Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holiday Scheduling and Special Needs

Hap-happiest Time of the Year!

It had been a very long time coming, Christmastime. It was inevitable. The time of year where everything becomes haywire, like the summer, schedules fly out the windows and through your very best intentions nothing goes according to anything close to what you had planned.

This year MacLeod's kiddos would be coming for Christmas for the first time ever to stay with us. Last year when we both talked about it we smiled and thought how amazing it would be to have our family complete, one whole unite. Somewhere along the along the line... I think it was the memorable summer vacation trip we all took together and the various new versions of kiddo's Apsie meltdowns I was party to, the magical feelings wore off.

For me, the holidays are by far my favorite time of the year and it starts with our absolutely bizarre obsession with Halloween and rolls right into Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year it doesn't end ringing in the New Year because we are finally celebrating our actual wedding in February! We are super excited and it gives us the opportunity to extend the, err, magic of the holidays.

Well, except they have been a little less than magical.

I also don't want you to think that this was all an issue of MacLeod's kids, because it wasn't, it was EVERYTHING. See, MacLeod, my dear, my love, is not a planner. So he sort of fails to tell me what certain things are going on when it has to do with when things are going on and where people are going to be and when. My family on the other hand... well, my family plans things out very carefully especially since we had family visiting from overseas. I think my favorite (and I use that with ever so much sarcasm) line of the Christmas Eve car ride was "I was pretty sure I told you about it." Umm, no.

So...Kiddo, wow. Well, this blog is about us living with Asperger's... but wait can it still be that since Asperger's no longer exists? What? That is a discussion for another blog entry and I know I am behind the ball on that one, alas... another day. So, kiddo and the holidays. We have had to do hoards of prep work to get him ready for the holidays which is why I could have KILLED MacLeod when he sprung things on me or changed things around at the last minute. Kiddo has a very hard time dealing with MacLeod's kiddo in his living space because of past events. For starters they are simply said, polar opposites, we say that my kiddo is fire and MacLeod's is the fuel. Additionally during previous visits his toys, legos (he peseverates deeply on his legos) and other personal items have been broken or gone missing or damaged. This is a huge problem for him. So in therapy the few weeks leading up to the visit from MacLeod's kids, mind you his therapist was sitting awake at night worried as much as I was, we made plans to deadbolt his bedroom closet and put all his toys in there and anything that was broken or lost or damaged I promised would be replaced. It only made him feel slightly better and some may think that is a ridiculous way to approach it but the amount of anxiety that he had about the coming visit was so high, I just didn't know what else to do. MacLeod said one day in response to the locking of the closet "can't we put it on the top of a shelf where they can't reach?" Umm, hon' they aren't toddlers anymore, that will not work.

We had a few moments with all the kiddos together a particular book light that was broken and the meltdown that followed which I did remind him loudly twice that it would be replaced and it quelled the fury. The next day and a half was filled with "when will we get a new book light?" until the book light was indeed replaced, but it was the only casualty of the actual trip.

The one thing that supremely surprised me and something that I will attribute to work with his amazing therapist was Christmas Day. Leading up to Christmas Day, his interactions, just hours at a time with MacLeod's kids had been at best "ok", at worst of extreme meltdown property. On Christmas morning kiddo walked up to me as I was getting my breakfast casserole put together to get into the oven before MacLeod got back with his kiddos (who were staying up north about 30 minutes from out of state) and before MacLeod's parents arrived. He sat down on the stool by the counter and said "mom, (*big sigh*)remember in therapy we said if I did really good with [MacLeod's kiddo] that I could get Angry Bird's Star War's on the iPad?" I said "yes, I do, but it hasn't been so great, has it?" He said "yeah, I know. But maybe if I am good today, do you think maybe I could still get it?" He looked at me and smiled. Well, geez, who can resist that? Of course I said yes. "If you can work really well with him today and not fight or be really mean or nasty, then yes, I think I can do that, ok?" He nodded and walked off with that little smirk on his face like he just got one over on me.

He sat on the floor for the next 30 minutes starting his new Lego set and I heard him actually say "Maybe [MacLeod's kiddo] can help me with this set when he gets here!" What?! Is this the twilight zone? Nope, when MacLeod arrived, Kiddo actually started to engage with MacLeod's kiddos and was nice! It didn't last the entire day, but he was actually trying very hard. I mean its only so long that Fire and Ice can interact properly, but it went really well. I could not have been prouder of him.

As it turned out in the end, all of our preparations were for not, because complications on the other end of the spectrum (ha! very punny!) meaning MacLeod's ex, made it so that his kiddo's only ever step foot in our home once. We did have lovely beds for them set up and all and made TONS of preparations for them to stay with us, but for kiddo it was a sigh of relief.  

We still have New Years to go... as my friend said the other day it's been a December to remember, to which I replied... or forget  :)

Merry Christmas... and a Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Triumpant Return? Yes!

Over the last several months things have been increasingly hectic and I have meddled with the thought of just shutting down this blog all together. We have had so much going on with the kids and at home that I didn't think that I could possibly give as much to the blog as I really should to keep it going the way it ought to.

A few weeks ago I was at church and my wonderful pastor was doing a sermon about time and managing your time and money. It doesn't sound so much like a sermon, but it was great. See, you only are going to put your time and your money in places that are ever so important to you and you are going to stretch it as far as it needs to go if it is that important to you.

