Saturday, October 13, 2012

Making E the A to Z...J is for jalapeno

The two things I could think of for J foods were jicama and jalapeno. My sister-in-law thought of jambalaya and I was going to go with that but changed my mind when I perused some recipes. It has chicken, sausage, shrimp, rice. Three of those four things are not eaten by either kid at the moment. I felt defeated before even beginning. They both already eat jicama because it is similar to apples. I peel and serve in wedges and most of the time they think they are eating apples that are not as sweet as normal. Even if I tell them it's jicama, they think that is a fancy foreign word that means apple.

For lunch today, I made beef tacos and picked up some jalapeno poppers as well. I knew there was a 99% chance they would not be eaten by the kids, but the hubby and I will battle over them, so I knew they wouldn't be wasted.
Jalapeno poppers with cream cheese filling

I also picked up these baked Nacho Bites that have bits of jalapeno in them:

And you can really taste the jalapeno! 
So the verdict on the bites from E were she thought 'pizza' bites would be better. But she ate the jalapeno popper and said it was sour and spicy, kind of like pickles. (She loves pickles). 
While I don't think I can start putting jalapenoes in everything, I am encouraged that it is not a complete flop.

(The younger child did not even try the food. She is entering a major picky phase herself and I sometimes wonder if she needs her own blog!)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Making the A to Z .... S is for spaghetti squash

This is easy. Take a spaghetti squash, poke some holes around it with a fork so steam can escape. Put it on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. If you can stand it, cut it in half right away and remove seeds, and the flesh will scoop out much easier. Otherwise wait until it cools for 30 minutes before cutting and scooping.

Then you can do anything with it you would normally do with spaghetti. I like mine simple with a little olive oil and salt. But that didn't pass muster with E or H. H practically shoved her plate back at me as if very insulted   by the pile of golden yumminess. *sigh*

Next I tried tossing with marinara but that also did not go over well. I am not all that surprised. School started recently and E has been adjusting to that and not wanting much else to change. The first week she ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. EVERY DAY. It doesn't mean I plan on stopping though. Lately she is clicking on the fact that life changes, whether we want it or not. And mommy will keep trying to feed her different things, whether she wants it or not!

Making the A to Z ....I is for Injera

This is injera:

It is a flatbread common in Ethiopian cuisine. But I think it has more of a pancake texture to it. It is made from teff flour.  You make a starter that ferments for 5 days, and smells rather unpleasant. Some recipes described it as grassy. More like rotting wood. Anyway, that changes when you cook it. It develops a mild sour dough taste, and soaks up the flavor of whatever sauce you use. The hubby and I had ours with chicken in peanut sauce.  

Sadly, this was not something E wanted to try - the injera that is. She saw and smelled it while fermenting and that may have turned her off it.
Injera starter does not look or smell appetizing
Here is a link to the recipe I used if you want to try:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Making E the A to Z - Meatballs and "Minnie"-strone

We are skipping ahead a few letters to M. I will circle back to those between H and M when I have chance to figure out something new and kid-friendly!

I wasn't keen on doing meatballs. E has tried them before but was not all that interested. Until our last visit to my parents' in May. I did turkey meatballs and she ate them and asked for seconds. The very next day on Dr Oz (I swear I was watching only because my mom does and the gigantic TV is hard to avoid if you're hanging out in the living room) was a recipe for turkey meatballs that had carrots, celery, pine nuts and raisins mixed in. If I could get the kids to accept them, I could delight my own palate with a more sophisticated version and they would get some extra veggies in them without a struggle. Did they eat it? Nope, but they will both eat the plain and simple kind. The recipe is below the rest of the post for anyone who has a slightly more adventurous eater.

The second M food we tried was minestrone, or as we are calling it "Minnie"-strone. Minnie as in Minnie Mouse. We watched an episode of the animated Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Minnie made 'minnie'strone. E asked if we could make it, so she helped me. Hubby teased me relentlessly about "you're making a recipe from a cartoon??" Yes, yes I am if it means she'll try it and perhaps even eat a whole bowl. 

E tells me, "Minnie said we had to put 2 onions, 6 medium potatoes, and 8 tomatoes in the blender and puree. Then add it to the 15-second fast cooker, and it'll be ready!" 
Since I knew it would take a little more than 15 seconds, I peeled and steamed the potatoes beforehand, and chopped the onions coarsely. Then we added them all to the food processor, and pureed it. We heated it in a saucepan for about 15 minutes. E then said, "It needs spices!", so we added 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. The general verdict was not good. The onion flavor overpowered everything else. E tried 2 bites and declared that maybe Minnie Mouse was not ready to be a chef. The best part of the minnie-strone for me was that E helped me buy the ingredients and 'supervised' the cooking when she normally has zero interest. 
I now have about 8 cups of this stuff in my freezer. I think I can finagle it into some kind of pasta sauce, but definitely on the list of fails. 

Dr OZ Turkey Meatball Recipe courtesy of Lidia Bastianich (a famous Italian chef and mother to that snobbish bald judge on MasterChef Joseph Bastianich)

Makes a total of about 4 dozen meatballs and 3 qts sauce

1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 lbs ground turkey meat
1/2 cup golden raisins, plumped in warm water and drained
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet and cooled

2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I make my own. Pulse bread in food processor until fine crumbs are formed. 3 to 4 slices makes 1 cup crumbs)
1 tbsp kosher salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
3 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp pepperoncino flakes (I omitted these)
3 (28-oz) cans Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand (if you're like me and don't care to squish things like tomatoes, just buy cans of crushed tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine the carrot, celery, and onion in a food processor, pulsing to make a fine-textured paste orpestata. Scrape the pestata into a large bowl, and add the turkey meat, eggs, oregano, parsley, bread crumbs, pine nuts, raisins and salt, mixing with your hands to combine well.

