Monday, February 21, 2011

Lentil Cookies

I love Indian food. Recently I saw a show called The Spice Goddess on the Cooking Channel. Bal Arneson is the host and after seeing several episodes, I bought her book Everyday Indian: 100 Fast, Fresh and Healthy Recipes. The first recipe I tried was her lentil cookies. I've discovered E will eat almost anything that has the word "cookie" attached to it. I used all yellow lentils instead of mixed. The cookies are more on the crisp side and quite tasty. And thankfully, E likes them!

Bal's Lentil Cookies (makes 24 cookies)

Recipe courtesy Bal Arneson


  • 1 cup mixed lentils
  • 1/2 cup butter (I used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks instead)
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese (light)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup quick rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips


1. Cook the lentils in boiling water for 35 minutes. Strain the lentils and puree in blender or food processor. (This can be done ahead)
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
3. In a bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese and brown sugar. Add the egg and blend. Add the lentil puree and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, baking soda, and salt and mix. Fold in the oats, raisins, slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, and chocolate chips and mix well.
4. Drop the cookies by the spoonful (about 1 tablespoon) onto the prepared baking sheet and flatten. Bake the cookies for 13 to 18 minutes and allow to cool on a baking rack.

Nutrition per cookie: 133 cals, 6.5 g fat, 16 g carbs, 1.75 g fiber, 5.6 g sugar, 3.15 g protein
(2 cookies for breakfast has equivalent protein of an egg)

Simplicity bites the dust

Last I wrote, we were on a streak with the raw vegetable approach. Then I served some raw zucchini sticks. Maybe they were too thick or the skin not the right shade of green, but the poor sticks suffered outright rejection. So much for simplicity!

When serving outright doesn't work out, the "hide the veggies" approach occasionally works.  I should note that I am not a huge fan of the sneaking veggie puree approach. Many of the recipes in both of the cookbooks by Lapine and Seinfeld flopped with E. And being an engineer, I calculated how much vegetable was in each serving and found that the amount of effort was not worth the time just to maybe get a tablespoon of vegetable in. Then again, as long as the texture is not affected much, it can sometimes work for an initial introduction to the taste.

Turning to a book I have really liked so far for it success rate with E, No Whine with Dinner, I found a recipe for Banana-Zucchini Bread. It was a long shot since E has never been that crazy about banana bread. She once said to me that a banana and bread should not be together. Still, if she didn't have it, at least it was something the rest of us would.

The bread turned out amazing. It was moist, the zucchini blends well with the other flavors, and it has a rich taste to it. Hard to believe that there is no butter in there. I say all this in the past tense as the bread is gone. E tried a bite and that was it. She screwed up her face a little as she chewed and swallowed and left the rest on her plate. I wasn't disappointed though since I found a good recipe for a low fat healthy banana bread. So it was 50:50 in terms of success. I think that if she liked banana bread to begin with, she would have eaten it. Here is the recipe:

BANANA ZUCCHINI SQUIGGLE LOAF (from No Whine for Dinner, p. 169)
Makes 16 servings
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 c. wheat germ
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe large bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
  • 1 6-ounce zucchini (small), unpeeled & shredded (1 cup)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Lightly oil or coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
2. Whisk together the flours, walnuts, wheat germ, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
3. In separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until well blended. Stir in bananas and zucchini. Pour the liquid ingredients over dry, and stir until just combined. (Note: over-stirring will create a tough loaf)
4. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool about 15 minutes in the pan, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
(I tried a slice warm and the zucchini flavor stood out. It's best to let it cool as the banana then stands out)

Nutrition per serving: 170 cal, 8 g fat, 24g carb, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Leftover puree brownies

I admit right away the thought of brownies popped into my head as a selfish desire, not as what I can I hide in them and get away with. But in the interest of my new goal to improve E's foods, and the fact that she loves brownies as much as I do, I came up with this little beauty of a recipe. The brownies are on the fudgy side and taste decadently like strawberries dipped in chocolate.