Like the church and making tithes and offerings, you will make a commitment to give to the church because what you have is only what the Lord allows you to have, the time I have is what God gives me and I do feel like this blog is something that I can give back to others. So, with that, we will continue to blog as best as we can and we do love to do it! I hope that wasn't too preachy... if it was, well my friend, find another blog, lol!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Bundt Swirl

October often brings surprises in weather in our area. One week it could be 80 degrees, the next it plummets down to the 30's. This past weekend we got the word that hurricane Sandy was going to be hitting the coast. So the hunkering down began which for us simply meant that we just made sure that we had toilet paper. Other than that, we are usually well stocked. So a favorite pastime for us is to take a trip to the local store to watch the frantic shoppers scour for bottled water and generators. Its mad and a little funny. You'd think there was an impending apocalypse. Its a behavior that can be observed whenever the weatherman predicts a wind gust over 60 miles per hour or a accumulation of snow over 5 inches in our area. So far, only one or two such occasions have actually proved to cause anything remotely close to a panic-like scenario in the last ten years and we pulled through just fine with our stock pile of toilet paper.

 In my area we are also guilty of huge overreactions to the predicted weather. So with the hurricane coming everyone, government, school systems, EVERYTHING was closed prematurely. Better safe than sorry, and I don't wish harm on anyone nor do I tempt fate. I pray that things continue to remain calm (because as we sit it is smooth sailing) and pray that those who are closer to harms way stay safe. So while the kiddos and I are at home it gives us the opportunity to do something that I love to do in the fall- bake!
I have been thinking long and hard about what I want to do with the lovely little pie pumpkins that have been sitting patiently on my bookshelf for the last week. I bought them at the farmers market and sat them there waiting to see what inspiration would come to me. I made apple pies and thought, hmm, maybe pumpkin pie? I kind of wait until November for pumpkin pie, a strange but normal fall behavior for me. So I started poking around on Facebook and saw a picture of a Bundt pan! Yes, that is it!!! I will make a pumpkin Bundt cake! So while I was still on Facebook I posted a status to some friends about baking in prep for this now coined "Frankenstorm" and a friend suggested doing something with chocolate chips or a chocolate swirl. Oh my, yes... did that ever get my mind and my taste buds working. Then it occurred to me that I had a half bowl of unused non-dairy chocolate ganache in the fridge! (you can't let that go to waste!) Oh.. that was it, it was on!
This cake is super moist and delish, kiddo who hates anything pumpkin gobbled it up (I haven't told him it has pumpkin in it yet). Its great for dessert or with some coffee and also perfect for wrapping up for the bake sale or to thank people for giving MacLeod a ride to work last week. Ha! (Yes.. his co-workers love it too)
So, today we will move on to.... homemade Twinkies!  (kiddo has been harassing me for months!!!) So... maybe tomorrow folks... we will see how they come out!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Ganche Bundt Swirl


1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 ground cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 Large Eggs
1 1/2 C Coconut Palm Sugar
1/2 Coconut Oil
2 C cooked pumpkin (preferably fresh)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Swirl

1 C 60% Dark Ghirardelli Baking Chips
3/4 C soy milk (or other non dairy milk)

1. Place chocolate chips in a small glass or other heat proof bowl. In a small sauce pan heat the milk until it is hot but before it reaches a boil. Pour milk over the chocolate chips and stir to blend until the chips completely melt. The mixture will continue to thicken as the chocolate cools and sets. 

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

3. Spray a Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. 

4. Sift dry ingredients (gluten-free flour blend, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves) and set aside. 

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer add the eggs, with the whisk attachment beat on medium-high until foamy. Using the paddle attachment add the sugar, oil, pumpkin and vanilla and mix on medium for about a minute to a minute and a half until well blended. 

6. Add the dry ingredients about a 1/2 cup at a time until it is completely incorporated. Scraped the sides of the bowl and mix on medium for another 30 seconds to be sure everything is well mixed. 

7. Using an ice cream scoop or measuring cup, scoop the batter into the Bundt pan leaving half the batter remaining. Tap the pan to settle it in the pan leveling it.

8. Grab the bowl of chocolate ganache and stir it, using a spoon, drizzle a heavy layer of chocolate over the pumpkin batter you just put down. Again, tap the Bundt pan to settle it. 

9. Add remaining batter to the pan evenly and again, tap to settle the pan. Lastly, add one last smaller drizzle of chocolate to the top of the pumpkin batter. 

10. To create the swirl through the pumpkin Bundt, take a knife and run it through only twice around the pan in the batter. It will swirl the chocolate and pumpkin but not muddle it. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Free and Simple Apple Pie (Dairy-free and Gluten-free)

New Adventures in Baking... the Fall!

This season marks almost one full year since we have gone completely gluten-free in our household and while we will do a little celebrating and such in later postings and talking about our journey so far, we do want to write about seasonal baking. Baking is a huge part of my life, having been a professional baker in my previous life, so going gluten-free this year felt somewhat like starting over in the baking world. I have learned a great deal about new ingredients and how they work or in many cases, do not work together. Fall however brings forth a number of many new recipes that I have yet to attempt and am excited to try.

I have mentioned before, I know, that Fall is my hands down, bar none, favorite time of the year. I am a North Eastern chick, Virginia to be exact- born and raised. I love everything that Virginia has to offer (I am overstating there, I despise the 100% humidity of the summer, yuck... aside of that, everything) but the fall, is the best. On the best years the fall foliage is something that people from across the country travel to this area to see. The Shenandoah Mountains and ranges, all part of the Appalachian, transform into such an amazing palette of majestic colors. Just sitting outside on my deck, I can close my eyes and listen to the breeze blow through the drying leaves and smell the crisp air for hours in absolute peace... of course if there was time for that, ha! I do make some time to enjoy this time of year, because it truly is where I think I store my Zen for the rest of the year and it is also my absolutely favorite time for activities and baking!

Years ago when my kiddos were just wee little ankle-biters, one of my best friends invited me with her parents to go apple picking, something I had never done before. The kids and I had the times of our lives and the pictures were gorgeous. I also never knew how amazing an apple was freshly pick from an apple tree! The following years, we continued the tradition, through good times and bad no matter what, I took the kiddos apple picking. Each year we came home with a bushel of apples to make special treats that filled not only our stomachs but also our hearts and eased our minds. The smells of the wonderful fall spices that filled the house just set my mind at ease even at the most challenging times. It couldn't make me happier to see the kiddos faces when they came home from school to spy a fresh apple pie sitting on the kitchen counter for them for dessert.