Roll the meat into golf-ball-sized balls, and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. (You should get about 48 meatballs.) Bake the meatballs until browned all over, about 18 to 20 minutes. (They do not need to be entirely cooked through, because they will cook more in the sauce.)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Toss in the onion and sauté until it turns transparent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, bay leaves, and peperoncino. Let the peperoncino toast for a minute, then pour in the tomatoes. Slosh out the tomato cans and bowl with 4 cups hot water, add to the pot, and stir. Stir in the remaining teaspoon of salt, and bring the sauce to a simmer while the meatballs finish baking; simmer sauce about 10 minutes more.

When the meatballs have finished baking, gently add them to the sauce and return to a simmer. Simmer, shaking the pan periodically to move (but not break) the meatballs, until the sauce is thick and flavorful for about 1 1/2 hours.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A to Z ... H is for ham but not at home...

Honestly, I don't get the difference between having a type of food outside of home or in the home. For most kids though, there appears to be either an appeal or subconscious pressure to eat it because their friends are.     Then when I try to replicate it at home, there is whining en masse.

The latest one of these was ham sandwiches. E's teacher swore up and down a couple weeks ago that she has been eating ham and cheese sandwiches on their field trips for summer camp. "", I said. E dislikes cheese unless it is melted on pizza, and is in a general anti-meat phase. She hasn't even touched chicken nuggets lately. (And I am actually okay with that!)

So I did a little investigative questioning of E and of the assistant teacher and it turns out that she has been eating them - she removes the cheese first though, so she has been eating deli thin sliced ham between bread and butter. It was worth a try at home. I mean how hard is it to make a ham sandwich different? Apparently very hard. I have tried 3 separate times using the thinnest ham I could find, whole wheat bread, super white bread, butter, ketchup....each time was met with a "do I have to eat that?"

The last time with ketchup was met with "Mother, ketchup is UNhealthy!" WHAT?!? From the kid who used to gobble 2 bottles of ketchup a week? I sort of noticed lately that she wasn't asking for seconds and thirds on the ketchup, and then she was hardly even dipping anything in it at all. It seems to me that while I am slightly disappointed over the ham sandwiches, I shouldn't be. I have to remind myself that she still eats quite a variety more than she used to, and the reduction in ketchup consumption is definitely a plus!

In other news of trying a new food, she tried rye bread yesterday. I made cheese fondue for the hubby and I. The kids actually threw a mini-tantrum over this because it was the dreaded cheese. Even after reassurance that it was not for them. *sigh*

Anyway, after I laid out the fondue with some rye bread, sausage slices, and apples for dipping, E asked if she could try the rye bread. She did and wanted some more. I told her that rye would be awesome with ham. The hubbysaid, "I'd eat that!" H and E replied,"Ham is a day care food."

Seriously, they said that! So there is obviously a time and a place in their minds for certain meals, which is fine with me for now.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I call this summer the summer we tried every kind of camp under the sun. It's not really that way, but it is the first summer where E wanted to "go to camp". Being a little wary of sending her off to an overnight one, we settled on three day camps at different locations but all with a nature or animal theme to it, as that is where a lot of her curiosity lies.

The first was at our local children's museum camp, which although enjoyed, "did not really have nature in it mom - because a playground is not nature, right??" I don't usually expect a word by word play of her day since I am not sure she processes it all and files it away until a few days later. However, she attended this camp with her sister, H. E always said she had an okay time, and H was usually sobbing by the time we got from the Exit to the car. I managed to put together that there was a bully there that may not have had his behavior corrected and seemed to have picked on H quite a bit.

Three weeks later, I was rather nervous for the start of the next camp - a bird themed week held at our Audubon Society. I only sent E as the ages allowed did not include 5 year olds. H was extremely unhappy about it, and E actually rubbed it in her face a little - a behavior I have not seen from her before. It made for a week of rather challenging behavior at home, but the good news was that E loved the camp and was made one of the "leader helpers" because she has an amazing knowledge of birds. (She has read the Field Guide to Birds for our area front to back, and very possibly memorized it).
E on one of the trails near the Audubon Society. She had to borrow my jacket since it was a little chilly under all that forest. 

This was part of the creek in the Balch Watershed. E recited many facts to me about how many animals are sheltered by the Watershed and then instructed me to take a picture.  :) 
This week, both girls are in camps at the zoo. E has liked it so far "but not as much as Bird camp". Her group was able to go behind the scenes and see feeding of lions and other animals that regular visitors would not get to do.  I receive a fairly detailed report of her day, and not just a monotone repeat of a speech given my a camp counselor.  H's group seems to have stayed on the regular path and is learning more about the smaller animals. There is again some jealousy on her part as she keeps saying she wants to be in E's group.

It has been an interesting dynamic to see for a change - usually there is not jealousy but lots of fretting on E's part about not being able to quite to do yet what H can already do, and definitely what her peers can do. Re-focusing her on what she can do has never seemed to work much. She is very good at reading, she is a strong swimmer, and so far is doing okay in gymnastics. But she is engrossed in needing to meet perfection or at least the level at which other kids meet. The phrase "I need to be perfect at..." comes frequently and while I want to encourage her to accomplish things, I also want to balance her dedication to a slightly less intense level. Of course, that is what I want. Any of my attempts to try to taper that fierce, filled with anxiety perfectionistic attitude falls flat. E just seems too charge ahead in spite of it, and I am beginning to reconcile myself to the idea that I must let her be that way or I might be holding her back. And that is something I never ever want to do.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Coconut flour biscuits

This was part of breakfast today:

A biscuit made from a recipe at It's gluten free and it is hands down one of the best gluten free biscuits I have tried. It did not go over well with kids though. There was a general cry of wanting cereal, so maybe it just not a biscuit and berries kind of a day. The recipe makes only one biscuit, so double or triple as needed.

