy friendly. So, I am always prepared with special treats/dinner for Doodle. This past weekend, we wandered down the ice cream aisle at our local grocery store and discovered something new - Talenti Gelato and Sorbetto.  We bought the Gelato for some adult beverage making (with a little Kahlua -- YUM!) and the Sorbetto for Doodle.  I have to say, both were some of the best ice cream/sorbet I have ever tasted (and I work for an ice cream company!)  Doodle tried the Roman Raspberry version of the Sorbetto and fell in love. She asks every night "Mommy, can I have some of that delicious ice cream for dessert tonight."

My first taste of the Sorbetto reminded me of plucking a fresh, sweet, juicy, perfectly ripe raspberry from the bush and savoring the flavor as the juices tickled down my throat. The flavor is absolutely phenomenal! I also LOVE that the ingredients list is so simple:   Raspberries, water, sugar, dextrose, lemons, and carob bean gum. The simplicity and boldness of flavor is so astounding, I may pack up my ice cream maker and call it good. Doodle and I have found heaven in a pint.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hiding Vegetables

When I was first recovering Doodle from Autism, she had a serious aversion to vegetables...really, have you ever met a child that didn't? What is a mother to do? When I started baking Gluten and Dairy Free, I decided to hide vegetables and protein in her favorite snacks to up her daily doses. Hiding vegetables is super easy. I ran some zucchini through my food processor until it was pureed. I then packaged this up into small batches and placed in my freezer for later use. Whenever I baked a batch of brownies, I threw in several packages of zucchini and Voila! Doodle was enjoying vegetables without even knowing it!

We love to make these brownies from Elana's Pantry modified to include zucchini. The zucchini makes the brownies turn out super moist, the almond butter gives Doodle added protein, and the Agave nectar ensures the brownies are sugar free. It's the perfect snack any time of the day! Here's my version of Elana's fabulous brownies:

1 16 oz jar Almond Butter
2 Eggs
3/4 Cup Agave Nectar
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1/2 Cup Zucchini - pureed
1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

1. Beat almond butter on high speed with a mixer until smooth. Add in eggs and beat thoroughly.
2. Add agave nectar, vanilla, and zucchini and mix until well blended.
3.  Add cocoa powder, salt, baking soda. Mix together.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Place in a seasoned, square glass baking dish (I use corning ware) and bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Doodle loves these brownies slightly warm with a scoop of my Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream on top. Mmmm - the ultimate bedtime treat on a hot summer day!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Northwest Natural Products

I can't say enough good things about Northwest Natural Products L'il Critter Gummy Vites. Doodle takes several varieties of their vitamins a day including: Gummy Vites, Omega 3, and Vitamin D.

Several weeks ago I decided to write Northwest Natural Products President Kate Jones because I wanted to express my gratitude for the tremendous impact NNP's vitamins have had on our family. I credit most of Doodle's recovery with the addition of Vitamin D taken in the form of Gummy Bear vitamins to Doodle's diet. It's comforting to know that Doodle can consume a vitamin that is free of gluten, casein, dye's, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. It gives me peace of mind.

To my surprise, I received a response back this week in the form of a letter and package on my doorstep! How wonderful! Ms. Jones sent a package of 3 different vitamins and the following letter:

Dear Ms. SL:

Thank you for sharing the inspiring story about your daughter. It's wonderful to hear that Doodle is progressing and doing so well! 

Our main mission when we began making the gummy bear vitamins was to ensure that children would actually take their vitamins and also to provide them with the best quality product available.

Please enjoy the enclosed L'il Critters Gummy Vites and Omega-3 Gummy Fish. And since all busy moms need their vitamins, too, we're sending a bottle of our Vitafusion Multi Vites just for you. (How thoughtful!)

Wishing you and your family a bright and healthy future!

Best regards,

Kate Jones

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rice Cereal Treats

One of the common blunders we made when first going gluten free is not understanding the hidden ingredients which may contain gluten. It's so easy to not realize that a simple ingredient has gluten. Take Rice Krispies as an example. You would think that a rice based cereal would be gluten free - it's not! Rice Krispies contain barley malt and barley contains gluten - so this is NOT a gluten free cereal.  You can purchase a substitute cereal which IS gluten free calledKoala Crisp. Our store carries the cocoa version, but it also comes in the plain rice variety.  We decided to make Cereal Treats made from Koala Crisp tonight as our weekly treat. I added peanut butter to give it some extra protein and to complement the cocoa flavoring in the cereal. Doodle said they were delicious!