This year we discovered that MacLeod had never been apple picking. We aren't sure what happened last year, but we were certain that this year he would definitely be climbing trees, grabbing fruit and buying freshly caramel dipped apples and possibly be getting stung by a bee or two. And so we embarked on our apple picking and had a wonderful time, this time as a whole family, finally.

I have read a TON regarding variations on crusts and there are SO many ways you can go. There are very few options on dairy free crusts though and dairy unfortunately has become an increasing problem in my unruly gut. So I have spent the last (post-less!) few weeks experimenting with some oils without having to try to rely on the pastry standby of lard or fat. I love coconut oil and really wanted to try to see how I could use it so tried it on the first attempt and it worked well. I tried a few other variations, but came back to the coconut oil, it just gave a super nice crisp and flaky crust. I ended up springing off of a Joy of Baking basic recipe for tart crust that used confectioners for the sweetness in the crust and it really balanced well with the coconut. It comes together very easy, if it crumbles you just squish it back together again and re-roll it or even just press it into your pan to the edges. No gluten so you cannot possibly over work it. It comes together fast and it truly is easy. My family LOVES it, I hope you do too.

Free and Simple Apple Pie (Gluten-free and Dairy-free)

8 C Granny Smith Apples (or other variety tart apple) cut into wedges
1 C Coconut palm sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 Tbs corn starch (potato starch works as well)
1 1/4 c flour
1/3 c conf sugar
1/2 c coconut oil
plus 1/2 C tapioca starch for dusting
1. Over medium heat add apples and spices to a sauce pan. Cook apple wedges for about 5 minutes over medium heat until the apples are just tender enough to pierce then reduce to a simmer.
2. Remove about 1/4 cup of liquid from the pan and whisk in the corn starch. Add the corn starch mixture to the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the filling has thickened.
3. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Chill the coconut oil in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, just until its firm but not too solid.
3. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour and powdered sugar and whisk together.
4. Remove the coconut oil from the refrigerator and cut it into pieces. Add the pieces to the flour and sugar mixture. With a fork or pastry blender, cut the oil into the flour mixture and continue to blend until the mixture comes together. When there is no more flour left, you can start to press the mixture together with your hands.
5. With a piece of parchment paper on your rolling surface, generously sprinkle enough tapioca flour to begin to roll the dough. Coat the rolling pin with flour before you roll. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.
6. Gently flip over the parchment paper onto the pie plate and then peel back the parchment paper. If it cracks or tears at all, simply press it back together and smooth it back out again.
7. With a fork, poke at least 6 holes in the bottom of the pie plate and around the edges.
8. Bake the pie shell for 10 minutes, unfilled and remove from the oven.


While the pie shell is still HOT, fill the shell and return it back to the oven and continue to bake the pie for an additional 40 minutes. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for 30 minutes before cutting to let the filling set.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Creamy Chicken Corn Chowder

"I think I'll have soup today....."

We are absolute sci-fi nerds in our home from the top- MacLeod to the very bottom, Lil Sis. We all share the same obsessions for the geek fanciful worlds that we live and relive via the television. We take trips through space and time unblinking if at all possible in a spacious blue box, or sometimes hitchhiking with the aid of our trusty towels. Occasionally we board the rusty but reliable vessel that takes us on countless space cowboyish like adventures, dangerous but always save to port. We travel along with our friends made of  various metals like steel and iron and even a giant who looks kinda green who could use some anger management. In our travels through space we have seen some amazing things that would boggle the mind like a giant Bob's Big Boy, a space ship shaped like a maid and a random waste allocation lift loader earth class robot with a fire extinguisher puttering through.

Life can challenging sometimes especially when you have a rather difficult  past and some slightly complicated or complex medical or behavioral issues to work though. Being able to escape into a world of fantasy can make things a little easier to bear the brunt of every day life. But we always remember that even in our everyday lives there is more than meets the eye.

                 In our home... whenever someone mentions soup, it is inevitably said in a Vogon voice.

                                                              5:20 "I think I"ll have soup today..."

Creamy Chicken Corn Chowder (Gluten and Dairy-Free)

2 Boneless Chicken Breasts
2 Tbs olive oil
4 turkey bacon slices
1/2 C green pepper, minced
3/4 C white onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 C Rice Milk
2 C Chicken Broth
2 C Frozen corn kernals
1 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, divided
1/2 tsp cumin
2 TBS fresh minced parsley
2 tsp corn starch
1/2 C dairy-free cheddar cheese
1 plum tomato, diced
1/2 avocado, diced

1. In a dutch over on a stove top at medium - high heat add olive oil. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper on each side and add to pan and cook on each side for about 8 minutes until liquid runs clear or temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When the chicken in cooled, shred into bite sized pieces. Set aside. 

2. Add bacon slice to the pan and cook on each side until the bacon is browned, remove from heat and allow to cool. When it is cooled, mince and set aside. 

3. With your dutch oven still on medium-high heat add green pepper, onion and garlic and saute' until lightly browned (which adds great flavor!). Once your veggies are browned add your liquids- milk and broth- which will de-glaze your pan, adding more flavor. Add the corn, paprika  remaining salt, pepper and cumin. and allow to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. 

4. Remove about 1/4 cup of the spiced broth in a measuring cup and add the corn starch. Whisk together and add to the dutch oven and blend together. Add parsley reserved chicken and bacon and simmer for another 15 minutes. 