  • 1 Tbsp. Bob's Red Mill Organic High Fiber Coconut Flour
  • 2 Tbsp. Bob's Red Mill Golden Organic Flaxseed Meal
  • 1 Pinch Celtic Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Rumford Aluminum-Free Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Ghee or Unsalted Organic Butter, Cold
  • 1 Large Pastured Egg
1. In a small bowl, sift together coconut flour, flaxseed meal, sea salt and baking powder.
2. To the flour, add ghee or butter and with a fork mash together until small crumbles form.
3. In a separate bowl, scramble egg and then add mixture to crumbles.
4. With a spoon mix together and spoon into greased 4 1/2 inch ramekin.
5. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
6. Cool on rack. 
7. Run a knife around edge of ramekin and turn upside down to remove biscuit. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

I sometimes live in deja vu land

Yesterday I received a comment on a post that gave a suggestion to make my headlines more attention-grabbing. It was all very nice and constructive until the end when it was suggested I visit Anonymous' website , which had something to do with sexual content. This is the reason I moderate my comments.
I know the bulk of bloggers are all about how many followers can I receive, and how can I garner more attention. I am not one of those. I know some of the material will be bland from time to time, or even repetitive. How many times can a person read about how a child is in an eating rut? :)
The truth of it is - that's  my life. It is a cycle of laying low during those harder 'I only eat this food' phases, and constantly trying, repeating many times over; because that is what it takes with an autistic child. There are many times, especially in the beginning, when I thought "okay, this again! Deja vu!"

The whole point of my blog was for it to be my journal in a way. It helped to alleviate the monotony of repetition for me, helped me analyze the new food experience after the fact, relieved the frustration. I can refer to it when I am out of ideas, as a reminder of tips that worked before. I was thrilled when I actually had a couple of followers, and excited when the first "I tried this and it worked" was sent to me. I am happy when it helps others, but the primary goal of this writing for me is still that it provides a release, a chance to express my own emotions if I need to.

So Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous commenter - thank you for the feedback, but please take your sales elsewhere!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Making E the A to Z... G is for green peppers

After the figs, someone had a mini-anxiety attack over the fact that she had tried 5 new foods in a relatively short amount of time and reverted to not wanting anything new. Plus I wasn't sure what to do for G. Coming up with this stuff is frankly stumping me a little. Then my sis-in-law listed a few G foods, and I decided on green peppers.
I sliced them into super thin strips and threw in some yellow ones too.

She LICKED them first. Gah! This is something she used to do about 3 years ago when the occupational therapist was still helping us come up with different strategies. I thought we were well past licking. She proceeded to eat the rest of dinner, then kept looking at the green peppers and looking at me. I winced internally as I asked if she wanted ketchup to dip them in. (E has slowly asked for ketchup less and less recently.) " Do I have to eat these?", she asked. "No, you don't", I replied. I was ready for adding this week to the failure list, when she grabbed the salt shaker, liberally sprinkled some over the strips, and ate a few. Then she cleared her plate and went off to her room. She didn't say she liked them, but she didn't gag either.

I am honestly over the moon. She has come so far in so many things, and I am given a tiny inkling of hope that she won't be like the character in the movie Temple Grandin - "I only eat yogurt and Jell-o". Maybe, just maybe my slightly less resistant eater might one day be a foodie like her mommy. And I will have to blog about something else.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Making E the A to Z - F is for figs!

I was not sure I would do the A to Z this week. Emily and I are participating in a bicycle camp for special needs kids. It is called Bike First locally, but the mother company is nationwide and is called Lose the Training Wheels. The kids are basically taught how to ride a bicycle. It has been such an incredible experience to see kids, some of who never even touched a bicycle, go to riding on two wheels with a little help in 4 short days. Some of the parents cried when they saw their kids doing it. It was just wonderful and touching. It is also draining, because the coaches teach the parents how to spot and run along with the kids until they are doing it on their own. E and I have left every session quite tired.

Then this week when I was at New Seasons to get another ingredient, I saw a few cartons of mostly green figs sitting in the produce area. I almost squealed. Every year around mid-June I get really excited for fresh figs.  I love figs! Not dried ones, the fresh ones only. I look forward to them all year just like some people look forward to the McRib sandwich (no thanks, not for me).  I grabbed up a carton and let it sit on the counter for a few days to the figs to ripen. 

Ripe figs
I usually eat them all myself. Hubby also likes them but I almost don't want to share. I started thinking about F foods and I wondered if E would take to figs. The taste and texture is like a cross between a strawberry (because of the seeds) and a date. It's also easy to prep. Rinse off, chop off stems, and quarter - or eat whole if you don't have sensory issues! 

E gobbled them up. 
She ate them without the usual rigorous questioning and sniffing and so on when trying something new. Could be because she was so tired - which leads me to think that wearing her out before feeding her new stuff may become the primary strategy. 
She got on the two wheel bike without training wheels on the fourth day! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Making E the A to Z: Eggplant wagon

After many years of trying I finally got both kids eating eggs, but only if they are hard boiled. And then E only eats the yolk, and H only eats the white.
H eats the white mostly. 