Fudgy "leftovers puree" brownies

  • 2 cups combined cooked veggie/fruit puree (I used 1/4 c. spinach, 1/2 c. blueberries, 1 c. applesauce, 1/4 strawberries; basically pureed a bunch of leftovers getting close to their end date)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I used brown, not packed)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8x8 square baking pan with cooking spray or oil or butter. (I prefer butter)
2. Put all ingredients except flour in food processor and blend until smooth. Place in bowl and stir in flour. 
3 Pour into baking pan. Bake for 35 to 40  minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack. Cool to room temperature, then cut into 2 inch squares. 
4. Have one without guilt.  :) 

Embrace simplicity

Look at it. It is a simple raw broccoli floret. For almost her entire life, E has gagged or promptly removed any piece of broccoli on her plate. I have prepared it multiple ways - pureed as baby food, smothered with 'cheese', even puree hidden in ketchup, the favored dipping sauce. I am not sure why it never occurred to me to serve it raw, but like many things I had tried a number of times, I put it aside to try something else. Then she saw it raw on my plate one day and asked if it was broccoli. I told her it was raw, not cooked. "Why MOM have I not got raw broccoli?" Have to love those moments when the kids look at you as if you had a giant brain fart. Instead of answering, I placed a floret on her plate. She nibbled the bare top off and did not touch the stalk. She has since done very thin raw carrots and raw snow pea pods. And when I hear anyone say they are trying to embrace simplicity, I reply "Yes, simplest is often best."

Some fun for Valentine's Day

Both girls have been waiting for Valentine's Day for most of January. They like the appeal of hearts and friendship and expressing love. I have received the same present every day now for a week - an imaginary butterfly costume given to me by H, and a real hug from E. For them, I made chocolate beet cupcakes. They weren't red or even pink. They do taste moist and chocolaty and my Valentine's day gift to the girls is to not tell them they are eating a vegetable in their cake! And no there was no beet taste. 

The recipe is originally from Food Mayhem
CHOCOLATE BEET CUPCAKES (makes 24 regular cupcakes, or 48 mini cupcakes)
Cupcake ingredients

  • 3 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 (15 oz) can of beets, pureed in blender (or alternatively 2 cups puree from fresh cooked beets)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Frosting ingredients
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tablespoon beet powder (or your choice of food coloring)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Melt chocolate (65% cacao or higher) and 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter over a double boiler. Alternatively for us lazy people, place in microwave-safe bowl and zap in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until chocolate is all melted and blended in with butter. Set aside to cool.
3. Cream together 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) butter with brown sugar in a large bowl with wooden spoon or paddle attachment on a stand mixer. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Beat in chocolate/butter, beets, and vanilla. It’s ok if it looks clumpy.
4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir flour mixture into the batter and mix well.
5. Divide into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan, on the counter for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. If doing mini cupcakes, check doneness at about 10 minutes. 
6. To make frosting, sift together confectioner’s sugar and beet powder. Set aside. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract with a paddle attachment on a stand mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. Reduce to low speed and gradually mix in confectioner’s sugar with beet. When it is all incorporated, return to medium speed and beet for 5 more minutes.
7. Frost cupcakes once they are cool. ENJOY! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The GFCF and other "autism diets"

Put the word autism in a search engine and all variety of information results. The top hits are typically the pro or anti-vaccination sites and the sites dedicated to special diets. The most popular one of those is the gluten free casein free (shortened GFCF) diet. No wheat, dairy, or other foods with gluten or the protein casein in it.

All this information can be hard to evaluate to parents recently overwhelmed with the autism diagnosis and not knowing which way to follow to help their child. This was the situation I found myself in 4 years ago when we began to have E tested. Feeling a need to do something immediate, I settled on the GFCF diet. After reading several books and perusing various cookbooks, I found The Autism & ADHD Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide to Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) and Other Interventions to be the most helpful. It breaks down why children with autism may be more susceptible to gluten or casein sensitivity. It explained that there would likely be a withdrawal period as the gluten and casein create an opiate like reaction in the child, and removing the substance from the diet will cause intense withdrawal symptoms.