5. Serve chowder with 2 tablespoons of diced tomatoes (unless your kiddo also HATES tomatoes, lol), a tablespoon of cheese sub and a tablespoon of diced avocado (again unless your kiddo will threaten your life if he seems them). Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potato and Fresh Figs

Apologize to my mule

Over the last year kiddo's taste in foods has expanded much to my delight. I have clung to the words of the therapists from the feeding clinics who told me that it can take 15-20 times for a kid to be exposed to a certain taste and texture before they will be accepting of it. 

With that in mind, I give you sweet potatoes. I have been pushing sweet potatoes in front of kiddo for ten years. TEN YEARS people! About two months ago I made a dish that became part of our dinner menu cycle because kiddo just raved about it so much, he even asked for seconds. 

Bear in mind, when I started to plate this meal I took MacLeod aside and told him that this meal was going to be rough and to expect the worst because there were about a million textures going on in this middle eastern style dish I was about to put down in front of the kids. 

Fist Full of Dollars 1964, Clint Eastwood's Stranger
I put the plate down. Kiddo looked at his plate. His nose twitched, he looked up at me. He had a Lego flag post in the corner of his mouth, gnawing on it, one eye cocked slightly. Kiddo, the ever present Stranger eyed us as if we were two Mexican banditos, as we tried to maintain dinner control he sniffed the plate and took a small bite. He didn't spit it out, but finished the rest of the bite on the spoon. We sat down cautiously, he watched us settle into our chairs. We ate our food and watched as he ate each and every bite of food on his plate. When he finished he asked for more chicken, the Stranger gets what the Stranger wants. 

When figs became available I modified the recipe a bit and made it pretty delectable, to the Stranger's dismay, he hates figs. Alas, the rest of the dish he loves, especially the sweet potatoes. 

Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potato and Fresh Figs

3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into cubes
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
2 lbs. russet potatoes
1 Tbs toasted cumin
2 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper, divided
2 tsp. tumeric
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
4 C chicken stock
6-8 fresh figs, cut from stem to base in quarters
1- 14 oz. can tomato sauce (you can use whole or diced, kiddo HATES tomatoes though!)
1/2 C raisins

1. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 tsp. of sea salt and 1/4 tsp of ground pepper.

 2. In a dutch oven over medium high heat, add oil and chicken. Cook the chicken until it is golden on all sides and remove from the pan. 

3. Add onion, garlic, sweet potato and potato and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent. 

4. Return chicken back to the pan and add following 9 ingredients (all spices) and cook another 2 minutes. 

5. Add chicken stock, fig, tomato sauce and raisins, cover and simmer for about 1 hour. Try not to open the pan while the tagine is simmering, its worth the wait!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sensory Integration and Food: Progress

I recently read a blog post from another amazing autism blogger ( directed towards a well meaning individual and it reminded me ever so much of so many people in my own life of parenting my kiddo especially in my food battles with Sensory Integration as I mentioned in my last post. Reading the blog and talking with a good friend about her own kiddo and his food struggles got me thinking about our own timeline and where we have been and where we are now.

It occurred to me that five years ago I was sitting with kiddo at the University of Virginia's Kluge Feeding and Rehabilitation Clinic in Charlottesville, Virginia watching as the amazing therapists worked magic to try to get kiddo to eat and respond to their wonders. I thought that within that weeks time I would go home with a kid who would eat food, real food. We went home and he was still using the feeding tube, just ever so slightly less. He was still getting sick and repeating trips to the ER and would have to go back on the feeding tube 100% and then the oral aversions would take over. It was one step forward and two steps back. I spent my nights working and days getting him to pre-school then to Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy and sometimes I even slept a little. I would beg him to eat. His diet consisted of Tyson's chicken nuggets (only Tysons, they were the right texture), frozen corn kernels heated in the microwave, hotdogs cut into disks, pancakes, goldfish crackers, saltines and canned mandarin oranges. Other than that it was pretty limited. 

Last week kiddo ate a chicken drumstick. I was elated. MacLeod sat down for dinner, we had already started and he saw kiddo disassembling the drumstick and MacLeod's face started to contort like he was about to scold kiddo for his actions. I darted a look at him that said "if-you-say-a-word-I-swear-I-will-stab-you-where-you-sit!" and his face melted. When kiddo sat down in his place at the table, he didn't make a disgusted face, he didn't tell me he thought that the food looked horrible he simply said "huh." He sat and dipped his finger into the sauce that I prepared and drizzled over the chicken and said "mom, I don't think I like the sauce." I said that that was ok, but he should try the chicken. So he continued without any argument. I am not sure if he was having a good day if he had just successfully built a Lego armada in his room or if all the stars in the planets had perfectly aligned to create this moment, but he began to eat the chicken ON THE DRUMSTICK, something he has never done before in his life. Ok, on the drumstick is a stretch, he did pull it off, wipe each piece on the napkin and pull the bits of chicken fat off and place them on the napkin as well, BUT, he ate it and that is the point. 

I understand that this pattern of drumstick eating wouldn't hold up in a five-star restaurant, however I don't think they generally serve drumsticks in five-star restaurants and if they did, I certainly wouldn't order one for him. While MacLeod was a little horrified at the pulling apart of the chicken ala caveman-ish style, I did explain to him later the significance of it and he said he figured it out when I glared at him like I was going to murder him. 

The drumstick isn't the only huge leap that kiddo has taken in the area of food, this past year has been full of amazing strides. Kiddo now loves sweet potatoes, though he hates sweet potato fries. He also decided that while watching me eat mixing up some of the foods like rice with beans makes the foods taste so much better, which is amazing because he would have never mixed textures a year ago. We still struggle with things and he definitely has his food preferences, but he has finally begun to maintain his own weight without the need of supplementation and is trying new things pretty regularly. I know that he will always have his preferences and very strong feelings about textures, tastes, smells and temperatures, but hey, don't we all? 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sensory Integration and Food: The Beginning of The Fight

When kiddo was a toddler I had no idea what a food aversion or sensativity was. Sensory Integration Dysfunction sounded like something that happened when a long lost astronaut returned from isolation in deep space for years on a Russian space station.

