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!