Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stage Fright and Asperger Syndrome

It was about 5:30 and time to get on the road back to the school for the kiddo's third grade class performance. I had been counting kiddo down for the last 10 minutes to let him know that the time was coming. At the 10 minute mark the problems began. He did NOT want to go to this performance, he hates being in front of people and moving around and absolutely does not sing.

I walked into his room dodging the array of beanie babies flying through the air. With a little bobbing and weaving I managed to be able to get over to his bed. "Eight minutes buddy..."

"I will NOT go to the play, I don't want to go, I hate today!"

"You have eight more minutes to calm down and then we have to hit the road..."

I walked out of the room as he hollered "I won't get on the road!" I just walked out and went to pick up a few things and make sure sis was getting herself together to get going. She sat calmly on the sofa, shoes on and book in hand. Well at least they are not in melodramatic sync.

"Five minutes!"

"NO, I will not go!"

I put on a few cups of coffee to energize myself for this fight, by the time it was done brewing I was at the two minute mark. "Ok kiddo, it is time to get your shoes on. I need you to pick up the toys or they go away- you know that. Then go and get your shoes on and no talking back please."

He grumbles and far less than gently piles his toys into a bin and shoves it against the wall. He goes into the living room and gets his shoes... of course he hates his sock. "Just get them on kiddo, we need to be out the door in less than a minute." The socks fly across the room and I glare at him. He puts them on and sticks his feet in his shoes grumbling the whole time.

We get out the door, two minutes past the time I intended to, but still plenty of time to make it to the school in time. He runs down to the car and screams "OPEN THE DOOR ALREADY!!!" Without unlocking the car I come down and ask him if he has lost his ever loving mind. "You WILL NOT talk to me that way, I don't care how upset you are."

Into the car we all get and start the angry drive to the school. We get there and there is a huge line waiting to get into the school for the performance. As we wait the kiddos run around a little with classmates, much needed exertion before the show. The line starts to move and we make it in the school where principal lets us know that the kids need to go to the classrooms while we head to the auditorium. Kiddo looks at me and grumbles again and heads to his classroom.

I nervously make my way to a seat and wait for things to get going. After a few important announcements from the teachers and Parent Teacher Organization, the kids file through the door to their respective places on the stage. My anxiety starts to rise, kiddo has never ever actually participated in a performance. The most we ever got from him was actually trying to sabotage it by messing with people or things during the show. He is standing on the risers right in the middle. Oh crap, right in the middle, no escape route! Usually the music teacher keeps him close by to keep an eye on him! will be just fine, I try to convince myself. Sis walks to her spot and smiles a huge smile at me which is startlingly contrasting to her brother's grimace.

The show begins, kiddo did the motions- clapping and bobbing up and down when called for and... he sang!!! He was visibly nervous, swaying from side to side the entire time, but he did it.  My heart swelled with such pride. There were a few moments when he had trouble; when he had to play a chime he did start to take it apart dropping the pieces on the floor and then at the end a kid in front of him sat down and he kicked her because they were supposed to remain standing. Those moments I bit my lip, but the disruption was very mild. Little sis did her thing, she loves performing. She was a little upset she didn't have a speaking part, but was also very proud of what she did get to do.

I am not sure if other parents sitting there were tearing up to see their own kids performing that night, but I was barely holding myself together. I knew that the fit that he threw earlier was because he was afraid of being in front of people and performing. I was certain that it would result in a terrible act during the show, but he was fine and he did well. He was proud of his performance too and that was the very best part of it all.

As I tucked kiddo in that night he leaned over to me and asked very quietly "mom... did you like the show?" I stepped back and looked at him and said "are you kidding me? You guys were amazing." A small smile crept across his face and he laid down and closed his eyes to sleep.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Waffles

So a few weeks ago I bought a waffle iron and was simply overjoyed with my purchase, maybe a little more than any sane person would be with the addition of a waffle iron to the family. See, normally I am very anti-unitasker appliances... we live in little more than a shoe box with the smallest kitchen I have ever had the disdain to cook and bake in. So aside of my rice cooker and coffee maker, I don't usually use unitaskers except that I found various recipes suggesting the use of the amazing waffle maker for many things. Of course they are all waffle shaped, but OMG, the amazingness of the things I can make! Here I thought that waffles were just for breakfast or that odd mix of Chicken and Waffles.