Peanut Butter Rice Cereal Treats

2 Tbsp Dairy Free Butter (I use Earth Balance)
1/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
40 Marshmallows
1 Package Koala Crisp Rice Cereal

1. Melt butter substitute and peanut butter over low heat in a large pan.  Add in mrshmallows and stir constantly until marshmallows are dissolved.
2. Stir in Rice Cereal until completely mixed.
3. Season a 9 x 13 inch pan with butter substitute and season your hands. Spread marshmallow mixture evenly in pan. Allow to cool.

I topped these treats with some dairy free chocolate chips and cut them into large squares for dessert.  The chocolate melted into the knooks and crannies of the bars and tasted wonderful!

If you're looking for a great gluten free cereal that doesn't break the bank - try Chex! General Mills has recently made many of their rice based Chex cereals gluten free. Doodle loves the Honey variety and the Cinnamon variety. Beware of the chocolate version if you are diary free, as this product contains dairy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grilled Asparagus

Well the weather has turned warm (for the most part!) and we have been cooking an increasing amount of dinners on the grill. I love grilling season! It makes cooking so easy and clean up even easier! One of our new found favorites this year is fresh asparagus on the grill. A friend from work gave us a large quantity of asparagus fresh from her garden and boy is it delicious when cooked on the grill! Here's how:

Grilled Asparagus

Fresh Asparagus (as much as desired)
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Kosher or Sea Salt

1. Wash, dry and snap off ends of asparagus.
2. Sprinkle asparagus with Olive Oil and Salt.
3. Place horizontally on the top rack of the grill and cook 10 minutes or to desired tenderness.

Asparagus on the grill goes wonderfully with Hamburgers. Doodle loves a good hamburger and enjoys eating it sans bun with plenty of ketchup and mustard. She's also found a new love for Bratwurst! We've been feasting on these summer treats for quite a few weeks and the asparagus really rounds out the meal.

Of course, anything on the grill goes better with a tall, cool glass of lemonade. We fresh squeeze the lemons for a refreshing summer drink. Try some out today!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A New Favorite

Doodle was so excited this week when we found a new GF food at the grocery store - French Toast Sticks. I just love that our local grocery store is always trying new GF foods for area families to try - and the store has much more to choose from than many of the big chain stores in "The Cities" (mpls/st paul). Doodle loves the waffles, pancakes, and now the French Toast Sticks made by Van's.  Check them out and try some today if you have the opportunity!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Frustrating Day

Doodle had her annual doctor's visit today and Kindergarten vaccinations. This entire event was an exercise in frustration for me. So little is known, locally, about the impacts of diet on Autism and the complete resistance to the theory is frustrating to me. In order for Doodle to receive an allergy friendly lunch at school next year, I need a note from my doctor. I explained this to my doctor and she responded, "Well, I don't have a medical reason to give you that note. I can't tell you that the diet has made any difference in her developmental delays." Moments later, she comments "She really is a 'normal' kid, isn't she? I don't see any signs of a delay." I ask you - what do you think made this big of a difference?!!!

Why is it so easy to accept that diet plays a role in heart disease, diabetes, even cancer? Why can the medical establishment at least entertain the idea that diet plays a role in learning disabilities? Especially when presented with evidence like Doodle. She could see with her very eyes that Doodle was no longer the child with repetitive behavior, limited eye contact, and poor social skills. She could see with her very own eyes how she has transformed over the past year. Why is it so hard to believe that diet makes a difference?

I find myself becoming very angry at the whole establishment and wonder what I can do to better educate people. I've been on a mission to help people in the area understand the connection for some autistic kids and diet. Admittedly, it won't work for all kids, but as my friend says, it certainly won't hurt and most kids will see some form of improvement. Isn't it worth it, then, to try it? To give your child the best chance they have at recovery? Wouldn't you want that for your child? I know I do and I don't ever regret changing Doodle's diet. It's been life transforming for Doodle and that is what she deserves!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dairy Free Jo-Jo's

Once upon a time we used to love to indulge in fried chicken and Jo-Jo potatoes at KFC (or as Doodle calls it, Kipsy). Unfortunately, most establishments use some form of wheat or dairy on their Jo Jo potatoes for seasoning. So, we have invented our own, much healthier version, at home. Here's the recipe: 

Jo Jo Potatoes

3-4 Medium sized potatoes - sliced into thin wedges
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Rosemary - if desired

1. Place potato wedges on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and mix up with your hands so that all potatoes are coated.
2. Sprinkle with paprika, salt, pepper, and rosemary.
3. Set oven to broil and place potatoes in oven. Cook for 10 minutes and stir potatoes.
4. Cook another 10 minutes or until the potatoes reach desired crispiness. Serve with your favorite dip.