E eats the yolk only. 
They also usually both another "e" food called edamame, which is basically Japanese for steamed soy beans in a little salt.
E loves shelled edamame right now
The "e" foods are pretty much covered just with those. BUT!!! I have been wanting to try eggplant on them for a while because it is one of my favorites. In a search for a simple recipe for diced eggplant, I came across  a recipe for this: 

Eggplant Wagon

Basically, you cut off about a quarter of the eggplant when it is laying on its side, scoop out and dice up flesh.
Cut four 1/2-inch slices off a zucchini for the wheels. use toothpicks to attach. I also attached the top of the zucchini to the 'front' of the wagon. Dice up the zucchini, 1/2 bell pepper, 1/2 onion, and saute in 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 can tomato sauce, a tablespoon of Italian seasoning, and 1/8 tsp garlic powder. Stir and heat through. Spoon some into the hollowed out eggplant. 

The filling is quite good, especially with a little Parmesan sprinkled on top. H wanted to play with the wagon but not eat it. E thought it was cool and wanted to know if I'd do the same thing with a squash for Thanksgiving. She did try the filling, and while there was no puckering or gagging, she didn't go "more, please".  Looks like I'll still be the only one chomping on eggplant for a while longer! 

NOTE: this recipe was adapted from one found on the Country Crock website, where you can get a free veggie cookbook. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Making E the A to Z - D is for Dates

This was a tough one. I thought of exotic things like daikon and dragonfruit at first. Then I reminded myself it should be simple and at least available most of the year. I drew a blank on simple and healthy "D" foods. Things like 'Doritos' and 'Doughnuts' popped into my head. Possibly more a symptom of me yearning for some junk food.

One night this week, I was suffering a very bad headache, which I think made for some odd dreams. Oddly enough, in the middle of most of those dreams was a plate of dates. I don't care to try to interpret why those dates were in my dreams aside from that was going to be my D food. I have made Lara-style bars before, but for this post I kept the dates as is.

Hubby bought a package at the grocery store yesterday that were not pitted. I took a couple, sliced off a little of the top, and simply squeezed the pit out. Then I chopped each one into bite size (for picky kid) sizes. I wish I could have captured the look on camera. E's face did the classic scrunched up "EW". She touched one and lamented that it was sticky. "What does it taste like?", she asked. "Is it healthy? Why is it so brown and sticky?"
Yes, she is the 20 questions master these days. I convinced her to try one, that the amount on her plate was a healthy amount (more on that in a bit), and gave her a fork so her fingers didn't have to get sticky.  And she ate all of it. I'm not sure a daikon would have gone down so easily!
Date nutrition - one medjool date packs 1.5 g fiber and a little iron and calcium, but I personally wouldn't make it a big source of those nutrients, since each one also has 66 calories and 16 g sugar. That means each date is about 66% sugar. [One date weighs about 24g].
Source of nutrition data: USDA National Nutrient Database

Monday, May 28, 2012

Making E the A to Z - Corn, cucumbers, cottage cheese

Technically I feel like we already hit C doing the Ants on a Log since neither child had previously eaten celery. E had licked it but never actually chowed it down. There was also the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. But then that would be lazy of me, and the whole point is to keep pushing forward with new foods and hoping they are liked. So for this week, I offer up corn on the cob, cottage cheese, and cucumbers.

Corn on the cob is a familiar food. I have found that E is more open to trying a new one, if there is a familiar back up.  I buy this mainly in summer because I can't stand the way the ones available year round in the freezer taste, and because most produce bought in its naturally occurring season will taste way better than any other time of year. I keep it simple by boiling 8 cups of water, adding the corn, cooking for 8 minutes.  We have those handy little skewers for the kids to pick it up and eat easily. No butter, no salt. I brush mine with olive oil and sprinkle on pepper, but the girls flip if I embellish theirs.

Cucumbers were new. I peeled the skins and cut them into slices. Were they accepted? Nope. Not the regular kind. I was told the taste was too sour. I then tried the English seedless cucumbers and served them also peeled and sliced more thinly. Those were gobbled by both kids!

English cucumbers were a hit

Ah, cottage cheese. Both E and H literally cringe at the word 'cheese'. Even though it is on pizza and in mac and cheese. What's the difference between that cheese and say a slice of cheddar, or string cheese? It's melted and "it makes it not cheese anymore". Must be a textural thing? So how could I present cottage cheese? Let's face it, it doesn't really look appealing. And kids are visual. They assume that if it looks icky or weird, it will taste that way.
So I gave 2 cups 2% cottage cheese a spin in the food processor mixed with enough (2%)  milk to make it smooth, which was about 1 3/4 cup. Then I added a box of sugar free, fat free vanilla jello pudding mix. This made about 4 cups of pudding. A one cup serving has about 159 calories, 4.9 g fat, 11 g carbohydrate, and a whopping 17 g protein.

Did it get eaten? Yes, so much so that I was asked if I could make chocolate pudding and banana pudding too. Did I tell them it had cottage cheese? Not yet. Yes, a little on the deceptive side, but they eat so few healthy sources of protein that I think this pudding will just have secret ingredients for now. :)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Making E the A to Z - B is for Banana "caterpillars" and bruschetta

This post is later than expected. E had a raging fever and severe sore throat all week, which does not make for eating much of anything!

We finally got around to our B foods. The first - Banana Caterpillars - is the familiar one. I've made it in the past and it is also easy and great for breakfast or a snack. The second one we tried is Bruschetta. I decided on this since it is similar to pizza but different enough with the use of fresh tomatoes versus a canned sauce.

