Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sisterly bossiness works better than maternal say-so

This will be a short entry but worthwhile. Tonight we tried a new whole grain spaghetti - Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Spaghetti - with meat sauce.

 It cooks in about half the time as regular pasta and has whole wheat, spelt, millet and some other whole grains blended in. E dissed it right away without even trying it. "I don't like spaghetti!"
I gave her some orange slices and she grabbed some crackers from the pantry. After those were done she said she was still hungry and asked if she could share her sister's oranges. H said "You can share my sketti." She was already on her 3rd helping. She scooped some on her fork and told E "Now EAT IT!" and she did. This happened about 5 times before E either realized she was having spaghetti or that she was being bossed around by someone shorter than her.

The spaghetti itself tasted nutty and good for a whole grain blend. It goes a little gummy when cold but this was how E and H ate it. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We don't ride the Kraft mac and cheese wagon

I recently went back to work full time. This of course came with a new set of challenges - getting dinner on the table quickly while the kids lay writhing on the floor exaggerating their hunger pangs and generally whining is by far the toughest. I confess to not serving the healthiest stuff these last 2 weeks. And I have a grand plan to do some better meal planning. But like my grand plan to get up and exercise at 5 am, it is not working out yet. So when the hubby had the day off and offered to make dinner, I had no objections. I came home to a nice steak dinner. Yum. For the kids, he made Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Unlike most kids, mine love going to the dentist and doctor, they love going to school, and - insert your shock here - have never liked macaroni and cheese. I thought that since it was a year since we last tried it that there was a fair chance they would taste it. No luck.
I am not disappointed since I don't think of Kraft as real mac and cheese. I grew up eating the traditional baked style. It was more of a macaroni pie. And I still love that today. Sorry Kraft, but you just don't cut it in our household. (Except for my husband who loves it).

For those who enjoy macaroni and cheese and might be open to trying something "out of the box", this is my favorite recipe. It is called Trinidad Macaroni Pie because it hails from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. I spent an incredible 10+ years of my life there and I miss it the most out of all the islands I have lived on. (Yes, for those who want that history, I suppose I will blog it one day.) Anyway, this is what I think of longingly when I hear the words 'macaroni and cheese':
Trinidad Macaroni Pie (from caribbeanpot.com)

INGREDIENTS

  • 14 oz macaroni (for authentic macaroni pie, use long macaroni not elbows - if you can find it)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 can evaporated milk (12.5 oz)
  • 1/4 habanero, dice fine (or leave it out if you're wimpy)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I added this b/c I like garlic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • paprika for dusting on top of pie
  • 1/3 teaspoon dry mustard

DIRECTIONS
  1. In a large pan put enough water to cover the macaroni, to boil. When the water starts boiling, salt and add the macaroni. Try not to overcook the macaroni, so we’ll only boil it for about 5-8 minutes or so. While this boils, we’ll prepare the other ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl, add the diced pepper and onion, dry mustard, dash of black pepper, salt, eggs, butter and evaporated milk. Whisk together so everything is mixed thoroughly. Add grated cheese to the mixture, but keep back about 1/2 a cup to spread on top of the pie before baking.
  3. The macaroni should be cooked by now, so drain and allow to cool a bit, then add to the mixture we just made. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  4. Grease an 8x8 baking dish well so the pie does not stick to the sides. Then add the macaroni mixture. Using a spoon push down and level off. 
  5. Sprinkle with the 1/2 cup cheese saved earlier and dust with the paprika. When the oven comes to temperature place on the middle rack and allow to cook for about 30-40 minutes. You’re looking for a firm pie with a golden top. Allow to cool a bit before slicing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The magic smoothie has arrived!

Smoothies. This food is THE SINGLE most offered piece of food advice I get from other parents as a way to incorporate protein, vegetables, whatever and that kids will drink, no questions asked. "Tell them it's a milkshake", one mom added. And so smoothies have been the bane of my existence for a while. I have tried so many different recipes, and so many times to give them to E that I shelved the smoothie idea after multiple rejections. It wasn't just her either. It was me and H too. We would sip but never went "Yeah BABY! Smoothies rock!"
Then I stumbled on a recipe in Cooking for Two: 2010 for Very Berry Smoothie that uses buttermilk. I love buttermilk. I drink the stuff straight so having it for a smoothie base (and the fact that it was an America's Test Kitchen recipe) had an off the charts yum factor for me. I tried it. I liked it. Now to get the kids to drink it took a little bit of marketing. I put it in special glasses and gave them straws and extolled the joys of this magical elixir. "What's ahluxur mean?" I was asked. "It means it's magic", I replied. Who knew the word magic was all it took?
Here is our magical very berry smoothie recipe:
(This amount made enough to serve the 2 kids and myself a 1-cup serving)
VERY BERRY Smoothie
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
(for a non-dairy substitute we liked So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk - original, a kefir style beverage)
1 1/2 cups frozen berries, or 1 1/2 cups fresh berries and 1/2 cup ice cubes
1 banana, broken into chunks
1 tablespoon sugar (I used honey)
Water, if needed

