Tags: Fruit popsicles, GFCF cold treats, Shannon Penrod, Sugar free summer fun
by Shannon Penrod
It all started last year when the PTA decided to hand out blue ice pops on field day…with no warning or heads up to desperate parents like me who are not feeding their kids sugar or food coloring. The worst part is I had specifically asked if they were serving anything and was assured they weren’t. Some well-meaning parent donated them at the last second. Really? Feeding an entire school of children blue lake No 5oo bizzillion and artificial food coloring is your way of “pitching in”? Well, I’d say it’s likely that parent and I aren’t going to be close friends. This year I knew it was coming and I was prepared.
I bought BPA free popsicle molds at Bed, Bath and Beyond. With my coupon I think they were $7 for 6 of them. Not bad! Then I went to the farmer’s market and bought fruit that was in season and ripe and organic. The first go round it was nectarines, peaches, and blood oranges. Over the 4th it was raspberries, watermelon, white peaches and blueberries. This week I added plums. The blood oranges add major red coloring that is yummy and attractive. I cut the fruit up in small pieces – the nectarines I cooked down on a low heat. I mixed the cooked fruit with the chopped fruit, add the juice of one tiny blood orange and then mixed in lemon essence seltzer water. Then I froze them in the popsicle forms. They were a huge hit and tasty too!
Now my son loves to put the fruit in himself and we have fun coming up with different combos. Try them they are easy, cheap and yummy!
Tags: GFCF Kale chips, Healthy GFCF Snacks, Shannon Penrod, The Autism Miracle in my kitchen
By Shannon Penrod
Recently I got some fabulous Pumpkin Chips at Whole Foods Market. The faintly resemble potato chips, but they are sweeter and have fewer calories. I mentioned them to someone at work and the fact that there were lots of other chips displayed as well, carrot, pineapple, and even jack fruit. She mentioned kale chips and how fabulous they are. I had never heard of such a thing. She assured me they were great, but expensive. Saying expensive is a relative thing. Don’t you agree? I thought the pumpkin chips were expensive at $4.99 for a small bag, so I was thinking the kale chips were about the same. Not even close. $14.99 for a bag of kale chips. Now that’s expensive.
So I set out on a quest to make them myself. There were a lot of recipes on line, but many of them had things my family doesn’t eat. Yeast extract….um no thanks. Eventually I just decided to wing it. I made 3 separate batches. The first batch I wisked olive oil lemon juice and salt in a big bowl and thoroughly coated a batch of curly leaf kale. Then I baked them on parchment paper in 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. They were really tangy, a little too tangy.
The next batch I tried just drizzling a little olive oil over the tops and sprinkling salt. Those were pretty good. The last batch I did flat leaf kale and I put nothing on them. I cooked them too long so the got too charred. I think 5-8 minutes is all they need. In the future I plan on doing the flat leaf and just drizzling a little olive oil and a little lemon over them – maybe some garlic powder. Ummmm tasty!
Tags: GFCF recipes, GFCF roasted chicken, Quick easy GFCF, Roasted Chicken with Lemon
By Shannon Penrod
This is one of my favorite recipes. When ever I am stressed, overwhelmed or have a lot to do I like to make this dish. It’s inexpensive, easy to make and creates healthy, tasty meals for days. We call it “Dancing Chicken” because we make the chickens dance when we wash them!
2 whole chickens, thawed
2 whole organic lemons
Did I mention this is super easy? I buy my chickens at Sam’s Market. I get 2 chickens for around $10. I rinse the chickens well, inside and out. This is when we make them dance! Then I take two organic lemons and wash them well. I stab the lemons about 15 each with a sharp knife and then stuff the lemons inside the cavities of the chickens. I put both chickens breast side down in a big roaster with a lid. I pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil over the chickens and then sprinkle salt over them. I put the lid on and roast them in a 350 degree oven for at least 2 hours. I don’t baste, the lemons do that for me. The chicken comes out practically falling off the bone, tender, juicy and flavorful.
After the chickens cool I take the lemons out and squeeze what ever hasn’t already seeped out into the pan. I cut the leg/thighs off at the joint as well as the wings. I flip the chicken and pull the breasts off and put them aside. If the chicken has been cooked long enough the meat should literally fall off the bone. Once I’ve cleaned the carcasses and stored the meat I strain the juice from the pan storing some of it in the fridge and some of it in the freezer.