So with my new insight into waffledom, I decided to purchase a inexpensive and small maker to work with. I decided that I was going to embark on my first adventure and purchased all the ingredients needed to make potato waffles for a breakfast thingy with sausage and eggs. I saw the image next to Silvana Nardone's recipe and HAD to have it. So in the wee early hours of St. Patty's day, MacLeod and I decided it was potato waffle time.. potatoes are irish, right? Either way, we would dine. So we set off making our meal, slightly varied from Ms. Nardone's, but AMAZING. This success fueled my desire to do more with my waffle iron.

The following Monday I had Coconut Curry Chicken on the menu and decided to do it with the waffle iron! Yes, I made chicken stuffed waffles and they were amazing. Interestingly, even kiddo liked them with all their textures and all!

This morning however, it occurred to me that I had not actually made breakfast waffles, hmm. So I decided to try something rather normal and actually make breakfast with the waffle maker. I pulled my GF/CF ingredients out and went to work on some amazing Chocolate Chip Waffles. Kiddo was pleasantly surprised to see waffles that were simply waffles.

GF/CF Chocolate Chip Waffles

1 1/2 C gluten-free flour mix
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 C almond milk (or rice or soy)
2 eggs
1/2 C margarine or casein-free butter, melted
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C Casein-free mini chocolate chips

Makes about 8 waffles

Pre-heat waffle iron.

Mix together flour blend and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine milk, eggs, margarine, sugar and vanilla and whisk to combine. While mixing, slowly add the milk mixture into the dry mixture and stir until well blended.

With the using a scoop or measuring cup, pour 1/2 C of batter onto each waffle spot on the iron and spread it slightly to the edges. Close iron and allow it to cook until done. Try not to lift the top open before it lets you know its complete or you may separate the top of the waffle from the bottom.

You can enjoy your waffle with syrup or just some powdered sugar. Yum!

Friday, March 23, 2012

My kiddo has Asperger's Syndrome

After school, like any day, we followed our routine. Off the bus, walk the dogs, 10-15 minute break and then time to get to home work. After about 30-45 minutes on homework its time for another 15 minute break. Kiddo asked, begged, if it was OK to play on the Wii for this break. I don't usually let the kiddos play video games during the week because it gets adversarial and usually results in problems. It had been a long time since I let him play, so I said fine so long as you play with your sister. Great, fine, perfect. I started dinner and Grandma came by for a visit and we talked while the kids had their homework break. The minutes passed and it was time for spelling pre-testing. "Oh no mom please!!! Only 5 more minutes, we almost beat the level!" "Ok, ok, five minutes and that is IT." The level was not beat and it was time to get back to work. 

Kiddo started in with the tantrum and I immediately regretted allowing them to play the video game. He threw his spelling notebook towards the table, grabbed the baggy that his spelling words were in with his teeth ripping a hole into the bag. Grandma said she would do his pre-test, an effort to try to distract his attention and change his mood, unsuccessfully. He saw his sister had a mechanical pencil that he had been using and went over and tried to lurch it from her hand, pulling apart the pencil and stabbing her in the arm at the same time. Little Sis started crying in agonizing pain (seriously she was fine... she had a scratch, but drama is her middle name) and Kiddo had arrived at atomic meltdown stage. I told him to go to his room and he ran into it in a flurry of tears and rage. Grandma said she would go and do his test with him in his room, but I knew he needed time. I walked in and he was thrashing in his bed throwing everything from beenie babies to bed sheets across the room. 

My kiddo has Asperger's. He has a very hard time with change in routine and transitions to new activities. He can not stand when rules are not followed (especially when they address the touching or use of HIS property) He doesn't like to be touched or hugged too much and avoids eye contact. Socks drive him mad and clothing with seams set him off. Alternately, kiddo is wickedly smart. He can pull apart a mechanical pencil to its very core parts and put them back together and have it work better than it did off the assembly line. He can build unimaginable things out of Legos and blocks, even if he needs them to be organized by color before he begins. He can absorb information hearing it or seeing it only once and shock your pants off with details about a strange species of bug located in Egpyt or some other far off land. He is extremely detail oriented making the most amazing and tiny sculptures out of paper, clay or even pasta. My Kiddo is amazing. 

I walked into his bedroom, took a deep sigh and told him that he had five minutes to take a break to calm down. If he wanted to watch his T.V. program tonight, we still had to get through his spelling work. He could rage all he wanted, not breaking anything, during that five minutes, but when he was done the room needed to be back together again. 

I walked out and my mom was sitting doing Little Sis's spelling with her. Through the door that he angrily closed, I counted him down after each minute passed. At about 3 minutes he poked his head out, throwing pencils that his sister had allegedly stolen from him. He went back in and continued his tirade. I gave him his four minute count and a few moments later he walked out of his room, which was put back together again. He grabbed his notebook again and muttering to himself about how he didn't want to be around and that today was just horrible but sat at the table with a pencil to hear his spelling words for his pre-test. 