On another note, Doodle signed up for soccer tonight and is excited to start playing. She has the cutest pink and black Adidas cleats! I'm excited for her to continue master kicking a ball. This is one of the items the physical therapist has suggested as summer work. Hopefully we'll get a good coach who is patient and kind. Can't wait to see her running around the soccer field with the rest of her peers!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Aka - Snicker-doodle's are the cookie of the week. The dough is upstairs cooling in the fridge before I throw them in the oven. Incredibly easy to make, I'm looking forward to trying this favorite childhood treat in a gluten free version. Here's the recipe:


1 Cup Shortening
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cub Agave Nectar (or to taste)
2 Eggs
2 T Vanilla
1 T 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
2 tsp Baking Soda
3 Cups GF Flour (I used 2 cups Sweet Rice Flour and 1 Cup All Purpose GF Flour)
2 tsp Xanthan Gum
Cinnamon and Sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Mix shortening, sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in eggs.
3. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, xanthan gum in a bowl.
4. Add flour mixture to shortening mixture. Beat until combined.
5. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to 30 minutes.
6. Roll dough into small balls and roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place on cookie pan and bake 8-10 minutes.
7. Cool on pan slightly and remove to cooling racks.

On another note, I continue to be amazed at Doodle's progress. Reading books last night, Doodle is starting to be able to read a few words herself! She is also able to do simple math problems - and she has yet to start kindergarten! I'm hopeful kindergarten will be a smooth transition for her.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strawberry Ice Cream

Ok- so life is super busy this spring time. I'm so enjoying the early spring that has arrived in Minnesota this year. It's such a rare treat, that I haven't spent much time thinking about this blog. Well, today is rainy, cold and pretty dreary, so I thought I would catch up.

First, we had an awesome IEP conference with Doodle's Special Ed team. I'm happy to report that she will not need OT and Speech Therapy next year (but am appreciative of all of their help the past 2 years!). She will continue with limited special ed intervention next year and physical therapy 1 day a week. I'm so pleased with her progress!

As I mentioned the other day, we made the best dairy free strawberry ice cream. It was rich, creamy, and tasted just like the real thing. Here's the recipe:

Strawberry Ice Cream

3 Cups Coffee Rich Non-Dairy Creamer
1 small package Rich Whip
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/8 tsp Xanthan Gum
3 Cups Strawberries - sliced
1/4 Cup Agave Nectar
1/2 Cup Sugar

1. Add Sugar and Agave Nectar to the sliced strawberries. Macerate for 1-2 hours.
2. In the mean time, combine Non-Dairy Creamer, Rich Whip, Sugar, and Xanthan Gum in bowl and mix thoroughly.
3. Mash strawberries and drain juice into cream mixture. Set aside strawberries
4. Place in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instruction.
5. About 5 minutes before ice cream is complete, add in strawberry mixture. Once complete, remove from bowl and freeze for 2 hours.
6. Let thaw slightly before serving - enjoy!

On a final note, I was very brave this week and asked the food company I work for if they were considering developing any Gluten Free products. To my surprise, the CEO admitted they were behind the times on these products! I volunteered to talk with the marketing organization about my experience. We'll see if it helps them understand the need for natural, allergy friendly foods! Keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kindergarten Transition Day

Doodle had Kindergarten Transition Day today. Her entire pre-school class (and parents) were able to experience kindergarten by attending a half day with an actual kindergarten class. We all met in the cafeteria, the pre-schoolers were divided up into 2 groups and we had a tour of the school. One group went to one classroom and Doodle got to attend Ms. Davidson's class. The parents stood on the side lines and watched as their children participated. I was particularily proud as I watched Doodle manuever her own scissors during the art project portion of the day. Six months ago this would have been an impossible feat for her, instead she followed instructions, sat nicely in her seat, listened careully, and made me a beautiful picture of a cow jumping over the moon!