Banana Caterpillars

Slice one banana. Put a squirt of honey on each slice, and stick them together. Break some pretzels to make legs and add to each side of the banana. Use raisins or chocolate chips for eyes, and stick to one end of caterpillar with a little honey. I have also used Nutella or peanut butter instead of honey. Sometimes I don't use anything between the slices as bananas are usually sticky enough - this usually only happens when the kids wake me up and demand breakfast before I've made coffee! :)

E did eat one slice, but only after I told her Bruschetta is the Italian version of bread pizza *sigh*. I would say she was ambivalent about this one. She did not ask for seconds, but didn't outright deny it. 

Ingredients: a french baguette, 2 tomatoes (I like the 'on the vine' ones), extra virgin olive oil, a clove of garlic, freshly grated Parmesan cheese (you could use the Kraft grated, but it's a level below fresh stuff)

Slice baguette. Put slices on baking sheet and brush with a little olive oil. 

Most recipes have you dice the tomatoes, but I decided to chop them up with the garlic in my food processor. I wanted something between a puree and salsa. 

Spoon a little of tomato onto each bread slice. Two tomatoes made enough for 18 slices.
Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese.

Broil for about 2 minutes. I went for three, but you can see the bread got a little burnt. Luckily I just had to trim those  edges off before serving it to the kids. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The power of TV...and A to Z food

It has been a while since my last post. Honestly, this year I have undergone a combination of not wanting to blog, not having much to blog about due to a recent 'eating rut' on E's part, and a hectic paced project at work.
Then we went on a short trip and I was able to relax - a lot. E also had a well check where her pediatrician asked her directly about her eating habits. And she answered truthfully for the most part that she liked pizza, cheerios, pbj sandwiches and apples. She wasn't far from the mark. Throw in bananas and that was about what she ate for a couple months. So the doctor (who we LOVE) had an earnest chat about what happens if you eat only one or to foods and asked E to do her best to have 2 fruits or vegetables at every meal. The best thing is the challenge took! She has asked for it every meal, and got pretty upset one day when I had only one fruit because I had not gone grocery shopping.

But I was still in a bit of a rut about whether to blog or what to blog. Then I was catching up on some reading of other blogs, and came across the A to Z Challenge that occurred in April. Inspiration struck! I asked E what she thought about trying a new food every week that starts with each letter of the alphabet. She countered with why not have a fruit or vegetable that way? That got me a little worried because she tends to like her fruit and vegetables minimally prepared - raw, chopped tiny, and not mixed with other things. How boring would it be to post pics of sliced apple or little broccoli flora? Yes, exciting that she eats them, but my foodie side was screaming for a little attention. Okay, a LOT of attention.

I was stewing over what to do when we watched a Special Agent Oso episode where the challenge was to make 'Ants on a Log'. E asked, "Mom, does Ants on a Log start with A? Cause I want it for my A food when you start making me the A to Z." And so I found a way to begin what I've pegged the Making E the A to Z. My only rule or goal is to do one a week. And although the actual basic food may not begin with the letter of the week, we'll try to make up a catchy title for the recipe.

Making E the A to Z: Apples & Ants on a Log (apparently I still have to do a fruit or veggie starting with the veggie too! :) )
I used the more tender part of the celery and peeled the outer layer to minimize those tough fibers. Added a little peanut butter and Craisins for the ants. You can also try cream cheese, or just a  drizzle of honey to get the "ants" to stick.

She ate it and asked for more. YES!
I had to post a 'pre'-photo because she did the food arrangement herself. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

How I handled...

I had the good fortune recently to be Blogger of the Week on Circle of Moms. From that article, I received several questions and I thought I'd share some of the answers to the most frequently asked.

This was possibly the second most frustrating parenting thing I dealt with when it came to E. Potty training took us 5 years from beginning to end. The end being full independence - going on her own, wiping on her own, flushing, washing hands. We started at 2 like every other family I knew at the time. No luck - she didn't care one bit. When we switched from PullUps to cloth diapers at 3 yrs, she finally got pee trained because she could not stand the wetness. #2 was another story, which honestly surprised me since she disliked having dirty or messy things on her hands. But she didn't notice or care if her diaper had a mess. We resorted to treats and her physical therapist gave us some pictures as a visual aid which we laminated and taped by the toilet. And with a little time, she started to get it. By 4 1/2, she was going in the potty with hardly any accidents, but we had to do a re-training without the treats. Then the next big hurdle was public restrooms. She started kindergarten being terrified of the louder flush noise and would hold it all day until she got home. She used to walk home waddling like a penguin because she really had to go. I came up with the idea of covering her ears with her hands and using her foot to flush so the noise was less. Over time she has become less sensitive to the noise and uses her hand to flush but still covers her ears right away. My suggestion is try to break the overall training into small steps, and work at each one. No yelling, no pressure. Calmness reaps rewards.