Grandma and I just kept things light, poking a little fun at him to lighten his spirit. Though he was a little irritated by it, he wrote his spelling words as they were called, not misspelling one of them. I told him he had done a great job and that we should go ahead and make dessert because they had definitely earned it.
Kiddo worked on mixing together the ingredients for the dessert and Little Sis helped get the table set and dinner finished. By the time MacLeod walked in the door and dinner was on the table, kiddo was happy, smiling and joking again. It took over an hour, but he was back to his normal again. 

Each day comes with its challenges, but it also comes with its rewards. I wouldn't change Kiddo for anything in the world because even though we have our difficulties, there is so much about him that is special and I love each and every bit of it. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

MacLeod does it badass

Remember that scene from Pirates of the Caribbean where Captain Jack tips his hat to the obvious dangers that he faced ahead of him? Did he turn his leaky little sail boat back? Did he have a nervous quiver? Nope. He just kept on going because, well Jack Sparrow is badass and so is MacLeod.

After a rather rough marriage (understatement of the year), I had no delusions that my life would probably be spent alone with my kiddos. I dated here and there but when it really came down to it, the guys made it abundantly clear that I was not a long term option because of my “baggage” as one “gentleman” called it. But if a guy (not man) was not big enough or grown up enough to be able to love me AND my baggage, then he certainly was not the person for us.
Interestingly enough, a co-worker also told me that I was trying entirely too hard to find a man and that I had probably already met the person I was supposed to spend my life with. How true he was! I met MacLeod when I was in middle school and we lived nearly parallel lives two blocks away from each other through middle school and high school. We both became unhappily married with two kids, the exact same ages. Then we both divorced and, (haha!) joined Facebook.

When we started going out (after reconnecting on Facebook), I was unsure that I could date a guy who was as nice and kind as MacLeod was. I felt that I had figured out that there was no man on this earth who would want to take on a single mom of two kids, one with Asperger’s Syndrome and a feeding tube. So I was totally and completely honest with him… on our first date. And folks, that crazy pirate came back for more.

Since that first date we never looked back, even though I showed him the door over and over thinking that he would definitely take the easy way out. He never even considered it, I thank God for that. It took time, but I realized that there are real men still out there to be had. Of course though, the most important thing is that my kiddo fell in love with him too.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pirates ye be warned!

Remember that scene from "Pirates of the Caribbean"? The one where Witty Captain Jack sail's past those pirate corpses left as a sign? Yeah, that was almost what kiddo's mom did to make sure it was abundantly clear what I was getting myself into.
On our first few dates, she told me all about what to expect, and gave me my chance to run off. Instead, since I am kinda hard headed, I studied up on what Aspergers was. I had not heard of it before and I only knew about low functioning autism. So needless to say, I found that this child that had this thing called Aspergers was an incredibly bright and inquisitive fellow but at times doubted his own abilities. I initially observed him and how he reacted to people and situations, I got to see screaming,door slamming,toy throwing aspie-meltdowns and how wearing certain clothes and eating certain foods affected his sensory issues (He asked if my car was really old because it was loud, ha!) . Several more times I was given the open door to run away...but still I stayed!
A few months later I got to introduce my kids into the equation, now my son can be loud and touchy, things that don't go well with kiddo, but we got through and they all seemed to enjoy themselves, especially since they are all so close in age.
Now here we are a little over a year later, and loving every minute of it! Still I keep an open mind and am quite surprised about how the GFCF diet is helping. I have seen him progressively gain weight and his demeanor improve. I have also been surprised about how GFCF can actually be good tasting, nothing like those bricks of bread in the stores...

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Gluten-Free Flours

One day I was walking aimlessly in my local grocery store, which has a pretty big natural foods section, just looking at all the “healthy” options for food. I approached a section that was a little intimidating, a wall of flours, starches and binders. I had no idea that people used garbanzo beans for flour and guar gum and xanthum gum were things I had only ever seen on the bottom of long ingredient lists on items I had purchased. 

Today, my trips to the healthy foods section are much more purposeful and direct. I walk into my grocery store and head straight to that once daunting wall of flours, starches and binders. I take 30 seconds or so to grab a few bags and squeal in delight when I find the tapioca flour still marked down to half its original cost.
I am now much more comfortable with the options that we have now for gluten-free flours and am slowly, but surely learning what results I yield from various combinations of items. The biggest thing I have learned however, is what textures will ultimately be acceptable to picky kiddo and how to get there with bread, pasta and treats. It’s taken me a few months but I feel pretty confident in myself when I start pulling together my flour blend for baking and cooking that I can actually replicated most of things that I used to make for my kids in our pre-gluten days.