The best part of the day for me came while we were playing out on the play ground. Her teacher pulled me aside to comment how far she has come. She remarked that she had been her substitute teacher several times last year and saw how she was (basically in her own world, un-social, poor eye contact, unable to follow directions, and unable to focus for any length of time.) She stated she was surprised how far she had come in that one short year and "If you had told me a year ago that diet had an impact on developmental delays, I would never have believed you. It's a great testament to you as a parent." Thank you for the validation, kind words, and for acknowledging the TREMENDOUS impact that diet has on all of us! Well said.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

GF DF Apple Crisp

The smell of apple crisp is currently wafting through the house and it is delightful! I created a Gluten Free and Dairy Free version for our Easter dessert tomorrow and may have to dig in and enjoy some tonight. On top of it, we will make our first batch of home-made ice cream today - Doodle says it will be strawberry flavored. Watch for a recipe to come later.

Our Easter menu this year consists of the following:

Nitrate Free Ham from Trader Joe's - thanks Mom for picking it up for me
Oven Roasted Organic Sweet Potatoes - with some kosher salt, there's nothing like it
Organic Salad Green's
Green Bean's
Apple Crisp with Home-made Ice Cream

GF DF Apple Crisp

4-6 Organic Granny Smith Apples - Peeled and Sliced
1/2 to 3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Dairy Free Butter - chilled
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Sweet Rice Flour
2 T Cinnamon
1 cup GF Oats

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Layer sliced apples in an oven safe glass dish. Sprinkle with sugar.
3. In a small bowl, place butter, brown sugar, sweet rice flour, and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until butter is the size of peas.
4. Add oats to the butter/sugar mixture and stir.
5. Place oat mixture on top of apples and bake in oven for 1 hour.
6. Let cool slightly and top with DF ice cream - enjoy!

This is the perfect dish for Easter this year, as it already feels like summer outside. Nothing better on a warm summer night than a slice of hot apple crisp with fresh ice cream melting on top. Enjoy!

P.S. If you're looking for some GF and DF Easter Candy, most Jelly Beans fit the bill. That's what we'll be filling our Easter eggs with this year - should be a fun hunt tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

I received the following update from Doodle's occupational therapist yesterday and was so excited I just had to share. 'Doodle continues to make great progress. She is attending much better. She is no longer needing to use the weighted vest to pay attention and I rarely have to give her cues to attend. She is able to pick up a scissors and cut around patterns. She's doing great!' I am so thrilled that Doodle is having a better time paying attention. What the OT didn't know is that I recently added back in 3 vitamins that I had taken her off of over the past year - zinc, vitamin A, and a probiotic. Clearly, the added vitamins are paying off in Doodle's ability to pay attention. I'll stick with this regimen.

On another note, seems spring has arrived early in MN and we are enjoying temperatures in the 70's this week. How fabulous! I pulled out the grill tonight and made our favorite chicken for dinner. It's a simple recipe and easy to grill up no a week night.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken
4 drumsticks
4 thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce - gluten free
3 T honey
1 1/2 T Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
2 T Olive Oil

1. Combine chicken with the soy sauce, honey, seasoning, and olive oil in a resealable bag. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Remove chicken from bag and place on warm grill.
3. Cook for 30 minutes - rotating frequently - or until chicken is cooked through

We love to serve this with corn on the cob and potatoe salad during the summer. Nothing like some great chicken and corn on the cob to get summer off to a great start (or spring for that matter)!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Breakfast Hash

Spring has arrived in a big way this week - and Icouldn't be happier! Long walks with the dog, Doodle playing outside all weekend long, and best of all loads of SUNSHINE! We will be breaking out the ice cream maker in no time and trying some fresh sorbet's this year. I loved picking up a 2 pound package of the ripest strawberries at the grocery store today. Doodle ate a one pound container nearly all by herself this afternoon - oh how delicious!

To go with the strawberries today, Doodle's dad made a dairy free version of his favorite Everything Hash browns. We all dug in and enjoyed the tasty dish as our lunch this afternoon. Hope you enjoy as well!

Everything Hash Browns

4 pieces Nitrate Free Bacon - chopped
4 All Natural Sausages - chopped
1/2 Cup Nitrate Free Ham - diced
1/2 red pepper - diced
1/2 bag Hash Browns - any style
Dairy Free Butter
7 Eggs - beaten
2 Tbsp Dairy Free Milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
Anything else you want to throw into the mix!

1. Fry the bacon, sausages and ham in a pan until cooked thoroughly.
2. Fry hash browns in a large pan with dairy free butter until crispy. Add butter, if necessary.
3. Whisk eggs and milk together in a large bowl.
4. Add meat and red peppers to the hash browns and cook until red peppers are soft.
5. Stir in eggs and scramble with hash brown mixture.
6. Add salt and pepper and serve.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nitrates, Nitrates, and Preservatives - Oh My!