When he was two years old and started getting super picky with the things he would and would not eat, I was met with suggestion after suggestion which ranged from healthy little snacks to eliminating everything but the toddler standbys of chicken nuggets and hotdogs. It never occurred to me to even consider the fact that each time he refused to eat something else, it was a new texture, taste or temperature that he was eliminating from his repetoire. 

When kiddo got his feeding tube, not long after his second birthday, I was completely emersed in a world of preemie support. He had been born at 25 weeks gestation and we encountered many issues related to prematurity that many typical parents could not really related to. As he began to grow so did the community of preemie support. Even though we thrived on that support, living on a feeding tube was something that we did get some ridicule for after time had passed. A few friends could not understand how hard it was to get my kid to eat foods. I would hear on a very regular basis that if he would just spend a little time with them that THEY would get some weight on him and he would get rid of that tube in no time. Then one day a good meaning friend would offer to take Kiddo for ice cream and I would skeptically agree to let him go and the friend would return baffled at the only child in the entire world who refused to eat ice cream. It was too brown or too cold, or too crunchy or too blue. There was something wrong with every type of ice cream served and my friend could not possibly understand. By then I did, it was Sensory Processing Disorder or Dyfunction.  

One day my best friend was in town with her newborn and she invited us over for dinner at her dad's home. He was having massive Alaskan crab legs and I was totally game. We sat swapping joyous stories of our first few months of sleepless nights while my kiddos ran around. The house filled with the succulent aroma of the crabs steaming and tummies grumbled, all except kiddo. Kiddo ran gagging and wretching "mom, oh my... *gag*... whaaat....*wretch*.... is.... *gag*...that....*wretch*....smell....*gag*..." and he took off streaming towards the open screen of the door plastering his face to the grate sucking in the air in huge gasps like the room had just been exposed to anthrax.
The Deadliest Catch, Discover Channel King Crab Fishing
Kiddo has come a very long way with the help of MacLeod, his Boomstick (Cuisinart Smartstick), its amazing blending capabilities and knowing how to not stress kiddo simply because sometimes there really is just no reason to. He has Aspergers and he always will. I do challenge him with food though on a regular basis though because I do want him to be able to tolerate first- the appearance of things in front of him (without gagging) and secondly the ability to at least try a new food (again, without gagging). Its really been an amazingly difficult, hair pulling out, crying, screaming and sobbing food journey for him (and me) but we have gotten to a place where I think we are a little more comfortable knowing what is kosher and what is not. 

With oodles of Occupational Therapy and speech therapy and feeding clinics, kiddo now is very tolerant about newer things being introduced to him. It does not mean that he is going to like a new item because a weird texture to him is going to be just that and nothing is going to change it. But he will give it a try usually without tears and panic attacks and that is a huge change from a few years ago. Just writing this now and thinking back to those days trying to beg him to eat because I knew with every fiber of my being that if he didn't we would be back in the hospital the next day, I am tearing up. I would like to think that all those moments are behind me but I know that Kiddo's sensitivities to things fluctuate and require consistent work, but he tries now as hard as I do and I couldn't be prouder of him. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sensory Integration and food: the taste of white

Good...Bad....I'm the guy with the gun...err...hand mixer 

              So the other day I was preparing breakfast for the Kiddo and Lil' sis', good ole' scrambled eggs smothered in cheddar cheese (the cheese was there more so to hide any egg whites that I didn't whisk in completely because kiddo has this thing about egg whites) I thought I did a pretty good job in the whisk and cover mission and served up the bowls to the children. "Ugh, I hate egg whites" is the first sentence I was greeted with. The mission was clearly not as successful as I had first believed. "Just eat it, there's  no difference" I replied to him. "They taste white" he shot back." They taste white? I was caught off guard by this, how can egg whites taste like a color? Sensory integration. Kiddo is very sensitive to tastes, textures, and temperatures. I gave that bowl of eggs hell, Serena Williams arms would have been sore if she whisked it like I did....and still the egg whites showed their ugly heads. I swear I could hear the eggs in the fridge laughing at me, calling me crude names, even this morning I heard a "your grandma can whisk better than you...."
                I had gotten comfortable with the notion that my eggs would always show the white, and that I would be left to use the archaic metal whisk or (gasp) fork. I told myself, "I'll just add more cheese, everyone loves cheese."
                Then one day, after our move, Mom opened up a box that I had forgotten about....a box that held a Cuisinart  Smart stick hand mixer. I watched as she put together a fruit shake for us one Monday morning, it quickly and easily blended frozen strawberries and blueberries, so quiet, so quick, so kind of sounded like the saw used in "Hannibal"....but that's  a post for another blog...I digress.  Even then I had not put too much thought into the use of it with eggs, I just saw it as a neat toy, I mean come on, I'm a car guy, I am enamored by air compressors and cylinder hones, not some kitchen tool.
                That all changed the other day. I happen to be on vacation this week (staycation, cause a move into a house brings lots of work) so I let Mom sleep in and I got the kids moving for school. A glance in the fridge returned the conformation of no milk, along with a few verbal jabs from those eggs again. So the fall back bowl of cereal was out of the question. I suck at cooking, I blow no smoke about this, so I told myself eggs- I can do eggs. I cracked 4 of those trash talking bastards into a bowl, then as I was grabbing a few other ingredients I remembered the mixer. Well let's give it a go, shall we. I transferred the contents of the bowl to the neat mixing cup provided, connected the blade end and plunged it into the  unbeaten mixture and pushed the button.

Dear god in heaven.

