Week 31: Thyme (and onions) to become crackers

I thought I’d finally found a recipe where I actually knew all of the ingredients on the list.  Then I read the directions, and saw it also instructed the cook to place a ball of dough “in the middle of a piece of parchment paper.”  What the hell is parchment paper, I wondered.   Do I have to go back in time and find a shoppe that sells quills, scrolls and ink blotters?

Ugh.  I was informed that parchment paper is simply wax paper.  That was better, but I still didn’t completely understand the directions to “fold the paper like a book with the ball of dough between the covers.”  Luckily, my husband tackled this recipe for onion herb crackers.

I was super excited to make them because I was pretty sure Logan would like them and because they are perfectly acceptable on a sugar-free diet–not even any sort of ify ingredients that we occasionally sneak in, like hazelnut flour.  The parchment paper threw me, though, as did the cooking time — it took two hours to bake the cracker sheets, plus the time it took to blend, puree, mince, and whatever the hell else this recipe asked us to do.

We started with mostly chopped onions...

We started with mostly chopped onions…

The recipe, from The Candida Free Cookbook, was:

 

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup grape seed oil
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan rock salt (yeah, this was one that I used to have no clue about)
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 and 1/2 cup ground flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup ground sunflower seeds

All the “wet” or fresh ingredients were made smooth in the food processor, then the dry flax seeds and sunflower seeds were added and pulsed together, too.  It made a big bowl of dough that we (yes, I helped with this part) rolled thin between two sheets of very unfancy wax paper.  My husband then scored the dough into squares and popped a baking sheet into the oven.  The whole house smelled delicious–a deep, rich, oniony aroma that’s completely the opposite of the sugary smell of chocolate cookies I would have in another lifetime said smelled fantastic.

... and added flaxseeds and sunflower seeds to round out the cracker dough.

… and added flaxseeds and sunflower seeds to round out the cracker dough.

“Are they ready yet?” Logan continually asked.  He was captivated by the smell, too, and probably by the magnitude of the preparation.  He stood by the oven, staring in, demanding to try one every so often.  Maybe it was the build-up, the anticipation, that made them so good to him–because when they finally were ready and cooled, he gobbled up as many as I’d give him.

The rest I stored as an easy snack to send to daycare and school, which was another reason why I’d wanted to try this recipe–as crackers, they’re easy to eat anywhere.

This one was kind of hard for me, but worth it–hooray!

Feeling: Happy

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Week 29: Meltdowns and motivations

1 in 68 or 1 of a kind … Here’s to all the tireless parents and caregivers and incredible children out there. #AutismAwarenessMonth

Spring always motivates me to clean and organize.  So on April 1st I began a spreadsheet to track Logan’s meltdowns.  It’s actually kind of odd neither my husband nor I had started a tangible system like this before, as I’m an organizer and my husband is an analytic fanatic.  But maybe there were just too many to track.

But, since since the start of the month–which is Autism Awareness Month, by the way–I haven’t entered a single meltdown in my chart.  Reports from school and daycare have all been positive, and the only tantrum we saw this weekend was probably more along the lines of a typical 4-year-old not getting his way than an all-out autistic meltdown.  It was over fairly quickly.

We’ve been plugging away with the no-sugar diet, and I continue to see more and more about other people trying it, too.  I’ve been reading about SCD diet and the GAPS diet, and frankly I can’t understand why there are so many versions (brands, almost) of diets that are all basically driving toward the same thing: no sugar, more veggies, and a healthy gut.  And there’s other info out there, too–TACA has a ton of information about biomedical treatment, including low-sugar diets, and the blogosphere is full of people experimenting with sugar abstinence.  Today a book titled Year Of No Sugar is also being released.   Living without sugar is starting to seem like the biggest movement you’ve never heard of.

Which makes me wonder, why is it so unheard of?  Why isn’t there more research or more public knowledge of dietary treatment of autism?   The list of therapy options for people with autism is almost endless–applied behavioral analysis therapy, music therapy, speech therapy, relationship development intervention therapy, occupational therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, even horse-back riding or swimming-with-dolphins therapy … why are we overlooking what seems like should be the most basic of all of these?  Short of breathing and oxygen, there’s nothing as natural as eating and nothing more essential to life than nutrients–why isn’t this more of a focus in the autism community–the medical community–all of our communities?  The family in Year of No Sugar, for example, decided to forgo sugar not due to autism or other specific health concerns but simply health in general.

It’s hard, I know (sugar is a way of life, and I struggle with it every day!)  And the sugar industry is a profitable one–I’m sure that has plenty to do with it, not to mention the pharmaceutical industry that benefits from widespread weakened immune systems.  But especially now, as it is Autism Awareness Month, we need to not only take notice but take action.  It’s spring, which means where I live, in Minnesota, the snow is melting and people are motivated to start walking and running to get healthy again.  Likewise, in my house, the meltdowns have also begun to trickle away, and I’m re-motivated to continue with our sugar-free journey for our health.

Feeling: Light

Week 27: And it’s all thanks to (The) Who?

My husband wrote this and sent it to me last week, suggesting he be a “guest blogger.”  This is shocking because A) my husband never writes anything, B) I didn’t realize my husband thought any of this, and C) he admits to crying(!).  Because of A-C, I’m happy to post his blog for this week’s chapter.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working my way through our entire music library (65 GB worth of music—about 12,000 songs) on our new, fancy, grown-up stereo.

I’m not an emotional guy by any means, but music tends to take me a bit out of my element (like writing this) and can sometimes tear me up a bit.  But still, I’d never have fathomed my reaction when finally getting down to the W’s in the library while playing The Who’s Tommy.