Since learning that Doodle had autism, I have been on a quest to educate myself on how food plays a role in her autistic symptoms. To that end, I have also explored how chemicals in our daily environment contribute to her food sensitivities. Here's what I have adapted in our environment to help reduce the toll that toxins take on her fragile systems.

After stabilizing Doodle's diet, I felt like she was not continuing to progress as much as I had hoped. So, I started to look around my house to see if there were additional items I could eliminate to help alleviate toxins that could enter her body. First thing I noticed were the counter wipes that I frequently used to clean my kitchen counter - you know the kind from Lysol or Clorox that claim to kill 99.9% of the germs on your counter. I'm all for a clean house, but felt like maybe the harsh chemicals in these wipes were contributing to the lack of progress. So I eliminated them. I now use cleaners that are made only from natural ingredients - like those from Seventh Generation.

Once upon a time I would have thought using all natural cleaners was going overboard and a little bit crazy. What's wrong with off the shelf cleaners? Well, when your little body is sensitive - like Doodle's - every toxin matters. Some kids can handle it just fine, but many Autistic children can't handle the overload of toxins on their system, so it's best to eliminate as much as possible. Once I eliminated these toxins, I noticed a visible difference in her verbal ability. She was increasing her speech at the same time.

Next, I looked at some of Doodle's favorite foods - bacon, ham, hot dogs. All were packed full of preservatives. Common preservatives in these foods are Nitrites and Nitrates. Once upon a time bacon and ham would have been preserved with salt, but somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, someone decided that they liked the pink color that nitrates and nitrites provided to these products and began curing with these preservatives instead. I am so thankful that many food companies are now starting to go away from these chemicals and revert to using sea salt instead. Hormel has started an all natural line which is nitrate and nitrite free. Doodle eats this bacon almost every morning. Check out their Natural Choice meat selection - tastes great without all of the harmful chemicals!

What prompted this whole post was the amazing Nitrate Free Ham my family ate this weekend. I picked one up at Trader Joe's and warmed it in the over at 325 degrees in a large roasting pan for 2 hours. I placed some Coca-Cola in the bottom of the roasting pan and tented the ham with aluminum foil to trap in the moisture. The result was a ham dinner that the whole family raved about! Plus, I have plenty left over to make some of my Wild Rice Soup later in the week!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

To (Hot) Dish or Not to (Hot) Dish

Ok, being a MN native, I grew up on hot-dish. You know what I mean, a conglomeration of whatever is left over in the fridge plus some cream of mushroom soup to mask the taste. Minnesotan's are famous for it! My husband and kids, however, have never had the pleasure (or not) of tasting a true MN hot-dish. When I mentioned this fact, my oldest daughter looked at me and stated "Mom, what's a hot-dish?" Imagine, a girl living in MN who has never tasted genuine hot-dish. I'm sure the state will stop by to send us packing any minute now! My husband, on the other hand, thinks his palette is far too sophisticated to indulge in eating hot-dish.

So, the other night I set out on a mission to create a true MN hot-dish that was dairy free. I believe that I have succeeded. To mask the truth that this dish was in fact a hot-dish, I referred to it by the beloved name my mother used when she didn't know what to call some made up meal - "kill-em-quick". She used to tease us that it would taste so bad, it was sure to kill-em-quick!

I can assure you, this dish is mighty tasty. Just don't tell my family they are enjoying a hot-dish!

Dairy Free/Gluten Free Hot Dish (aka Kill-em-Quick)

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts - cut into strips
1 tsp Creole Seasoning (gluten free)
2 T Olive Oil
1 Package AmyLu Sausage (any flavor) sliced and cut into half moons
1 Red Bell Pepper
1/2 Onion, diced
2 Cloves Garlic - minced
1/2 Package GF Pasta
1 16 oz Package Rich's non-dairy creamer (or substitute 2 cups non-dairy milk)
1/4 cup GF Chicken Broth
2 tsp Corn Starch
1 Cup Frozen Peas (or mixed vegetables)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Bring large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add GF pasta. Cook according to package directions.
2. Saute Chicken breast strips and Creole seasoning in 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil. Remove from pan.
3. Add sausage, bell pepper, onion, and garlic to pan. Cook until onion is translucent and sausage is heated through.
4. Add non-dairy creamer.
6. In a small dish combine Chicken Broth and Corn Starch. Stir until Corn Starch is completely dissolved. Add to pan.
7. Return chicken to pan.
8. Meanwhile, once pasta is cooked, drain pasta water and add pasta to pan.
9. Add in frozen peas or mixed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Voila - the dairy free hot-dish is ready for dinner. Serve with a fresh salad and dinner is complete.