This is the greatest invention known to man. I felt like Ash from "Army of Darkness", I even held it above my head and yelled, "THIS IS MY BOOM STICK!!" There were no egg whites missed that day. Kiddo ate the whole plate of scrambled eggs and did not once say anything about something tasting white. My mission here is done, now I can go back to working the House wares section of S-Mart. Shop S-Mart.


Monday, September 10, 2012

We're Back!

It is Fall. 

Wait... I did that wrong. 

IT'S FALL!!!!!

Ok, that's better. From September through, oh say about January first, it's like my extended sweet spot. I am a holiday person. Excluding a dismal five or so years of my life, it takes a great deal to get me out of the "holidays" spirit. I start off with the Autumnal stuff, we head out apple picking and apple crisps and pies and bread and then do some canning with apple butter then head long into Halloween. YES!!! I will stop there because frankly I may go on too long.

But to add to all of my holiday joy is the fact that this year we have real reason to celebrate other than the normal happy-to-be-breathing-another-day sort of thing. We are now FINALLY in an actual house, somewhere that we are not going to be moving from in another year (again). The kids and dogs have a real yard to play in and kiddo has a big room to squirrel away all his gajillions of legos in, finally.  

This is also going to offically going to be the first real holiday season that I will be fully baking with gusto competely gluten-free. So I will be in full conversion mode, which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Thankfully, my waistline has been kind to me and I have been losing considerable amounts of weight since the move.... I think because of all the work we have been putting into the house. Lets just say it was a fixer-upper. Hopefully, I can maintain the weight and force MacLeod to guinea pig all the baked goodies that I prepare, mwah haha. 

So, anyway, we are officially back, and settling in beautifully and will be back to the bloggling life... I am SO sure you all have missed us :) 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cha-Cha Changes...

It happens ever so often that things change pretty dramitically... in our case historically, it has usually been for the worst. Thankfully yesterday we started on our latest change which is hopefully just the first in a string of great changes for our future. Yesterday we closed on our new home, something we have been working towards and waiting on for a considerable amount of time.

We have been prepping for this change in a number of ways for a very long time. Of course to help kiddo cope with changes, we are extremely open with all things that may happen, will happen in the future or happen soon. If we can we start discussing the changing event as soon as we have an inkling it is going to happen, that way there is plently of time for kiddo to get more comfortable with the idea of it. And so it happened with the house hunting and purchase. We have been looking for a home for close to a year now, so the discussions of a new living situation and location have been floating through our apartment for a while just in normal converstation. This is the easiest possible way to do things with kiddo, he has a long lead way to think about things and what he does or does not like about it. It also gives us plenty of time to adjust in ways to help him moving forward. The worst possible thing I can do in changes like this is to spring it on him... I can just expect to get the atomic meltdowns with regularity.

With the discussions about moving, the only real conflict we have run into with regards to kiddo and Lil Sis' feelings about the move have been about changing schools agian and leaving friends. The leaving of friends is always more of a concern for Lil Sis as she is a social butterfly. But this time around, Kiddo also had his reservations because he finally made a friend. 

It has been hard for Kiddo to build relationships with peers, something not uncommon for many Aspies. So this past year when he developed a friendship with a boy in his class, it would be a grave understatement to say that I was overjoyed... I literally cried about it when he called the boy his friend. His mom and I worked to maintain the friendship over the summer, but now that school is just around the corner, he will now be starting school in a new county, away from his friend. 

When talking about the move, Kiddo did ask me about what school he would be going to. We talked about how we would now be back into a house and we had to make some changes for that like going to a new school. I promised him that we would not be moving again for a good long time and I would do whatever I needed to do to try to help him in his new setting. He wasn't happy about it, but with the knowledge that his friend's mom and I will continue to get them together on weekends, he seems a little more content about things. 

Both kiddos are excited about decorating thier new rooms, as are we. So like many times when things are changing alot for us, I have the great David Bowie playing regularly in my head as we look forward to face the strain with our changes. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Yes! Gluten-free Yellow Cake!

Summertime in our home is usually pretty busy, like most homes we morph into summer routines that are a modification of our normal daily schedule which we discussed on this post earlier in the summer. Kids out of school and visits to friends, family, visits from McLeod's kids and visitation schedules make the summer something of a challenge to work through. Throw into that buying a new home and all the insanity that goes into just getting to closing and you have yourself one heck of a summer. Thankfully, we are closing on the home this week and then get to start the next steps,moving, fixing up and unpacking. The moving. I hate moving, its probably one of the things that would be awaiting me in the netherworld should I end up at the wrong gate at the conclusion of my life. I can just see it: stacks of moving boxes and piles of stuff- clothing, kitchen wares, kids stuff, all waiting for me to pack and move to another location to unpack. Then I would immediately need to repack and move the stuff to another location and unpack and so on. Yes, that would definitely be my version of hell. In any case, this should be our last move for a long time, so I am foolishly optimistic about it all.

A midst all the craziness of packing and other scheduled routines, we have Lil Sis' birthday to arrange and celebrate. Our current home is packed to the nines with boxes and not exactly suitable to partying so as requested by the birthday girl, her party would be held at a local pottery painting shop. Originally she had wanted to have an animal themed party and was hoping to do something at a zoo or something along those lines. Alas, we live about an hour and a half from any zoo and all the traveling petting zoo's prices were insanely astronomical. Aside of the price though, we currently live in an apartment and as you might guess, they don't exactly welcome zoo animals with open arms here. So we rested on the backup plan for pottery and decided on a jungle theme for the affair. 