This is definitely an ongoing concern. I worry about if she is getting nutrients, protein, fiber. It is touch and go still. We have phases where she does fairly well eating a variety, and others where we go back to one or two foods. She still asks for the same thing for lunch every day - PBJ, apple slices or grapes, pretzels. Occasionally she will add carrot sticks to the list. If I send something else, it won't be eaten.
Something that worked for us was her PT's suggestion to have her just lick a new food. E really liked that she didn't have to stick the food in her mouth and chew it. Her pediatrician also talked to her directly about food and said she should make sure that mommy was giving her one fruit and one vegetable with every lunch and dinner. She really took to that idea of being able to 'be the boss' of telling me to make sure she got a fruit and a veggie.
Now that she can write, I have her make her own shopping list. I tell her she can choose 2 grocery items. The rule is it cannot be candy or snack food. I know that might be tougher for a young child, but perhaps you can start off with having the child suggest a food no matter what it is. Having control seems to work tremendously with kids, especially the asperger's or high functioning autistic contingent. And keep trying. Experiment. Note what works and tweak it slowly to make it healthier. Note what doesn't work and if your child is capable, ask what he/she thought they did not like. E doesn't like sliced cheese because it "sticks to all my teeth and mouth and makes me choke". Granted it took her several years to give that sophisticated an answer, but if the child tells you what or why the food is not liked, you have an idea of other similar foods that may not work, or you can try a different form of the food. Example: pizza and macaroni and cheese have melted cheese, which does not stick or make E choke. However, a grilled cheese sandwich is still not liked.
Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason. It is best to not get caught up in it and move on to a different food. Come back to the offending one later (much later) and give it another try. Never force, and never use food as a bargaining chip for dessert, TV or game time, etc. The autistic child may never become a foodie; use the approach that he/she needs it for basic survival and expect nothing else. I try connecting it to a body part AND to an activity they like: the carrot you ate makes you see well so you can see birds better. Yes, it usually sounds corny but so far E believes it every time.

 Ah, stress relief. I am still working on that one. Calm even tones work wonders when speaking to your autistic child but can leave you with pent up frustration, anger, sadness, feeling sorry for yourself at the unfairness of having a kid with special needs, feeling hopeless and wondering if the child will forever be dependent, hostile that your partner does not help as much as you want, irritated, depressed, fantasizing what life would be without ...

ALL VALID FEELINGS! Most of them diminish, but the frustration and anger and irritation are the ones that like to stick around and mess with your head. I would say that it is probably best not to do what I did - push it all aside for as long as possible because gosh darn you have to fight for your kid. Don't be a saint. Don't be heroic. If someone offers help, take it. Chances are they, at best, will offer a different perspective or discover some trick that made that 4 hour tantrum into a 1 hour one. At worst, they won't offer help again. You quickly discover who are the truly wonderful people, and you embrace them into your life and sweep away the rest. You have only so much energy and chances are 90% of it is going toward fighting for your child. That leaves 10% for your other children, your spouse, chores, you.  And sadly usually in that order.
It took me breaking a wrist and being semi-helpless to understand that other people can do what I do, and even if they don't do it how I would, they stepped up and helped me even though I didn't ask.
Put yourself a little higher on your list for at least one night a week. Even if it's after the kids are in bed, take an hour and do what you want. I started by waking a half hour earlier and sitting in complete silence and no lights drinking my coffee. That lack of stimulation does wonders for calming me before the chaos of the day. I also make myself take a break at lunch during my workday. I make myself go for a walk or leave my desk and go somewhere quiet to read or go to the gym. Sometimes I will come home and take 10 or 15 minutes to also just sit and sip some water before I go pick up the children at daycare. If I am really desperate for some time, I declare a "mommy timeout" and go lock myself in the bathroom to calm down. This doesn't always work if they come find me, but even a minute or two to catch my breath and bite my tongue keeps me from yelling. If I don't, I find I am cranky and not as effective at being a good role model.

We avoid them. Well, we sort of did. Team sports are generally not the best ones for autism/Asperger's. Sports that are more individualized, even if there is a team component, have been ones that E has taken to. When she is done with her swimming lessons (she is an excellent swimmer, which is funny considering she does not like otherwise getting wet), she wants to join a swim or dive club. She also likes hiking because of the nature. She likes running, although she is not that good at long bouts. She gets tired quickly.
What we did here was find opportunities that let you try a class free or for minimal cost. We did a dance class, which was okay but more anxiety filled than anything. We tried soccer. It all just came down to her enjoying activities that were singular entity.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cauliflower mac and cheese

I confess I appear to have become a "slacker blogger". Not for lack of trying recipes, but because life is just crazily busy right now. All our other commitments are admittedly (and rightfully) more important than writing up my trials with E. Lately we are also going through a phase of pickiness in my younger daughter and I have been discouraged and drained by dealing with tantrums from her about food.
On our spring break trip recently, I was determined that I was going to cook up a storm. I had ten recipes to try and did one! My mind and my body chose the easy life for that week, and the enjoyment of my two girls' company. The wonderful part is the recipe I tried was a success - a cauliflower based macaroni and cheese. E liked it enough to eat 2 bowls the first time around. The recipe says 4 servings, but it lasted us as a side dish for about 3 dinners. Nutrition information is also for the original recipe for 4 servings. I did not change that much - I used 1 teaspoon mustard versus 1 tablespoon, and omitted nutmeg and the bread crumbs. I also added a little turmeric to get that faux orange color that "preschool mac and cheese" has, per special request of the younger one: "I'll eat it if it looks like preschool mac and cheese, mom." I'm sure one day she will be a food snob and tell me that mac and cheese is for babies!

CAULIFLOWER MAC AND CHEESE (adapted from Runner's World/Mark Bittman)
E took the photo for me! 