For an even easier version, I sometimes cheat and use Schwan's oven roasted chicken bites for the chicken. I cook up 10-12 pieces (which only takes 3 minutes in the microwave), chop them into smaller pieces, and add to the sausage mixture. I throw in some Creole seasoning and dinner is done in no time flat. What more could a busy mom want?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The journey of a thousand miles....

The saying goes that a journey of a thousands miles begins with a single step. The road to recovering a child from Autism is a long, challenging, and rewarding journey. The best way to begin that journey, I tell people, is with a single step. Start slow and easy - don't try to tackle too much at once. There are several reasons for that:

1. It's too overwhelming to do everything at once and you can become easily discouraged.
2. It's best to try one thing at a time so that you can know for certain if what you are doing is working. If you do everything at once, you don't know what is causing improvement and what isn't.
3. The changes can be a hard adjustment for the child - changing over time gives the child time to adjust before something new is introduced.

When we suspected Doodle had Autism, we took a series of steps to start her on her recovery. First and foremost, I saw my doctor. I told her what I was planning on doing and asked her some questions. This was difficult, as most traditional doctors don't believe that changing a child's diet will do any good. I was prepared for this challenge and told my doctor I was going to do it anyway. Eventually, she came around.

Second, I did my research. I read many blogs, books, and cookbooks to find out everything I could about recovering my child from Autism. These resources I found the most helpful:
Once I felt like I was armed with the information I needed, I took the plunge and started to change Doodle's diet. The first food we took out of her diet was all milk based products to make her diet casein free. I goofed the first few days, forgetting that coffee cake at Starbuck's has dairy in it, but corrected that mistake immediately. Within a week of making the change, we started to see some improvements. Doodle was much calmer, not as hyper, and could play for a longer duration of time by herself. We also soon found out that dairy was an issue for Doodle when daycare accidentally gave her a slice of pizza about a week after we started the diet. That night was awful - Doodle was cranky, throwing up, and all out of sorts. This is common when you re-introduce an allergen after having been without it for a period of time. I knew we were headed down the right path.

We went a month being dairy free before we took our next step - going gluten free. So many people think this would be a difficult transition, but it really wasn't. We quickly learned how to substitute GF flour for regular flour and I started to experiment with different recipes. Doodle and I enjoy cooking treats for the week every Sunday. It's become a weekly ritual - mostly because Doodle loves to lick the bowl and sneak sugar here and there!

We didn't see immediate improvement after removing the gluten, but it takes 6 months to a year for gluten to completely be removed from your system. We had some tough moments the first year when others weren't recognizing the results that we were seeing. I felt very frustrated but we knew we needed to be persistent as the diet was making improvements. She was coming out of her shell, back into the real world.

Next I started to introduce vitamins. See my post on the vitamins we use. I made sure that we only introduced one vitamin at a time, so that we could measure the effect. If there wasn't improvement over time, we stopped using the vitamin. Each child is different and the combination of supplements necessary to recover a child is as unique as the child themselves. For us, the key vitamins are Vitamin D, a Multi-Vitamin, 2 forms of Essential Fatty Acid, Zinc, and a Pro-Biotic. The Vitamin D addition was the key turning point in Doodle's recovery - it completely transformed her!

Finally, I went all natural! I removed all of the harsh cleaning agents in our house and replaced them with more environmentally friendly products. Fortunately, there are many of these products to choose from now. I noticed a significant different in Doodle's tantrum's once we removed the harsh cleaners - the number of tantrum's significantly reduced once I changed to natural cleaners. Our favorite is Green Works All Purpose Cleaner because it is available in most stores (which is important when you live in the middle of nowhere!)