1. Pour buttermilk into blender, then add the berries (and ice cubes), banana, and sugar. Process on low until mixture is combined but still coarse in texture, about 10 seconds.
2. Increase blender speed to high, and process 20 to 40 seconds until mixture is smooth. Adjust consistency with water if needed. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Care to sample my melons?

One of the best things about spring & summer is that certain fruits which are available year round suddenly taste like something. They are no longer just a bland blah wimpy version of themselves. Melons of all kinds fall into that category. Honeydew & cantaloupe appear in my grocery store all year but aren't worth the money. The taste and texture lack that juicy, sweetly aromatic flavor that melons provide. Having had more luck introducing new fruit during their usual season, we did melon tasting last week. I cheated slightly by going for convenience and buying the pre-cut melon cubes. This also would not leave me with a large amount of melon to consume if they weren't liked. We tried watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, and this weird little one I bought on impulse called Pepino melon.
Watermelon was the only one that both kids asked for more. The honeydew was perfectly sweet, but often that darn color green just is too much for either of them to overcome. The cantaloupe was okay. They ate one piece and stopped. The Pepino was a little out there. It was not at all melon-like in texture or taste. A little further research and I now know that the Pepino is actually a nightshade and therefore in the same family as eggplants & tomatoes; definitely not a melon. It is also naturally in season in the autumn which explains why it was ho-hum.

Pepino Melon

Monday, May 2, 2011

It's just emotion that's taking me over (a non-food post)

Oddly, I don't know a lot of people directly who have autistic kids. I have never actively sought out support groups or others like us so I had 'something in common'. For a long time, I felt too involved in helping my own child, too overwhelmed with my own thoughts and feelings, too fragile to take on another person's woes. I had one friend from a playgroup with an autistic son, and it was enough to chat or ask questions when we met.

I thought if I knew of too many stories or families, it might shatter my front. I receive many comments on how wonderfully I seem to take it all in stride, and how great I am with E. The truth is it took me time to get there. I didn't always handle her with calm, spent my fair share of time breaking down sobbing, and worrying over what the future might hold, over what I could do to get her to be like a "regular" kid.

I can't say when the subtle shift in my thinking began. Maybe it was when the psychologist gave the official diagnosis and explained in layman's terms how their brains seem to work. Maybe it was my own parent pointing out that in all of us is a little bit of autism, a degree of intensity over some facet of our life. Maybe it was her kindergarten teacher pointing out all the neat little things that "make her such a unique wonderful kid". Maybe it was an accumulation of positive moments instead of negative ones, but in the last year I feel I've accepted E for who she is. If I had a wish from a magic genie, I would not wish to change her - much. I do think I would wish for the anxiety to be less for her. But I love that she loves nature, that she can walk and walk with me and not complain or seem tired, that she calls her sister (sometimes) her "little angel".

Recently I met another parent of an autistic child. Her son was similar in age and symptoms to E and we chatted generally while H and her son were on the playground. Then she said she was sure there was no real future for her kid and that she would probably put him in a special care home when he was older as she did not want to be his caretaker the rest of his life. This stunned me for a minute. Even in my lowest low while trying to figure out what was going on with E did I ever feel like just giving up. I was going to fix it, and when I understood that was the wrong approach I was still going to fight to improve it to be the best it could be. I still feel that way now. I hold E to a high expectation. She lets me know sometimes how frustrated she is. I remind her of how great she feels when she achieves something. I let her set her own goal that sometimes is beyond what I would. How to respond to this mom who had different thoughts? I said you never know what could happen.

Because you don't. Back when I had a 13 month old who would only eat Stage 1 baby food, back when I had a 2 year old who ate only Cheerios and yogurt and threw 4 hour tantrums which kept me from venturing out of the house anywhere with her, back when she was 3 and her preschool voiced concerns over her lack of social interaction, her inability to transition, back when she was 4 and I had to listen to other parents say how wonderfully cute it was that their child said "I love you" and desperately want to hear it from my own - back then, I never thought she would be in mainstream first grade, reading 2 to 3 grade levels ahead, albeit struggling with math. I never thought she would be the polite, social, empathetic little girl that she is.

So I refuse to believe for a moment that she won't have as "regular" a life as any other person. 

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