The best thing about this recipe is how you can use it and stretch it into many meals. First I serve my son the legs and wings. If I’m only feeding him that’s four meals alone. The breasts I use as chicken nuggets (I dredge them in Namaste Pizza Crust Mix and slightly fry them), I cut up pieces to be used with gluten free pasta, in soup, in chicken salad and even sliced on sandwiches. The juice from the pan makes a great base for a soup, or sauce or to cook rice. I cook these chickens and I know that I’m going to have at least four days of fast easy meals. I like to roast my chickens on Sunday while I’m doing laundry. Prep time is about 5 minutes to get it in the oven, about 10 minutes to clean the carcasses and there’s only one pan to clean. If you’re having guests include some onions, carrots and other vegetables in the bottom of the pan for a more upscale meal. You won’t be disappointed.
Tags: Everyday Autism Miracles, GFCF Diet, losing 100 pounds, making things non-negotiable, Shannon Penrod, Sticking to the GFCF diet, The Secret of Everything
Drumroll please…..the secret of everything is….to make it non-negotiable. Someone asked me the other day how we had managed to keep our son on a strict GFCF diet for years. My answer was simple: we made it non-negotiable. I literally treat it like a peanut allergy. If my son had a peanut allergy and we were at a birthday party where they were serving a cake with a peanut filling I wouldn’t consider letting him have any. I wouldn’t waste time thinking about what the other kids might think, or what the other parents might think. I would be sensitive to my son’s feeling about being different and or feeling left out, but I wouldn’t dream of letting those feelings talk me into rethinking whether he could try a piece. It wouldn’t cross my mind. Why? Because it would be a matter of life and death, in other words it would be completely non-negotiable.
When I think back over the things in my life that worked out favorably it is clear to me that at some point I made them non-negotiable. I don’t think it’s just me. I have a friend that lost over a hundred pounds in the last year – without surgery. I heard someone ask her how she did it the other day. She told the person that she stopped dieting. Dieting meant she could go on the diet on Monday, be off of it by Wednesday at noon and then restart it on the following Monday. It wasn’t working. Instead, she found a way of eating and made it non-negotiable. She stopped weighing herself every other day and just decided that no matter what happened she was going to follow her new food plan. The result? She lost 100 pounds in a year!
It isn’t easy making something non-negotiable. If it was I would be thin, rich and not concerned about what other people think…ever. I don’t think that everything in your life can be non-negotiable; that would be no fun. Ultimately, it’s a question of priorities. What is important enough to be considered non-negotiable? In my house I can tell you exactly what’s non-negotiable : anything that has helped our son on his journey to recover from Autism. For us, and I realize this isn’t true for all families, it is adhering religiously to the GFCF diet, the principles of ABA and taking a few supplements everyday. It’s non-negotiable. Putting off doing the laundry, on the other hand….completely negotiable!
Tags: Autism Diet, easy autism diet tricks, GFCF diet made easy, Shannon Penrod, What Jem Eats
By Shannon Penrod
I did a blog last year about what Jem eats. I did it for two reasons: to show people who are curious about how you can do the GFCF diet thing without a lot of hassle and because the people I have charged with taking care of my child should there ever be an emergency expressed that they had no idea what they would feed him. It seemed like a good idea to turn it into a blog – that way it wouldn’t just be on a piece of paper that could be lost. It occurred to me the other day that his diet changes from time to time and it might be worthwhile to revisit the subject for 2011, so here it is.
Breakfast – Generally this is two pieces of toast (Food for Life’s Yeast Free Brown Rice Bread – which can be bought locally at Whole Foods Market, Sprouts or Lassen’s) This summer when I was teaching in N.Y. we were given a lovely furnished apartment that did not have a toaster so we improvised and came up with something called “Salt Toast” think of making French toast with out butter or eggs. I put a very small amount of olive oil in a pan and lightly brown the bread turning once, and then sprinkle lightly with salt. In a pinch you can do this in the microwave by spreading a small amount of olive oil on the bread and nuking it for 20 seconds, the bread will be chewy if done in the microwave, but Jem loves it either way. For special occasions we will sometimes do Van’s waffles for breakfast. He can only have the simply plain variety, everything else has sugar and he can only have 2 waffles. On rare occasions I will make pancakes using Trader Joes gluten free pancake mix, which has been on back order for months, or Namaste’s Waffle and pancake mix – in both cases I add water or carrot juice to the mix and cook them on our cast iron griddle. We no longer use teflon of any kind in our home.