Of course in my journey baking and cooking gluten-free, much like any journey I take, I have done lots and lots of research. I have scoured the mighty internet for suggestions, tips and recipes galore. I have checked out a congressional library’s worth of gluten and casein-free cook books to learn how best to use gluten-free flours in baking and cooking. So to say that I have arrived where I am so far is a result of my genius would be a blatant lie.

So I first came across the flour blend that I like most when I was blog surfing. Someone in the comments section had posted a combination of rice flour, tapioca flour and potato starch and I was intrigued. So I tried to use that combination when I set off baking breads and ultimately stuck to that combination. Then I came across Cooking with Isaiah and author Silvana Nardone also uses this particular combination, which kept my nose stuck deep in her cookbook. So the combination that has come to be my “go to” flour blend is one that was modified from my original bread baking efforts  and Nardone’s recipe.

The one thing that I have realized is that while you can use an all-purpose flour blend for many things, sometimes you really need a more specialized blend or just to use the ingredients separately all together. I find that I use a separate flour blend for quick breads (pancakes, waffles, drop biscuits etc.) and another for yeast breads like our White Sandwich Bread. Then sometimes I just use ingredients separately if I am making something a little different like corn dogs.

So with that said, if I refer to “GF Flour Blend” this recipe is what I am going by:

All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend

3 C Tapioca Flour
3 C Brown Rice Flour
1 C Potato Starch
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs xanthum gum

Blend all ingredients in a large bowl and mix very well. Transfer to an airtight container to be used within a month. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I had been in the cake making business for about 6 years making the most delicious gluten-full cakes, breads, pastries and other yummy treats. While occasionally I would have the odd order here or there requesting an eggless cake or something dairy-free, I never thought for the life of me that I would EVER decide to really make dairy and wheat free cakes. I couldn’t imagine a wonderful cake lacking two of the most pinnacle parts- milk and butter! And let me tell you folks, I was a butter devotee when it came to cake. I had moist and airy cakes and luscious creamy butters that were comprised of the fattiest of fat creams and high quality butters. I even made an amazing bacon cake that little sis calls “breakfast in a cupcake.” Yes, Bacon, Cream and BUTTER! I digress….

So with kiddo’s birthday around the bend I HAD to make a GFCF cake, so I started hunting online for recipes that might look ok. After hours of looking and not really turning up anything that appealed to me I decided to reference the stack of GF cookbooks I had borrowed from the library (those are those buildings which they store books in and allow you to borrow them..). I had gone through most of them and was losing hope. Then I realized I hadn’t even opened one, Silvana Nardone’s Cooking with Isaiah. I opened it to find a beautiful layout and story about her journey with her son and his allergies to dairy and wheat. Much like her I wanted my kiddo to have all the things he ever wanted in a gluteny diet without tasting like it was gluten free. I wanted my kiddo to not know he was eating gluten-free. Reading through Nardone’s book, I finally realized that it was completely possible. The first recipe I tried was for chocolate donuts, something kiddo had been wanting for weeks. It was a total and complete success, they were amazing. After realizing that the GF flour blend she used was much like the one I was using, I thought that maybe I could actually make a cake that was GFCF AND tasty.

I was still pretty nervous, but I embarked on my cake making, starting off small by making cake balls to be used for cake pops if they came out well. So I mixed things together, using an equation I used for my conventional cakes but with the GFCF ingredients. I did a half batch to test it out. Then, as always, the test came- does kiddo like it? YES! He loved them and said that he wanted half his cake to be my new vanilla flavor and the other half “chocolate monkey cake” (a recipe combo from my cupcaking days). So then I was tasked with making a GFCF chocolate too. Geez, I love these kiddos, but they don’t take it easy on me!

By the morning of the party, I had both cakes (vanilla and chocolate) AND a GFCF banana custard filling ready to go. I stacked, decorated according to the predetermined design that kiddo approved and viola’!

It wasn’t easy and I may experiment more with the recipe and combinations, but the kids and adults at the party loved the cake and the cake pops. I promise once I get myself all together I will post the chocolate and custard filling as well.

Vanilla Cake
Makes 2-9” round cakes

2 ½ C GF flour blend (see recipe for flour blend)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ C margarine, room temperature
1 ½ C sugar
2 eggs, or egg replacement
¾ C Rice milk
1 tsp GF Vanilla

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.