All of this work paid off this past November when Doodle had her conferences at school. Her OT, PT, Speech Therapist, and Special Ed teacher were astounded at the progress she had made over the summer. Doodle had just started OT services at the beginning of the year. The OT commented that she thought she had her work cut out for her before the school year started, but was so surprised that she hasn't had to do much with Doodle at all because she has come so far. The speech therapist stated that Doodle's autism symptoms had "disappeared" and was recommending that she would not need speech therapy the next year. In fact, she more than likely will not need any kind of special ed services next year. What wonderful news!!! My husband and I were thrilled and so happy that we have stuck with the diet, even when others told us it wouldn't make a difference. I'm thankful that I didn't listen and stayed true to my beliefs that Doodle was so much more than a diagnosis and so much bigger than an Autism label.

The journey certainly is not complete. My new mission is to work on the ADHD symptoms that persist. We'll continue to tweak her diet and supplements to find out what works best for Doodle until this diagnosis disappears as well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Perfect GF DF Fried Chicken

We used to love making our own fried chicken. It was a labor of love on a Saturday night where we would indulge in sumptuous fried chicken right out of the deep fat fryer and paired it with the perfect mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. I'm drooling just thinking about it. So, ever since Doodle became Gluten and Dairy Free, I've been attempting to recreate the perfect fried chicken. I have failed miserably until a week ago when the stars aligned and I finally found the perfect mixture to make GF DF Fried Chicken. I learned the trick while listening to a cooking program on NPR where a caller was frustrated that her fried chicken in Boston didn't taste anything like the fried chicken in Texas. The secret - adding corn starch to the flour - genius!!! I tried it and it turned out beautifully. I hope you find success in this recipe, should you be so inclined to try it.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Fried Chicken

1 can Coconut Milk
4 Chicken drumsticks - rinse and pat dry
4 Chicken thighs - rinse and pat dry
Paprika, Creole Seasoning, Salt, Pepper, and Jamaican Jerk to taste

1. Place the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag. Add coconut milk and seasonings.
2. Marinate in milk mixture for 2-4 hours (or overnight).

1 Cup GF Flour (I used Sweet Rice Flour)
2 Tbsp Corn Starch
Desired seasonings (I used the same as listed above)

3. Place flour, seasoning, and corn starch in a paper bag and shake vigorously.
4. Remove chicken from plastic bag one piece at a time. Place in paper bag and shake vigorously.
5. Line a cookie sheet with a cooling rack. Remove chicken from paper bag and place on cooling rack. Repeat until all chicken is completely coated in flour.
6. Allow chicken to warm up for 45 minutes. This step is very important since it prevents moisture from getting under the skin while frying which causes the coating to separate from the chicken.
7. In a large skillet or deep fat fryer heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees. If using a skillet, make sure the oil is high enough that it covers 1/2 the chicken when frying.
8. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Turn the skillet down to medium heat or 300-325 degrees. Add the chicken and cook on each side until browned - 5-7 minutes.
9. Place chicken in an oven proof dish, tent with aluminum foil. This will allow the inside of the chicken to cook, yet keep the outside crispy. Cook for 10 - 20 minutes until the inside of the chicken has clear juice.

I love to serve fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, and roasted asparagus. Hope you enjoy this recipe as well! Happy eating!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gluten Free Taco Salad

Tonight we made delicious Taco Salads for dinner. We love combining new ingredients each time we make the salad to incorporate new tastes and textures. Taco seasoning from the grocery store, however, often contains hidden gluten. So, beware when buying packaged taco seasoning! Tonight we used this simple home made version of taco seasoning:

Homemade Taco Seasoning

5 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Chipotle Chili Powder
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Tbsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

1. Combine all ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Add 2 Tbsp (or desired amount) to ground beef while cooking.
3. Add 1/2 cup water to ground beef and cook until water is reduced.

We served our taco salad tonight with Gluten Free corn tortilla chips, yellow rice, stir fried corn, and loads of lettuce. Since Doodle is dairy free, she eats hers without any dressing. The remainder of us enjoyed some nice spicy ranch dressing bought at the local grocery store. Best thing about it, there's plenty left over for lunch tomorrow!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Puppy Chow

In honor of the big game today - Vikings vs Saints - Doodle and I decided to make some game day goodies. Her latest GF favorite is Rice Chex and she has been drooling over the snacks on the back of the package - which are NOT GF or Dairy Free. I applaud General Mills for making some of the Chex cereals Gluten Free - but why not go the whole nine yards and print recipes that are also Gluten Free? (small rant) At any rate, we decided to do it for them. Here's our favorite version of Puppy Chow (aka Muddy Buddies).