Lunch: For school lunch Jem gets some kind of a sandwich or roll up. This year he has become addicted to the no-nitrate sliced lunch meats by Applegate Farms. He likes the plain turkey, which he calls “flat turkey”, the turkey bologna and the turkey salami. He will have 3-4 pieces of that on either the Food for Life bread or more frequently the Food for Life Brown Rice Tortillas. Trader Joe’s also makes a brown rice tortilla. Sometimes I will send chicken nuggets to school but this is no longer a favorite because he prefers them warm, not cold. Likewise he no longer wants cold hot dogs in his school lunch, at home though hot dogs are a favorite. We use Shelton’s Chicken and Turkey, there are regular sized dogs and jumbo Franks, Jem loves them all. We also used Applegate Farms chicken and turkey hot dogs on occasion. Jem typically has 2 to 3 kinds of vegetables with his lunch. Favorites are Persian cucumbers (with the skins on, served whole – bought at the farmer’s market or Trader Joe’s) regular cucumbers (peeled and sliced) carrots (in a sealed cup, bought at Walmart) slice peppers (every color), and Seaweed Snacks – he can only have the sesame variety, the others contain sugar, our favorite brand is Trader Joe’s followed by Whole Foods and Annie Chung’s if we are desperate. On very special occasions Jem gets a small portion of fruit for lunch, one of the following: 2 slices of persimmon, the short rounded variety, five blueberries, a half of a banana, 4 blackberries, one small wedge of watermelon, a cutie orange, one dwarf sugar pair or spoonful of pomegranate seeds. Too much of any fruit makes him behave like a drunk.
Dinner: Usually this meal consists of a protein, a carb and 2 vegetables of different colors, sometimes 3. Protein is generally turkey or chicken, but occasionally we have salmon. Turkey is served as meatloaf, meatballs, cutlets that are breaded to make nuggets, turkey legs, and ground turkey as hamburgers. Chicken is served as chicken legs, whole roasted chicken, meatballs, breaded to make nuggets, stuffed breasts, pounded breasts that are rolled around vegetables (the pounded chicken recipe on this blog), grilled, boiled, broiled and sauteed. Salmon is served in a pasta salad, in patties and straight out of the can when desperate (we buy Trader Joe’s)
Carbohydrates: Jem loves brown rice this year and loves to eat it plain. He also is very big on baked sweet potatoes, rice sticks (noodles from Trader Joe’s) and brown rice noodles. He loves rice cakes, especially with red pepper hummus (Tribes) or with Tahini Sauce (Trader Joe’s).
Vegetables: Trader Joe’s Frozen Broccoli, cooked carrots, green beans (inside pounded chicken or cooked with Trader Joe’s tri color peppers) acorn squash, peas, snow peas, snap peas, fresh peppers of all colors, cucumbers (see lunch), grilled portobello mushrooms, sliced raw white mushrooms, baby peppers, and occasionally a small amount of lettuce.
When we eat out Jem gets a Subway Salad with lettuce and spinach, green peppers, cucumbers, cilantro, olives and three pieces of their oval shaped grilled chicken, not cut up. He likes to make faces on the chicken using olives and peppers before he eats them! If we go to a regular restaurant I generally ask the kitchen to cook him some chicken in a separate clean pan using only olive oil and salt, and we ask for steamed veggies or he gets the salad bar, focusing on the same things he would eat in a subway salad, but adding shredded carrots to the playlist.
Bubbies Pickles are a current favorite treat as well as Nana’s Banana Bars. Jem still loves puffed brown rice cereal (Arrowhead Mills) served with carrot juice, and he has recently discovered cashews, walnuts and macadamia nuts, but he is allergic to almonds.
To drink Jem generally has plain bottled water (Arrowhead) but he loves “bubble water”, Seltzer that has no sugar or artificial sweeteners. We like Arrowhead, Crystal Geyser and this summer in N.Y. we had Poland Springs and a Price Chopper variety that came in Vanilla! Yum. Every once in a while he will ask to make “Pink Lemonade” with bubble water, some fresh lemon juice and a dash of water from a can of salt free beets.
That’s what my kid eats. You can see that it requires very little prep, but a fair amount of shopping. My boy eats well, his meals are colorful and balanced and I am rarely in the kitchen for longer than 15 minutes preparing meals.
Tags: Autism Diet, Holiday autism diet, Shannon Penrod
By Shannon Penrod
Did you know that for years the Hubble telescope took thousands of pictures and delivered millions of bits of data all of which was measured and calculated. Maps were drawn, conclusions were made, theories were spun and conclusions were derived all from that data. Then they discovered there was a tiny flaw in the telescope and they realized that all of the data was skewed. The conclusions were wrong, the theories were off and the maps were useless. What does this have to do with a blog about food and autism? Everything.