The week before her birthday a friend, who still exults me as a professional baker (which I was at one point but am no longer), needed a cake for her co-worker's birthday. She needed it to be a combination of coconut and lemon. So I decided that I would try to tackle a cake flavor which has yet been unattainable to me gluten-free. In my professional baker days, I used a modification of this recipe by Cooks Illustrated. Of course it calls for lots of butter, cream and gluten-full flour. For my friend's cake I decided I would try the recipe our with my gluten-free substitution. With slight changes to the recipe size and ratio of liquids to solids,  the resulting cake was amazing (after the second bake, the first bake was a little dry so I had to modify the liquids a bit more). 

So when my birthday girl asked for a two tier cake, if you read this post you might remember my kiddos bar is set pretty high for birthday cakes, I told her a two tier chocolate cake may not appeal to everyone. So she settled on having the top tier chocolate and the bottom tier yellow cake with a triple berry filling. 

Now anyone who knows me knows that I am incredibly modest when it comes to my cake making. I am my worst critic, so at the end of the baking and decorating all I can see are the things I wish I had done better. However at Lil Sis' party after cutting the cake and serving it, I actually decided to have a piece of cake. I took a small slice of yellow cake and a small slice of the chocolate cake. Folks, I hate saying it, but this birthday cake was amazing. Not one person at the party knew that they were gluten-free cakes and I didn't mention it. McLeod sometimes likes to do a big reveal like we are tricking people into eating gluten-free, but I told him that my goal was for there not to be a taste difference at all. I want the cake to taste like a regular cake and if they think its great without knowing then I have done my job. Everyone raved about how delicious the cake was so I think I achieved just that. 

Of course my next step will be trying to make this tasty cake not only gluten-free but dairy free as well and possibly trying a number of different flour blends, so keep posted!

Gluten-free Yellow Cake (not dairy free) 

2 C unrefined granulated sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C Plain yogurt, room temperature

Triple Berry Filling

1/2 C Fresh Raspberries, washed
1/2 C Fresh Blueberries, washed
1/2 C Fresh Strawberries, washed and de-stemmed
1/3 C water
1/2 C unrefined sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two round 8-inch pans with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour blend, sugar, baking powder and salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, eggs and yolk, vanilla and yogurt. Blend a medium speed until combined about 1 minute.

4. Slowly add dry ingredients one cup at time, blending until combined after each addition. Repeat until all dry ingredients are added. Blend on medium-high speed for 1 minute.

5. Divide batter evenly into the two pans and place in oven to bake for about 25 minutes.

6. While cake bakes, prepare filling by combining all ingredients in a small sauce pan. 

7. Bring berry combination to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. 

8. Allow berry mixture to simmer until the liquid has reduced and the mixture resembles a compote, about 30 minutes

9. Remove filling from the pan and refrigerate until completely cooled.  When cake springs back to touch in the center, the cake is ready to come out. Cool on rack. 

10. When cake is cooled, level cake by cutting the dome off the top of each cake. With your choice of icing, make a barrier around the edge of the bottom cake. Place the filling in the center of the bottom of the cake filling until you get it level to the piped barrier. Place the top of the cake over the bottom and press down slightly to seal the barrier. Ice with your choice of icing like this dairy free vanilla

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summertime... vacation, no.

So I would like to say that yes it is summertime, the time to sip cocktails by the pool while the children splash around and I get to work on my tan. That sentence in itself is laughable.

No, my summertime is comprised of a shared custody schedule, car shopping, house hunting and home packing. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. I love having my children with me for the summer and the days that they are with me I try to fill with fun if at all possible in the midst of house hunting and packing. We manage to keep ridiculously busy between the library, nearby water park, neighborhood pool, friends, bbq's and so much more.

The most important thing for us to remember in the hustle and bustle of all the summertime changes going on in our home is to be very open and clear with the kids about what the schedule is going to look like and what we will be doing. Kiddo, like most Aspie's can be very rigid about trips out or movements in his schedule. Each and every time we go the grocery or any other store, kiddo asks me exactly how many things we need to buy. Throughout the trip he closely watches the number of items growing in the cart. Should I wonder a bit and remember those few things I didn't write down, once we reach the designated number of items, kiddo starts to get frigidity. So if I have a major change of schedule or plans, I sure surely expect what I have coming to me... a meltdown.

So, to try to alleviate some of the stresses that we face with schedule and changes, in our home we use a pretty comprehensive schedule which we place openly for the kids to be able to see and reference when they need to. Along with the monthly calendar is a weekly calendar of home tasks, chores and daily schedule. Next to the weekly schedule is the kids reward system. Each item on the reward sheet is redeemable to a number of plastic gold coins. The items change each month but are usually not toys or "things." The rewards range from a "Movie Night as A Family," which they can pool coins together for to "20 minutes Wii or Playstation Time." Lil sis always has "Sushi Date with Mom" on hers because she invites any chance to eat sushi. Kiddo's favorite chart item is "30 mins Computer Time" which he usually uses to look up animals that he is currently interested in.

It isn't a perfect system, but it seems to work really well for us when things can be challenging with constant change. Hopefully we can stick to our schedule and reward system through all our hectic moves this summer and manage to actually enjoy the hot and sticky days too.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Every family has their issues, there is no doubt about it, but when I was growing up I was pretty certain that my family was close to perfect. My mom and my dad loved each other dearly and I never saw them fight. I had two siblings and we lived in a beautiful suburban home with a wishing well and white picket fence. On nice days we would ride our bikes all over the neighborhood finding friends or going to the park. My mom worked on her garden and my father with his cars or on the house. In the hot summer afternoons, my siblings and I would run to my father and beg him for spare change for the ice cream man, something he could never resist.

 My father was always a strong man. In our home, there was no doubt that my mother was the boss, he even admits it, but my father was our example of what a man was supposed to be. Everyday he got up in the wee hours of the morning to hit the road to get to work near the city. Sometimes I would wake and watch him getting ready to go, doing his morning routine. I am not sure why I watched him, I guess my dad always fascinated me in some way. My siblings would tell you that I was his favorite with a snarky look on their faces and he was certainly one of my most favorite people.