CF Vanilla Icing
½ C shortening
½ C CF butter
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/8 C rice milk
1 tsp GF Vanilla

Combine rice milk and vanilla together in a measuring cup.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat together shortening and butter until creamy. With the mixer on low, gradually add powdered sugar, 1 C at a time. When it starts to get thick, with the mixer on, gradually drizzle the rice milk/vanilla mixture into the bowl. When it is completely combined, it should be a little wet, turn mixer on medium high and whip until the icing is a light consistency that holds a peak when you pull the whisk attachment up.  If the mixture is too wet to hold a peak, continue to add powdered sugar ½ C at a time until you reach the right consistency. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy 10th Birthday Kiddo!

Ten years ago at 5:59am, my amazing kiddo was born at 25 weeks (15 weeks premature) weighing 1lb. 15oz. While in labor (a total of 96 hours!) I was scared to death. I asked each and every nurse or doctor who came into my room if my baby would be able to breath once he was born. Each time I heard the same thing "you are in the right place..." At the time it didn't make me feel any better, but when he was born he cried the tiniest little cry before they rushed him off to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to care for him.

From the beginning, my little man was a fighter. He never needed to be intubated, something not common at all with a baby so small and young. After 76 rocky days in the NICU, he came home on monitors and medications galore. We had appointments with every pediatric specialist known to man and 3 types of therapists. As he grew things started to get a little more complicated for him medically. He had RSV  (Respiratory syncytial virus)  three times, requiring hospitalization and before he was 4 years old he had been admitted a total of 12 times. After his second birthday he had a feeding tube placed because he was unable to eat by mouth because of severe GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) and reactive airway disease. That began a huge struggle with feeding for us that I think is just now coming to a close. 

When he was 7, he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a true answer to many of the concerns that I had for years. From there he started getting more directed therapy to help him cope with sensory and eating issues that had been related to his Asperger's the entire time. 
Then , 3/11/02, 1lb.15oz. and now 3/11/12, 60lbs and happy!

Today, Alex is 10 years old and is so amazing and happy. We still have our struggles which we work hard to help him overcome, but he is wonderful. My kiddo is one of the most amazing kids I have ever known. The first time I saw him in the incubator, I could not even come close to imagining 10 years. It hasn't been easy for him or us, but he has shown everyone that the little man is sometimes the biggest one after all. 

I love you so much kiddo! Happy 10th Birthday. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What a week!

So it's been a pretty full week so far and we still have kiddo's birthday weekend ahead of us! On Monday we had kiddo's 10 year annual appointment with his pediatrician. It would be our first check in since going completely gluten-free about 5 weeks ago. I was nervous to see his doctor who said to kiddo's other parent that doing gluten for 4 weeks was fine but no more, but told me that a gluten-free diet was perfectly healthy. Needless to say, I was concerned about what his actually opinion was on the subject.

When we arrived the nurse was pretty quick to get his back and we sat and waited and kiddo's doc finally showed up and looked over his weight and height and asked about how his eating was going. I had seen that by their scales, he had lost a pound of weight. But his doctor wasn't concerned, he knew we were also working on weaning him off his feeding tube and said that there was some leeway on his weight while we weaned. I told him I had talked to his former dietitian at UVA where he went for a feeding clinic a few years ago as well as his current nutritionist locally. Both seemed to think that doing gluten-free was fine and if he didn't lose more than 10% of his total body weight weaning from the feeding tube we were in a good place. I showed the doc our GF Food Journal where I track every morsel of food that passes kiddo's lips. He seemed pretty impressed with his oral intake.

After the doc did the rest of his physical on kiddo, he said that he was doing very well and that if the gluten-free diet was working well for him then we should just stick to it. Because of problems with communicating this before among the involved parties I asked him again, "so you're saying that the gluten-free diet is good and healthy and we can continue it?" He said "yes, absolutely. We will run a panel on his blood and see if there is a gluten intolerance, but as far as I am concerned he is doing well on it." Yes! I got the medical affirmation I was looking for and we were off.

I know that the gluten-free/ casein-free diet is controversial and no one will say that it could have a real and definite impact on a child with Autism. I know well that making a diet change on a kid who is already very picky and rather low on weight and getting supplemental tube feedings can be challenging. But I also know that I do want to try everything that I can to try to help my son without the help of more medication. After his first full week gluten-free, he stopped gagging and retching over night, a common if not daily occurrence and sign that he was having trouble emptying. Since that week he came off the anti-reflux medication and medication to assist in his emptying. That change alone is enough to make me believe this change in his diet is helping him.