Trust me, this expression of "so yummy" does not happen often with her

  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cauliflower, cored and cut into large pieces
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese (such as sharp cheddar, Gruyere, or Emmental, or a combination)
    • NOTE: I used 4 slices of American cheese, torn into squares, and added it when processing the cauliflower, and then added about 1/4 cup of shredded Monterey Jack
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • up to 1 teaspoon turmeric (this was just enough to make it slightly orange/yellow without the taste of the turmeric overwhelming it)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain bread crumbs (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Boil a pot of salted water. 
  2. In a saucepan, warm stock and bay leaves on medium-low heat for five minutes; turn off heat. 
  3. Cook cauliflower in boiling water for 25 minutes. Put cauliflower in a food processor. 
  4. Cook pasta in boiling water for five minutes. Drain and rinse to cool; put pasta in a greased, nine-inch square baking dish. 
  5. Process cauliflower with stock (discard bay leaves), cheese, oil, mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, working in batches. 
  6. Pour sauce over pasta, toss, and spread evenly in dish. Top with Parmesan and bread crumbs. Bake 20 minutes.

CARBS: 57 G 
FAT: 15 G

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What is a duck's favorite snack?

.."cheese and quackers...get it ?" followed by pretend laughter. E has been telling this joke all week and I know she is probably imitating someone at school because the laughing is definitely fake. While I don't think it's funny, I join in with a little pretend giggle because I know she has been trying to wrap her head around humor lately. She takes the world so literally and it is hard to explain the concept of a joke to her. When she is in a moment that is funny to her, she has a real genuine beautiful laugh. So I know she is capable of experiencing mirth. But mirth is different from humor. And in the same way she is trying understand humor, she has been trying to understand "healthy" versus "not healthy". And "moderation" versus "not having any at all".
I am a big supporter of the moderate approach. Last week in a business meeting I took out a small container of cashews - exactly 1 oz - and ate them. A co-worker asked me how I had such control, that she would eat half a jar easily at a sitting. Well, so would I, which is why I meter myself, and I am still "too high on the BMI" scale according to my doctor. But I don't want to diet. And I don't want my daughters to ever feel they need to diet. I honestly hope I never hear that word ever from their mouths. There is however a slight dilemma to explaining a really super gray concept to a child who sees the world in literal black and white terms. I find myself having to answer questions like "How many chocolate chips is it okay to eat?" She wants an exact count versus my general answer of a few. I almost feel trapped in that approach as if I am somehow forcing her to establish limits on her eating. And I must tread carefully on this because of food issues I had myself as a teenager. My fallback response has become eat them until you're brain says 'no more'. And of course I get this odd look - yes, the squinty eyed, that does not fit into my filed away information look.
So I came up with this idea. For a snack one day, I measured out a small shot-sized container of chocolate chips and told her to eat as many as she wanted. She ate the whole thing and another half before almost screaming she had to go brush her teeth NOW! The taste was hurting her teeth. After, I said to her,"Now you know how many it is okay to eat".
We use this Tupperware mini-midget cup to measure a portion of nuts of chocolate chips.
The next day I made fruit salad with sliced strawberries, bananas, blueberries, oranges, and grapes and put that into a 1 -cup bowl. I again told her to eat as much as she wanted. She ate two bowls and was done. I said "Do your teeth hurt?" She replied that she was just full.

Fruit salad
Then I said, "That's because fruit is healthy food. You eat it and you feel full but your teeth and mouth shouldn't hurt. Chocolate chips are less healthy; eventually they will make your teeth hurt if you eat too much." To which she replied that she could just brush her teeth before eating a second shot of chocolate chips. Well, one concept at a time, one day at a time....

Monday, February 27, 2012

Italian Sunday Gravy

Over the last 3 weeks, Safeway had mega-sales on meat. I had my eye on making this recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution, which uses a lot of meat. I purchased what was needed over the course of the last month and froze it until I had it all (because who wants to pay a lot of money?).  The recipe (scroll all the way down) makes enough sauce for 3 lb of pasta, which I also happened to pick up on sale at just under $1 a box. This is the perfect recipe if you will be feeding a crowd, or are cooking dinner for someone else (like I am). Keep half for you, half for them. E did not try this "because it smells too strong", but the rest of us loved it and I thought it was worthy of posting. 

Five pounds of meat go into this recipe!

The other ingredients, not including the wine...I might have been sipping it...
Draining the diced tomatoes keeps the sauce thick.
I used 6 cloves of our homegrown garlic, which is larger-sized and more pungent than the stuff in the grocery store.
Chopped onions, minced garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, and oregano after microwaving  for 5 minutes. 
ITALIAN SUNDAY GRAVY (from America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution)

  • 2 onions, minced (or just chop)
  • 1 (6-ounce) can of tomato paste
  • 12 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds bone-in country style pork ribs (I couldn't find this so I used the boneless stuff)
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak 
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound sweet italian sausage
  • 1 pound hot italian sausage (I went with mild since I was feeding another family and little kids)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh basil 
  1. Microwave onions, tomato paste, garlic, oil, and oregano in bowl for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through if desired. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Stir drained, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and wine into slow cooker. Season flank steak, and pork with a little salt and pepper. Nestle all the meat into the slow cooker (no chopping up beforehand, awesome!!)
  3. Cover and cook 5 to 7 hours on High, or 9 to 11 hours on Low. 
  4. Transfer all the meat to cutting board and let cool slightly. Shred pork and flank steak into bite-size pieces. Discard excess fat. 
  5. Slice sausages. (I used bulk mild italian sausage since I could not find the links, so I crumbled it before  putting it into the slow cooker).
  6. Let sauce settle for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove fat from surface with spoon. Using folded paper towels will also soak up a lot. 
  7. Stir shredded meat and sausages into sauce and let sit 5 minutes. Before serving, add salt and pepper if desired (I did not find it needed it). Stir in basil. 
Serve with pasta. I imagine you could this on hoagies too. 