Whenever I talk to parents about switching their child’s diet I am met with fear and sometimes resistance, especially during the holidays. Come on, admit it, none of wants to be without our special treats for the holidays. And we certainly don’t want to take those goodies away from our kids, it’s not fair and it will certainly cause a ruckus and who wants that during the holidays? Well, here’s the $64,000 question – What if that kind of thinking is just as skewed as the Hubble telescope. What if all of our desire to eat treats during the holidays and let our children do the same is tied to misinformation?
What?? How could that be? Sugar laden, wheat and cheese things make the holidays! They bring us joy and make our hearts light! I always fill better and more in a giving spirit after I overindulged in sweats, don’t you? Okay, I’m being sarcastic but you see my point. We have all linked up in our heads that it isn’t an enjoyable holiday unless we eat certain things…..but is that true? Is it true for us? Is it true for our kids? I don’t think so.
If I eat sugar I feel like crap. Sorry, but I don’t want to mince words. I don’t feel good the whole next day. One piece of cake and my Happy Holiday is pretty much in the bathroom. For my child, one taste of wheat and he loses the ability to speak. No joke. So giving him a bite of a gluten filled cookies is not something that leads to a happy joyous holiday. I know what you’re thinking….your kid isn’t as sensitive as mine. That may be true. But does your child behave better or worse after eating a bunch of wheat, sugar and artificial colors? I have been to birthday parties. I have seen the terror and mayhem that happens after the cake has been cut and served to children who are not as sensitive as mine. I’m just saying…
Food for thought this holiday…Is your Hubble telescope sending accurate data?
Tags: Getting kids to eat vegetables, Healthy snacks for kids, picky eaters, Shannon Penrod, tips to get kids to eat vegetables, Vegetables on a GFCF diet
By Shannon Penrod
When my son was 2 I took him to Ikea. I wasn’t planning on being there long but they had a ball pit that my son crawled into and would not get out of…literally for hours. When he finally did come out he was starving. We went to their cafeteria and I ordered a huge plate of steamed veggies for myself and some mac and cheese for my son. This was a good six months before we ever even heard of the GFCF diet. The worker have me the heaping plate of veggies and told me that the mac and cheese would probably be 10 minutes. I took my son and sat down at a table.
Before we even sat down he was shoving vegetables in his mouth so fast I had to tell him to slow down. He kept jamming vegetables in his mouth and I noticed that everyone in the place was staring at us. I was still a relatively new mom and not all that secure in my parenting. All I could think was they must have thought my child’s table manners were atrocious, or that I never fed him!
Eventually the mac and cheese showed up and I ordered more veggies for myself, as my son had eaten most of mine. He was now happily eating macaroni and cheese haven forgotten about the veggies. That’s when four woman came over to the table and asked me what my trick was for getting a small child to eat vegetables. They had been staring because they had never seen a child eat vegetables without being forced! I told them the truth. When children are hungry they will eat vegetables.
Okay, there’s a little more to it than that, but it’s the main theme. Feed them veggies when they are hungry and don’t give them other choices. I have a lot of children come in and out of my house for play dates. All of their moms assure me that they don’t eat vegetables anywhere but my house. Here’s my reality, I don’t offer a snackapalousa. I let them get hungry. I’m not talking about starving anybody, but I don’t offer snacks. I wait until they ask for them, and then I generally make them wait another 15-30 minutes before giving the snack. When I do offer the snack it is cute up raw vegetables. If your child won’t eat vegetables don’t make the mistake of starting them out on cooked veggies.
Did you know that kids have more taste buds than adults? Apparently we are all born with a certain number of taste buds and over time they become less sensitive. So small children can be overwhelmed easily with intense flavors. When you overcook vegetables they become bitter, not to you and I because our tastebuds are dead, but to little kids it’s a powerful bad. So start with fresh, crunchy vegetables and don’t bury them in ranch dressing, salsa and or salt. I cut up cucumbers, carrots and all different colored peppers and I keep them in bags ready for someone to say, “I’m hungry!”
Now here’s the hard part, when you tell the kids that all you have is the veggies they are going to say they don’t want them. That’s a reality. They are going to ask for something else. Wouldn’t you? This is when you have to straighten your spine and look them right in the eye and say, “Sorry, that’s all we have. If you’re really hungry you’ll have to eat that.” And then stick to it.
I have a friend with three boys who couldn’t take the traffic in her kitchen when she was making dinner. Three boys in and out asking for something to eat, while she was cooking, was making her crazy. So she had the brilliant idea to put a plate of veggies out before she started cooking. It took a week of the boys refusing the veggies and being turned away empty handed before they decided to cave in. Then they ate the veggies like ravenous dogs. My friend sat down to dinner every night knowing that she didn’t have to harangue her kids about eating their vegetables, because they had just eaten several servings of veg right before dinner.