Today kiddo and I headed north to visit his nutritionist. Before we left I wanted to check his weight, which he track about once a week at home. He stepped on the scale and the number appeared, 60lbs.! I could not believe it, he has never been 60lbs.! I was concerned at the pediatrician with what appeared to be weight loss, but also knew that they use one of those really archaic scales. I was hoping that the number was not accurate on Monday and today it seemed that I was right. That meant that within the last 5 weeks of gluten-free he had gained 2 lbs.! I was ecstatic, but I thought maybe I should wait to see what the nutritionist had to say and what his weight was there.

We arrived and checked in. The nurse called his name and we were headed back. First things first, weight and height. It displayed metric so I asked what it was, my confirmation- 60lbs.! I was so incredibly happy, I nearly skipped to the exam room and kiddo thought I was insane. To him, obviously it means nothing, but to me it means everything! A few people had scrutinized me for trying gluten-free for him because he would most certainly lose weight, but he was gaining and eating and doing so well! When his nutritionist arrived I handed her the food journal and she read through and was smiling and shaking her head. She couldn't believe how well he was eating and showed me his dotted plots on the growth chart and its upward curve. She said that she thinks that we should go ahead and remove the second can of Pediasure from his diet and help him get more of those calories by real foods. With the addition of a vitamin for some balance, she said to just keep on doing what we are doing because it is going well.

So here I am now, working on some things for kiddo's birthday party this weekend, a Mario Kart affair, and I can't keep the smile off my face. I can't believe that I am actually doing this and making it work and I am so proud of my little man. He doesn't know it, but its been hard work for him too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Breakfast is served man....

Breakfast is challenging for us on weekdays. Things are usually pretty fast and hectic especially when sis won’t wake up. Like me, she is not a morning person. Kiddo on the other hand usually shoots out of bed at breakneck speeds. So when it’s time to sit down and have a healthy breakfast, I have to get my brain going (with the assistance of my coffee) and get these kiddos on the right track.
One day while grocery shopping, kiddo and sis saw these breakfast scramblers; biscuits that were filled with scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon. Sis brought a pack to me (our pre-gluten-free days) and asked if we could get them. I looked at the nutrition label and the sodium and fat content were ridiculous high.  I told the kiddos that maybe we could try making them at home instead.
So we went to the refrigerated section and got some of the biscuits in those pop roll containers. That weekend we made our first biscuit scramblers and they were amazing! Of course then we decided to go gluten-free and the biscuits were once again out of our reach. In an effort to work towards our biscuit scramblers I looked up a few gluten-free biscuit recipes online and started to try them out. I made one recipe to go with dinner one night and the flavor was good (it was a tapioca, rice and corn starch flour blend). While the flavor was good, nice and buttery, they were dry and crumbly. Kiddo wouldn’t even touch the thing, so MacLeod choked them down with a large glass of water.  
I kept on going and found a great recipe by Kristen at Domestifluff that was based on an Alton Brown recipe, I love Alton Brown so I immediately wanted to try it. I made the recipe as it is written by Kristen here. They were moist and wonderful and ever so tasty. So of course I wanted to take it a step further because we are eventually going to go casein-free as well. So I made a few adjustments to the recipe so that it is a completely gluten-free and casein-free biscuit. Kiddo can’t tell the difference between the two, win!
So then after successful biscuits, I wanted to actually make the scramblers that kiddo so much wanted again. In addition to changing the original recipe to be gluten-free and casein-free for the biscuits, I also used rice cheese to remove the dairy from the filling. I was nervous as to what kiddo’s reaction would be to me removing the loved cheese, but he didn’t even know it wasn’t the same dairy cheese.

So here is our recipe for delicious GFCF Breakfast Scramblers. I make a double batch of these babies and pop half in the freezer for super fast breakfasts during the busy weekdays.

GFCF Biscuits
1 cup potato starch
1 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. margarine, unsalted, chilled, cut into small cubes
½ Soymilk
½ C Rice Milk
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a 2 cup measuring cup or small bowl combine the milks and the lemon juice and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes to allow the milks to curdle and set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together potato starch, rice flour, xanthum gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut margarine into cubes and add to dry mixture. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut in butter until the dry mix looks grainy or crumbly.
In the cup or bowl with the milk mixture, add the egg and mix until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to dry mixture and stir only until everything is combined. The dough should be sticky when it is combined. The dough can be used at this point for drop biscuits or with hand slightly wet, can be handled for biscuit scramblers.
To make cut biscuits, place dough on a very well floured (rice flour) surface and roll or press out to about 1 inch thickness, handling as little as possible. If the dough is too sticky to handle add more rice flour to the dough but only enough that you can handle it. Take your cutter and dip into water and cut dough rounds. With excess dough, if the dough is very soft, put it into the freezer for 1 minute before re-rolling it. Repeat until all dough is used.
Place dough, either rounds or drop biscuits on parchment lined pan and place in pre-heated over for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits are browned. Biscuits can be served warm or can be stored in the freezer in a freezer bag.