At the time I imagined it couldn't be worse than it already was. E was having intense tantrums, had difficulty transitioning, was not interacting with peers, and was trying to run away from her day care. It couldn't be any worse. I was wrong. We went through 6 weeks of hell as she rebelled against the idea that she would not be having goldfish crackers at every meal. She fixated on those. I was able to find acceptable replacements for what she already ate except for yogurt and goldfish. Then - the turnaround point. I can't explain it except it seemed like her mind was not as foggy.  She was still having the tantrums and the inflexibility but suddenly I could calm her down a lot easier, and negotiate a transition faster. We did that diet for just over 2 1/2 years.

Then one day at a birthday party someone served regular pizza and she had a slice and she was okay. At the next birthday party, she had regular ice cream and she was constipated for a week. After consulting with her pediatrician, we tried re-introducing wheat and dairy but one at a time and with enough time in between to be sure which affected her. It turns out she can handle gluten and one form of dairy - cheese. If she has cow's milk, or yogurt or ice cream made from cow's milk she has intestinal issues.  Oddly though if she eats the goldfish crackers or the knockoff version of it (even the Annie's natural version) she has intense behavioral issues the next day. And so that is why we stick to a mostly dairy free diet for her. And she is thankfully accepting that her body cannot handle certain foods.
And in her own words: "I don't like cow's milk anyway".

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eat Something Else! - Encouraging the Resistant Eater: Pancakes make good hiding places

Eat Something Else! - Encouraging the Resistant Eater: Pancakes make good hiding places

Pancakes make good hiding places

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I recently purchased the Meal Makeovers cookbook and this was the first recipe I tried. I made these for breakfast. They hide canned pumpkin. Talk about sneaking a vegetable in early in the day. The color was not any noticeably different since my kids are used to whole grain 'brown' pancakes. I did tell E what was in them after she ate two and proclaimed them "beautiful". She had requested no chocolate chips though as chocolate is apparently "not a breakfast food". She also said pancakes must be good hiding places as she didn't see any pumpkin in there.  Have to love that literal view of the world at times. The link for the recipe is above the photo.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Expect nothing

One of the toughest parenting skills is learning to control our frustration in the face of a child's ever changing mind. This is especially hard to do when your child shows the slightest interest in something YOU want them to show an interest in. If your picky or resistant eater says at the grocery store "Let's get this, mom" with enthusiasm and you say "Will you eat it if we get it?", to which the reply is emphatically "Oh Yes!" You find yourself secretly jumping for joy inside followed rather quickly by anxiety and possible dread that you just spent money on something that won't be eaten. This is largely why I shopped for groceries by myself for a long time. It became too much to go on that roller coaster ride every time E would see something and ask for it and say she would eat it, only to have the item rejected summarily with accompanying tantrum or gagging. When she was finally old enough to begin explaining why she wanted to buy the item, I began letting her come with me again.

Now when she says she wants something, I know better than to ask if she will eat it. I know to ask why she wants to get it. The reasons have varied from because I like the color to because it has (insert favorite Nick Jr character) on it. I also know that describing what it might taste like can result in her actually trying it without fanfare. Recently, E saw a picture of rack of lamb in a cookbook and announced she wanted it for dinner. Before I spent $$$ on lamb for her whim, I fell into the old habit of asking if she would eat it, and she responded enthusiastically that she would. Luckily, I caught myself and told her it was meat like pepperoni is meat (the only meat she eats at the moment) and it would even be a little spicy like pepperoni. Her enthusiasm tempered but she said she would still try it. And she did. She licked the small bone then tried the tiny sliver I gave her before politely asking if she could spit it out.