Cross my fingers, knock on wood, grab a lucky clover....

Have you ever realized that you're in a great place in life, and as soon as you utter it out loud, things change?
As silly as it seems, I felt that if I utter this, it will change...I have no recipes to post because I have no woes at the moment with E refusals. She is in a really good place right now with at least trying new foods and I am afraid that if I blog it, this will be over.

Last week she tried a cheese quesadilla thing at her day care. Her caregiver was very excited that she apparently ate 1 1/2 whole quesadillas because she usually refuses it. I looked at the pasty refined white flour tortilla and heaven knows what filling inside, and my stomach actually lurched, and I wished she kept refusing it. Double edged sword. I was glad she ate something new, but not happy about the lack of nutrition. On the plus side, she is eating some of the meals I cook at home too. Last night she tried some vegetarian chili and ate a whole 1/4 cup of it. That seems small but it is so much better than the usual finger dip and lick!
This new level of eating was not quite apparent to me until my husband noticed it. Sometimes I describe my brain as something like that of the Tick. He would get distracted by shiny, silver things. While I wish I could be distracted by that, it is actually my career and life balancing that are distracting me. I am tweaking schedules here and there, and doing my best to see what is best for all of us. So I missed the fact that E was doing so well, but once I realized, my brain suddenly went "ooh!" and I began to wonder what is next? I am sure there will be more eating ruts, but might E be ready for learning about food beyond getting used to textures and smell? And how does one go about teaching that to a child with autism since it can be such a huge gray area?

I believe in allowing oneself moderate portions of everything (except goldfish crackers, which are banned). Explaining to her though that a little bit of this is okay and not too much of that seems to confuse her more than anything. She asked once why one cookie was okay and not two. And what about one cookie with each meal, was that healthy because it was just one cookie? And telling her that one cookie per meal adds up to about 4 a day (including a snack), which is not healthy was enough to tune her out because I mentioned the word "add", and any word associated with mathematics automatically brings a sort of withdrawal on her part.

I suppose the point of this post is that I see a glimmer of hope for her future eating habits, but I am not sure yet how to walk her through the pedantics of nutrition. Then grocery shopping, then cooking for herself......and on and on.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Paleo Coconut Bread

A friend of mine and her family are doing the Paleo thing, and she mentioned a bread made from coconut flour. I happen to have a huge bag of the stuff in my freezer, so I gave it a try. I was not impressed. It was dry and kind of crumbly. So I started messing with different recipes and adding extra eggs. Most of the recipes call for coconut oil. For some reason, my inner baker was telling me that doing the coconut oil and the coconut flour was contributing to the loaf not being just right. I experimented with canola and olive oil and even clarified butter. (I'm not sure all of those are allowed on strict Paleo).

After doing some research, a lot of forums recommended beef tallow or lard or even chicken schmaltz as a substitute for coconut oil. The nature of the substitute fat had to be the same as the coconut oil: solid at room temperature. Most forums recommended grass fed as grains fed anything is not allowed on Paleo. This had me in a dilemma because the smallest grass fed tub of beef tallow I could find was $100. And I didn't really want to have to roast a chicken every time I might want to make this bread. This led me to bacon fat. I can easily get uncured, organic bacon at New Seasons. I know that doesn't mean that it's from pastured pigs, but I figured if regular organic bacon fat worked, then a person who wanted to make this purely to the regimen could take the time to research finding grass fed bacon. So I fried up my organic bacon and rendered all the fat after draining through a coffee filter (to remove any solids). I got about 1/2 cup from one regular package (about 16 slices).

Well, tonight I hit the jackpot! I used this recipe from Elana's Pantry, BUT I added the 1/2 cup bacon fat instead of the 1/4 cup coconut oil. And I was rewarded with a very nicely moist savory bread with even texture. I ate three slices and am inclined to not share with the kids tomorrow...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Homemade Date Snack Bars (better than LARAbar)

When it comes to snack bars, my kids aren't crazy about most of them. This is actually fine with me, since most snack bars in my eyes have very little redeeming value in the way of nutrition versus sugar content. It is however a convenient thing to have on hand from time to time. We have gone through the gamut of them: Clif, Kashi, Atkins (super-icky), various cereal brand bars. None have been winners, until we tried LARAbars. They are made from a base of dates and nuts. Some flavors have dried fruit added. And of course, they are a little on the spendy side. So when I noticed a link to a recipe for raw date bar on my profile, I had to give it a try. The ingredients and directions can be found here:
Date Raw Energy Bars.

They are delicious and easy. Everything takes a whirl in the food processor, then you press into a 9x13 baking sheet, and chill. You can cut them to whatever length works best for the size of your kid's appetite.
I have also found that you can substitute different types of nuts or seeds for the almonds or cashews.
I haven't tried yet to add dried fruit. And I add 1/2 cup water instead of just 3 tablespoons, making the bars a little softer, but also easier to chew.

I like Bob's Red Mill Date Crumbles. I've found there is no chance of pits that way. A pit in your food processor ..ugh.
I also often do half the amount of almonds and add in the remainder as sunflower seeds. 

This is the consistency with just the 3 tablespoons water. A little crumbly.

With 1/2 cup water, the 'dough' holds together and is easier to mold into the baking sheet. 

I line my baking sheet with wax paper before putting the 'dough' in. It makes it easy to turn the pan upside down after chilling to remove and slice into bar size. After pressing the dough into the pan using my hands, I put plastic wrap across it, and use my fondant roller to even out the thickness.
Date bar after chilling and slicing

H stealing and eating my date bar. :)

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