GFCF Biscuit Scramblers
1 Batch GFCF Biscuits
2 Large eggs
2 Tbs. water
4 slices cooked turkey bacon (or regular bacon)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, beat eggs and water together until well combined. Using a small frying pan on medium/high heat, scramble eggs until they are firm. Remove from heat and set aside. Minced sliced bacon and set aside. Place Rice Cheese in a small bowl and set aside.
Prepare biscuit dough according the recipe.

In a small bowl, place about 1 cup of water next to the bowl of biscuit dough. Dip hands into the bowl and then use a scooper to drop a scoopful of biscuit dough into one hand, with the other hand press dough out into a disk shape. Place about 1 Tbs. each, eggs, cheese and bacon. Push sides of the dough together, rewetting hands if needed to close the opening and place on lined baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough and filling until dough is used placing them about 2 inches apart.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the biscuit looks golden brown and is firm to the touch. Serve warm or cool and freeze in a freezer bag. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bread, glorious bread!

There are very few smells that I love in this world more than that of fresh baked bread. To me, bread is the baked personification of comfort and security. I remember when I was little, my mom would bake these amazing traditional Brazilian breads that were braided and sprinkled with course sugar. Coming out of the oven I would watch in adoration and amazement. Bread feels like home.

When I decided to switch us over to gluten-free, I was skeptical that I would ever be able to replicate the wonderful moistness and texture of traditional bread. I began a pretty intense journey in searching out loaves of gluten-free store bought breads that may fit the bill. Sadly, each loaf seemed to be dense and rather tough not to mention hideously expensive. I knew that there had to be a better way.

I knew that if I didn’t like the bread there was absolutely no way that kiddo would like it. So I started to work on my flour blends. I started to look at various recipes online but the results seemed so dense and short. I decided that based on texture I wanted to try to use rice, tapioca, corn and potato flours.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to make loaf after loaf of bread only to come up with an uninspiring loaf that could hold down newspapers on a windy day. I had now made 9 loaves of bread with several different recipes and 5 different flour blends. I was getting to my breaking point. The smell of the fresh baked bread no long made me feel warm and secure but filled me with dread as to what the resulting loaf would be.

One day scrolling through comments in a gluten-free blog I came across a recipe that a reader had posted and said she loved. The flours that she used seemed to be ones that resulted in a texture that I liked, so I thought I would give it a whirl. Additionally it didn’t really require a bread machine so that made it appealing as well. I pulled out my gluten-free baking arsenal and went to work.

Five hours later, I pulled out of my oven a slightly lumpy loaf that was nicely browned and smelled fantastic. I admit I was a little excited again and waited for it to cool. When I sliced the loaf, still warm because I just couldn’t wait any longer, I found that the bread had holes, holes by God! In saying holes, I mean that there was actually a great deal of airiness to this bread, it wasn’t dense like so many loaves I had tried. I tasted it, heaven! It was amazing and my heart sang a song of bread. But then there was still kiddo to try it on. It was late at night so the test would come in lunch the next day. I was eager to fix his sandwich and send him off with the fruits of my labor. Then I eagerly awaited his return home and when I jumped off the bus I said “how was the bread?!” He said “it was ok…” with this guilty look on his face. I asked “did you throw it away…” which was common place when he disliked the taste or texture of something new, “yes.” I was irate, it had been my 13 loaf of bread and one I finally thought was kiddo worthy and he just chucked it. After lots of tears, on both my part and kiddos regarding the discarding of perfectly good foods, I asked him if he wanted to try a loaf of store bought gluten-free bread. He said that he would. So I dutifully went to the local grocery store and picked up a loaf, one that seemed to be a little softer than the others. I took it home and made his sandwich for lunch. I knew damn well he wouldn’t eat it and he didn’t. But he did tell me finally that he thought that the last loaf I made was actually really good and he wanted to keep that one. Ah! Victory after all my exhausting bread making!