And instead of disappointment as in the past, my heart soared slightly that there was a small success. I've learned that if I expect nothing, the victory is that much sweeter.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Peer pressure can be a good thing

E is all about visual learning. If she can see it, she is more willing, more able to process it without anxiety. Today at a super bowl party she tried a piece of shrimp. And I know the only reason was because her friends tried it for the first time and she saw that nothing went awry. Will she eat it again at home? Possibly not, but I just might take shrimp cocktail anytime we're invited over to someone's house!

If it's white (or yellow or tan or beige) she will eat it....usually

PIZZA! The unequivocal response from E anytime I ask what she would like for dinner. It is food Numero uno for her, followed by a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, followed by crackers, waffles, bagels, tortilla chips. Notice the common element? All have a common color theme. This may be why the attempts by way of The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals and Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food have not worked out all that well. Many of the purees affect the color. Reaching rather high levels of frustration with the "hide it" approach, I nixed it until recently. The Canadian version of Parenting magazine suggested adding pureed white beans to pizza dough to add protein and fiber. It was a hit. Their was no impact to the taste or texture and E did not notice anything different, which she normally does. I have since made the recipe with half white beans and half lentils to the same effect. I still have to experiment with adding some whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, but one step at a time. Here is the recipe:

Pizza Dough with Pureed White Beans
* 1 cup canned or cooked white (navy or kidney) beans, rinsed and drained; OR
1/2 cup white beans, 1/2 cup lentils
* 1 cup warm water, divided
* 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
* 1 teaspoon sugar, honey or maple syrup
* 3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
* 2 Tbsp canola or olive oil
* 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (we go with less)

1. Put half the water into a large bowl and sprinkle with the yeast and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy.
2. Put beans and the other half cup of water into food processor; pulse until smooth. Stir into the yeast mixture and then add 2 cups flour, oil and salt. Add more flour until it is too stiff to stir, then turn onto floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, not sticky.  Takes about 5 minutes. Alternatively, if you are lazy like me, I add the yeast/water mix, all the flour, oil and salt into my (14 cup) food processor with the beans, and pulse until combined, then let the blade work the dough for about 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Return to (or place) in large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise about an hour. I have found a 2 to 3 hour rise is ideal for better taste.
4. Divide dough in half. There should be enough for 2 10-inch pizzas, or 2 thinner crust 12-inch pizzas.  Unused dough can be covered and refrigerated for a day, or wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen for up to 6 months. Thaw at room temperature before using.

There were no specific instructions for baking the crust. This is what I do for the best results:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Roll out crust either on floured surface, or oil your hands and use them to spread the crust out in a pizza pan. Prick with a fork all over (to avoid air bubbles)
3. Bake in oven about 10 minutes. Remove. At this point, you can refrigerate the parbaked crust for a day or two, or add sauce and other toppings. We typically go simple with a light sprinkle of mozzarella, a sprinkly of marjoram or oregano, and sometimes turkey pepperoni (the current protein of E's choice).
4. Put back in oven and bake another 10 minutes; more if you like cheese on the crisp, bubbly side.
5. Let cool a few minutes, then slice and serve.

My favorite resource on resistant eating

Experiment 1: homemade McDonald's style chicken nuggets

We eat at McDonald's about twice a year. The kids like the play structure more than the food so we don't venture there often. The usual fare is a Happy Meal for H, and a large french fries for E. One our last trip though, she tried the chicken Mcnuggets and asked me to buy her a box of her own, which she promptly gobbled up. Somewhat inspired that she was eating a new protein source, I made an  attempt to replicate them at home using this recipe.  Results - texture down pat, taste not. While the rest of the family heartily ate them, E haughtily claimed they were not from McDonald's. Although the nuggets were not eaten after the first bite, they weren't gagged on - which from my experiences thus far means a little tweaking on the recipe usually leads to an acceptable successful outcome.  I may have to actually visit the golden arches and buy some to test against for the right seasoning. Blech!

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