He was a cobbler and work with his hands making things new that were once old and worn out. He used leather like it was butter, molding things into a beautiful fine shining finish. My friend's parents were laborers of some kind or worked in offices in stuffy suits, I was certain that my dad was so mush more skilled than anyone else's father could possibly be.

 Aside of his profession, my father could solve any problem. Whether it was a split hose or a sunken roof, my dad came up with an amazingly genius way to fix it. He didn't rely on anything other than a stack of Time Magazine's home repair books that he bought to reference in his home ownership shortly after my parents were married. I would watch my father with a pencil in his hand sketching out ideas to resolve some problem he was faced with. I loved watching my dad think.

When I grew up and had my first child, I knew what a father should be, I had watched mine my entire life. I knew what a family should be, my parents raised us in a loving and complete home. I knew what I wanted my children to have. I wasn't however prepared for what direction life would take me, undoubtedly for the poor decisions that I made.

 In 2009 my life changed completely and irreparably. My marriage was over and the dreams I had for giving my children the childhood I had had, was gone. Don't get me wrong, the decisions that were made within those few months of my life were the best decisions I had made (minus a few little scuffles) for myself and especially my children and I haven't regretted them since. But I felt for so long that I was failing my children because they would not have the father and mother, the family unit that I had had. I tried to think that everything was the best for my children and with our family supporting me and them, they would not miss what was now gone.

 I was now a single mother to two kids, one with high needs and Asperger's Syndrome. I had no delusions that I would be single and simply have to be the best that I could be for my kids. It was role I was not prepared for but with my mother and father standing beside me, I knew that my children would not suffer.

Life is funny though. I am absolutely positive that God is somewhere watching my life unfold with a glint in his eye and possibly a bucket of popcorn. Somehow I managed to run into MacLeod, someone who had been there for so long but I had never seen. He too had suffered a terrible divorce, but also had come from a wonderful and loving family. Before long my own children looked to him for support and love. I didn't think that I could possibly give my children what I had always dreamed for them, the life I had growing up in my family, but now they do. They have two parents in their home who they can see modeling a good and caring relationship and more than anything see what my dad taught me, what a father should be.

Happy Father's Day daddy, I love you so much. Thank you for looking past all my failings and my faults and loving me no matter what. ... and Happy Father's Day MacLeod, you are such a loving, wonderful father to your own kids, a love you have been selflessly sharing with my children. We love you and are happy to be able to call you ours.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gluten-Free Birthday Cake Challenge: Sculpted Vanilla Almond Cake

Once upon a time I was a pretty fabulous baker. I made beautiful cakes of fun and fanciful design that people,  for the most part loved. I thought I was pretty good at it, alas, after some outside forces made so irreversible damage, I had to hang up my apron. It wasn't something I really wanted to do, but I didn't have many options.

If anyone knows me though, they know that its just about impossible for me to stand still. Since I was not professionally baking anymore, I thought it was high time that I start to really work on my families diet and what we were consuming. With kiddo, I had wanted to try a gluten-free diet for a really long time but had never put the time into really figuring out how to do so.

So one day I walked into the pantry, grabbed my apron and wrapped that sucker around myself once again. This time I was going to bake differently, this time... it was gluten-free!

I was surfing the web on some of my favorite gluten-free blogs and came across The Daily Dietribe's Gluten-free Cake Contest to celebrate blogger Iris's 30th birthday! What better opportunity to post a new cake recipe and showcase a new favorite cake of mine?!

This year, MacLeod got to have his first ever gluten-free birthday cake. Per my old professional baking days, I had to follow a theme for the party down to the cake. The party was a Snatch theme, a movie we both love. The party was at a local bar and I went early to set up wall decor, a roulette wheel and table, a table with "Snatch wearables" that included some costume items for guests to look like Snatch characters, the cake table and a number of posters printed from the movie. It looked just FABULOUS and he was so surprised.

MacLeod loves my Bacon Cake, which I also make gluten-free now, but I wanted a cake with a little more crowd appeal, so I went with another one of my favorites, Vanilla Almond Cake with chocolate ganache filling. Making casein-free ganache was a new one for me, but I got no complaints from the cake eaters. 

Hopefully my cake is Iris-worthy! Happy Birthday lady, love your blog!

Vanilla Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache Filling

2 ½ C GF flour blend (see recipe for flour blend)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ C Earth Balance spread
1 C unrefined sugar

1/4 C agave syrup or honey
2 eggs, or egg replacement
¾ C Rice milk
1 tsp GF Vanilla

1 tsp GF Almond Extract

Ganache Filling

2 C Ghirardelli 60% Dark Chocolate Morsels (or other Gluten-free chocolate chips)
1 C Rice Milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2- 9” cake pans with shortening and dust with flour blend. 

In a bowl, whisk together flour blend, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine margarine and sugar and mix on medium speed until grainy. Add eggs, one at a time while blade is still running. Stop machine and scrape the sides of the bowl to thoroughly combine the sugar mixture and eggs. 
Combine rice milk and vanilla in a measuring cup. On low speed, add ¼ C of flour mixture to egg/sugar mixture. Allow the flour mixture to combine and then add ¼ C of rice milk to the bowl, while still running. Alternate wet and dry until all ingredients have been added. Scrape sides of the bowl and mix for 30 seconds to completely combine. 

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans and bake approximately 30 minutes or until golden around the edges and the cake springs back when you touch the center. 

Rest 10 minutes in the pan and then remove and cook on a wire rack and decorate. 


Place chocolate chips in a heat resistant bowl with enough room to add milk. 
In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the rice milk until it is hot but not boiling. Pour milk over chocolate chips and allow to set for about 5 minutes to melt the chips. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted. Allow it to cool to a spreadable consistency.