So we finally settled on a variation of the loaf that I originally tried out for our daily sandwich bread.  Everyone in the family happily eats this bread just as they would any good ole store bought loaf of white bread. I bake a loaf usually twice a week and that keeps us going. I store it in the fridge, usually unsliced until I am getting ready to use it and it seems to keep really well for several days, unlike a number of loaves of gluten-free that quickly become grainy. It also is a recipe for a loaf made without a bread maker, so I would happily take suggestions on a variation to use it with a bread maker… until I actually get mine.

White Sandwich Bread
3 C brown rice flour
1 C potato starch
3/4/3 C tapioca flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 pk active dry yeast
2 1/2 C warm water
6 tbsp melted butter
3 eggs

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the yeast, water and sugar and allow to sit for about 15 minutes until the yeast has puffed up quite well.

In another bowl mix rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, xanthum gum and salt. Once the yeast proofs add it to the bowl of a stand mixer with the melted butter and eggs. On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients until it is a sticky dough.

Lightly grease a bread pan and put the dough in the pan. Use a spatula to spread the dough evenly in a pan. If you would like a smooth crust on top you can wet your hands slightly and smooth out the dough. Place the pan of dough in a warm place free of drafts (I place it in my oven) for 3-4 hours. It should rise about ½ its original size once it is completely risen.

Pre-heat over to 400 degrees and place the bread pan on the oven for 20 minutes to finish its rising. Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes, the bread should sound hollow when tapped. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then place on a cooling rack to complete cooling. 


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Life, the universe and everything....

A few days ago, my son went out to check on the fort that he and some kids had been playing in that was made of a few evergreens and their branches. I told him that he and his sister could go out and take a look at the fort and come right back because I knew the other kids where there. When he didn't come back, I got nervous. 

I walked out and around the corner of our building to find my angry son holding a large tree branch swinging it at the other kids while screaming. Obviously I started to scream at him to try to hinder any physical harm he may inflict upon the other kids. He dropped the branch and ran over to me, his face bright red and tears welling in his eyes. I called for his sister and she climbed out of the tree and slowly made her way over to me. 

When we got inside my son started stomping, throwing himself on the floor and throwing pillows, papers, anything he could get his hands on. He was having a full on fit, what we can atomic tantrums. After knocking off the sign that I had carefully attached to his bedroom door in his rage, I called him over and said I needed to talk to him. 

He told me that the other boys would not listen to him that he was telling them what they needed to do with the fort but they just wouldn't do it. After they refused to listen to his careful instruction, they told him that they didn't want him to play in the fort because he was weird. So one boy stood sentinel keeping him out and that is when the tree branch swinging began. 

For years people looked at my kid having an atomic fit with such judgment, and honestly they still do. How could I allow such a grown up child to act in such a way when he needed to ....(fill in the blank; sit in church, eat in a restaurant, put his clothing on, etc.) I mean he still has issues eating, has next to no friends, has lived a life for the most part- developmentally delayed, but is smart as hell. He could tell you things about animals in the Rain Forest or waters of Antarctica that you would never have known otherwise and can build a shift or planet from Legos or Magnetics that leaves you wondering what goes on in that head of his. There is a simple, yet challenging explanation, my son has Asperger's Syndrome. 

He came to me, all the anger falling away and fell into me sobbing. "Mom, I have no friends, nobody likes and they never will." I wanted to reassure him and tell him that people do like him, in fact they love him, but he doesn't want to hear me and I know that the truth is that he does have few friends. I want to tell him that he is wonderful and amazing, but all I can do is cry right there with him. 

He pulls away from me; he doesn't like to be held or touched for very long, and is mumbling how he hates everyone and wants to move away. I tell him to follow me to my bedroom to talk. We lie on my bed and talk about how people are different, not just him, but everyone. I tell him that we can't push people to do what we think or know is the right thing to do, because no one likes to be bossed around. All we can do is make a suggestion and then let them do what they will do. We talk about how some times people break rules and he wants to tell them they need to do the right thing or what he says, but that is not always the best thing, unless there is something dangerous going on. I tell him that sometimes people are simply going think that he is different and will not want to be his friend and to that he just has to leave them alone. 

I want to shield him from all the pain and frustration and anger that he feels when he is trying to interact with other kids, but I know that this is who my son is, an amazing, talented, smart, analytical, funny and handsome Asperger's kid and he always will be. We work every day on interventions like diet and therapy to help him cope with daily situations like this, but he is who he is and I can’t change him (nor would I want to) and I can’t shield him from everything. I will continue to try to teach him more than anything, to accept himself. 

It's not the answer to the ultimate question; I think as a parent on a journey with two amazing kids, I have more questions than I do answers. Each day has its own challenges, but I take them as they come and try to be the best mother that I can be for my kids. This is our journey.