Dairy Free Puppy Chow

9 cups GF Chex Cereal (corn or rice)
1 Cup Dairy Free Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup GF Peanut Butter
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Butter Substitute
1 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 Cups Powder Sugar

1. Place Chex in a large bowl.
2. In a small bowl, place Chocolate Chips, Peanut Butter, Butter Substitute. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove and stir mixture.
3. Microwave on high for another 30 seconds. Remove and stir until smooth. Add vanilla and stir together.
4. Pour mixture on top of the Chex. Stir until completely and evenly coated.
5. Place Chex in a 2 gallon storage bag. Add powder sugar. Seal the bag and shake vigorously until evenly coated.
6. Spread out on wax or parchment paper to cool. Place in large bowl and get ready to celebrate a great football game!

Dairy free chocolate can be tricky to find on store shelves. I tend to use Enjoy Life brand chocolate as it is completely free from all allergens. It is a bit pricier, however. If your store carries Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, these also work well. Mine, unfortunately, does not carry the semi-sweet version.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dairy Free Chocolate Cupcakes

Doodle got the book "Pinkalicious" for Christmas this year. In this book, the girl eats too many pink cupcakes and turns pink. She was determined to try this out as an experiment and asked me to make pink cupcakes as a treat for her. I convinced her that we should make chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting and this would be just as good for her. Despite all of the cupcakes she has eaten, I'm happy to report she has yet to turn pink!

Gluten Free Dairy Free Chocolate Cupcakes

3/4 c. Sweet Rice Flour
3/4 c. All purpose GF Flour
1/2 c. Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
Dash Kosher Salt
1/2 c. GF Cocoa
1/2 c. Agave Nectar
1 c Cold Water
1/4 c. Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp GF Vanilla

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

2. Combine dry ingredients of Sweet Rice Flour, All Purpose GF Flour, Sugar, Baking Soda, Kosher Salt, and Cocoa.

3. Add in Agave Nectar, Vegetable Oil, Vinegar and Vanilla. With a whisk slowly stir in cold water.

4. Fill cupcake liners with cake mixture and place in oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean.

5. Remove cupcakes from pan, allow to completely cool. Decorate with frosting.

Dairy Free Frosting

2 Tbsp Dairy Free Shortening
1 - 2 cups Powdered Sugar
1-2 Tbsp Non-Dairy Milk (Almond Milk)

1. Combine Shortening, Powder sugar, and Non-Dairy milk substitute in bowl.
2. Mix on high speed until frosting forms (more milk or sugar may need to be added, depending on the consistency you are looking for).
3. Frost cupcakes.
4. Sink your teeth in and enjoy!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gluten Free Pretzel Waffles

This morning Doodle and I decided to combine several recipes and make pretzel waffles. Really, it was something different to do after being cooped up in the house for 3 days, waiting for the blizzard and sub-zero temperatures to pass. I have to say, these waffles turned out quite yummy. The pretzel's add a nice flavor and extra crunch to the waffles and are a break from the usual waffle recipe.

I find that Sweet Rice Flour is the best option for making waffles (I use Mochiko brand). It doesn't have a distinct Gluten Free flavor (like so many other GF flours) and it makes the waffles light, airy, and nice and crispy. In fact, it tastes better than waffles made with traditional flour.

Pretzel Waffles

3/4 Cup Sweet Rice Flour
1/2 Cup GF Pretzels - crushed
1 T Baking Powder
1 T Agave Nectar
Pinch Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
3 Eggs, separated
1 Cup Almond Milk (or milk substitute)
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
1 T Vanilla

1. Pre-heat a waffle maker and spray with non-stick spray.
2. Combine Sweet Rice Flour, 1/4 Cup GF Pretzels, Baking Powder, Salt and Xanthan Gum. Whisk together.
2. Separate eggs and add yolks, Agave Nectar to flour mixture. Stir together.
3. Add Almond Milk, Canola Oil, and Vanilla to flour mixture and whisk together.
4. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into flour mixture, just until combined.
5. Measure the waffle batter and cook waffles according to your waffle maker's instructions. Before placing the lid on the waffles, sprinkle some of the remaining pretzel mixture on top of the batter. Close lid and cook.

Serve with maple syrup, dairy free whipping cream, or a dairy free caramel sauce, if desired. I topped the waffles off with a few extra pretzels for Doodle and she really enjoyed that.

You can also use this recipe to make regular waffles - just eliminate the pretzels and use 1 Cup Sweet Rice Flour. These waffles will come out just as crispy and your non-gluten free friends will never guess that these waffles are made with GF flour.