For those not familiar, Tommy was a rock opera written by The Who.  It’s about a young boy who ended up in a catatonic state after seeing his dad killed.  The parents try a number of doctors and therapies, to no avail.  But he does come out of it, and in the end you could say the mom/son duo was the reason for it, albeit in a rock ‘n roll sort of way…

So I come to my favorite song on the CD, “Go to the Mirror!”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPzY30v9mtg)

I obviously haven’t listened to the song—or concentrated on the lyrics—in many years.  Even with tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t stop listening and rewinding – over and over and over again.

I’d like to think if Logan could express what Laura means to him, and what she means to our family, these lyrics would be a good start:

Listening to you, I get the music
Gazing at you, I get the heat
Following you, I climb the mountain
I get excitement at your feet
Right behind you, I see the millions
On you, I see the glory
From you, I get opinions
From you, I get the story

I know I never express it enough, but I am so grateful to my wife for everything.  We wouldn’t be as far as we are up the mountain without her in the lead, and because of her pushing all the diet changes we’ve gone through, I think we can start to see the peak.

— Jason

Week 15: Let the baking begin

For someone who’s never really cooked, December was a veritable cooking and baking storm.  Early in the month, the kids and I visited my mom’s house, and the first casein-free, gluten-free, sugar-free foods we tried to make were pancakes.

Who needs measuring spoons?

Who needs measuring spoons?

Let me start by saying there is a reason I am such an awful cook*.  My mom and I had a few options.  She had found a packaged pancake mixture that said it was gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free, but its directions also called for you to add milk and sugar yourself.  I also had a recipe from Elena’s Pantry, which was gluten- and dairy-free, but not sugar-free, and I had a recipe from a blog called Tula’s Story that follows the same restrictions.  The only problem with that was it called for a few ingredients we didn’t have.

But, we figured, why let that stop us.  Ingredients are more like suggestions than requirements, right?

We needed:

  • ½ cup organic pureed pumpkin (Check—except the can my mom had in her pantry listed 4 grams of sugar, which is natural sugar and pretty low, so we made an exception)
  • ½ cup organic peanut butter (Check, though my mom grimaced when she took a bite of it—it needs sugar, she said.)
  • 4 tablespoons ground flax (Hmm…I’m not sure what this is, nor do we have it.  Oh, well.)
  • 6 eggs (Amazingly, check!)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (Check!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (Check.  Wait, no—baking powder is different from baking soda, we realized.  We only have baking soda.)

We tried searching online for substitutes for baking powder and found we could use a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar instead, but of course, we didn’t have that, either.  So we shrugged, sprinkled in a small amount of baking soda, and called it good enough.

Everything blended nicely, and Logan and Sadie had fun helping us mix.  Then we ladled our batter onto the griddle, and crossed our fingers.

And who would have guessed—they turned out just fine.  Well, we’ll say just OK.  Mom didn’t like them, but I suspect she was wanting them to taste like pancakes should taste and be light and fluffy like pancakes are supposed to be.  They weren’t very light, and they didn’t taste like pancakes, butter, and maple syrup.  They tasted like peanut butter, mostly.  But Logan and Sadie ate them and didn’t even ask for syrup (which I had—sugar-free!)  All in all, it was a pretty good start to a holiday baking season.

Feeling: Light-hearted

*Love you, Mom!

Week 10: I touched chicken (and lived)

OK, it might not seem like a big accomplishment, but come on, raw chicken is gross.  So of course I could never have cooked it—I couldn’t have even touched it.  And it’s not just the chicken, even.  Cutting a tomato also feels so disgusting to me.  I grimace anytime I have to touch any wet, slimy, or gelatinous food.

Coming off a long and difficult week last week, I was lucky that a friend decided to take me grocery shopping and teach me how to cook a few GFCF meals.  She cooks gluten-free meals for her family and is just one of those friendly, helpful people you wish the world had more of.

She made me touch the chicken.  She cut (or cubed, or whatever—terminology is another annoying part about cooking to me) one chicken breast, then had me do a second.  It was awful.  I felt like my hand was glowing with salmonella germs.  But I did it.  She also showed me how to rip up and cook kale, which wasn’t awful to touch—but I, at least, thought was too awful to eat.

We cooked (fried?  Sautéed?) the chicken breast with garlic, onion powder, and pepper, and she showed me exactly how to tell when it was done.  Then we did much the same with ground beef, breaking it apart and seasoning it.  Then she showed me how to cut a tomato—so I had almost everything prepared for tacos that night.  The chicken we put in a container to save for the next night.  It’d be so easy, she said, so simply heat it up, make some instant rice, and throw the two together with some frozen vegetables.

And was she  ever right.  The next night, it turned out, I had to pick up the kids from daycare late, and my husband worked even later, so I found myself in the kitchen alone an hour after we usually eat.  The kids were hungry, pestering me for a snack, and, as usual, Sadie was pulling on my shirt to be picked up and the dog was jumping on my legs to be pet.  Thank God I had cooked chicken ahead of time; my friend was right, making instant rice was super easy, and I felt good about being able to put together a good meal (not that the kids ate much of it, of course).

So my cooking “lesson” with my friend taught me three things: first, that touching raw chicken won’t kill me; second, that cooking meat doesn’t have to be that difficult; and third, that preparing the main part of a meal ahead of time is very helpful.

Unfortunately, the last one still isn’t as enlightening as it sounds. I took a day off of work to shop and make meals this week; I really can’t afford to keep doing that.  Time is always my enemy.

When I was in college, I always told my boyfriend I wanted to learn to cook.  I never did, of course.  When I first married my husband, I told him I would learn to cook.  When I got pregnant, I told myself I would learn to cook before I had to actually feed the kid real food.  And now with no time … I wish I could go back in time and yell at my college self to actually learn something more applicable than commas and quotations.

Feeling: Tired

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