I love the idea of sneaking vegetable in where kids don’t see them too. I’m all for filling a meatloaf with ground brocoli and carrots. The truth is though that you can get your children to eat vegetables if it’s all you offer them. When I think back to the Ikea incident, if the mac and cheese had been ready on time, my son probably wouldn’t have noticed the vegetables. It’s all about timing and sticking to the idea of only offering vegetables for snacks.
They say we should be making sure that our kids get 3-5 servings of vegetables a day. Did you notice that I didn’t say fruit or vegetables? Fruit is important but eating 5 fruits a day sets you up for diabetes and other health issues. But who can get 3-5 servings of veg down their kid’s throats daily? I don’t know ANYONE who can do it solely at meal time. It’s a really tall order. But it can be done in snacks. Give it a try! Our kids are worth it.
Tags: Butterball gluten free, Cooking a turkey GFCF, GFCF Turkey, Gluten Free Turkey, Shannon Penrod, Thanksgiving GFCF
By Shannon Penrod
Okay, last Thanksgiving was almost a total disaster. We were moving – literally finished hauling the last box at 5pm on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving only to discover that the washing machine wasn’t working in our new condo. Thanksgiving eve, which I like to spend cooking, prepping and watching a good movie was spent at the laundromat and then searching through half un-packed boxes for the turkey roaster. It wasn’t the best of circumstances, to say the least. But at least we had groceries.
At two o’clock in the morning on Tuesday I had gone to an all night grocery store to get all the fixin’s I could and the rest my husband brought from Whole Foods Market, where he works. It’s a really good thing when your husband works for a grocery store and even better when it’s Whole Foods Market. But I do still buy certain items from a typical grocery store and last year I made the silly decision to buy a turkey from Stater Bros. My intention was to buy a Better Ball turkey which I knew were GFCF, but of course they were all gone. I bought whatever the store brand was, and thoroughly questioned the half asleep clerk, who was almost of no help – but who assured me that all turkeys were GFCF. What can I tell you? I was exhausted and I wanted to believe her. I bought the turkey and vowed to call the number on the package the next day.
I didn’t call the next day – I was busy moving and having a breakdown. It didn’t even occur to me that I hadn’t called until I was basting the turkey at 2pm on Thanksgiving day. So I called and what do you know? – it had gluten in it! There I am with a cooked bird and no dinner for my child who is looking at me with puppy dog eyes telling me what I already know – I promised him turkey legs for dinner!
Arggggh! Thank goodness for Whole Foods Market, I called my hubbie (he was still at work) and asked him to bring home two gluten free turkey legs. They had them, of course, and my son was thrilled. The holiday was saved. The gluten turkey went to my friends dogs. But I swore that would never happen again. This year I have my Butter Ball turkey in the freezer, and I called their hot line already to make sure that they are still GFCF; they are(except for some turkeys that come with gravy).
My favorite way to cook turkey is to defrost it in the refridgerator starting on Tuesday. The morning of I wash the turkey thoroughly and remove all of the extra parts like the neck and giblets. Then I rub olive oil all over the bird, inside and out. We call it giving the bird a massage. I take an organic orange and prick it about 10 times with a fork and pop it into the turkey’s body cavity, then I take another orange prick it all over and stuff it into the neck cavity. I insert fresh thyme, rosemary and sage leaves just under the skin on the breast of the turkey and rub the leaves and some salt all over the outside of the bird. Then I place the turkey BREAST SIDE DOWN into a roasting pan that has carrots, onions and garlic lying in the bottom. Breast side down is the opposite of how all the typical pictures demonstrate, but it makes for a moister turkey. I cover the turkey and bake it according to the instructions on the package, although I only baste once or twice. The oranges do all the work for you! The result is a delicious, moist turkey!
Happy Gluten Free Thanksgiving!!
Tags: Applegate Farms Bologna, Brown rice Tortillas, GFCF Lunches, GFCF sandwiches, Shannon Penrod
By Shannon Penrod
The older my son gets, and the more recovered he gets, the more he notices what the kids at his lunch table think. This is a quality problem. On the one hand I want to tell him not to worry what they think, but the truth is it’s part of his recovery to take their thoughts into consideration. So while it used to be “cool” with my son to take seaweed snacks in his lunch box now it is “not cool” because one of the girls said they were weird. Heaven help me that I not only have to pack a nutritious GFCF meal, I now have to pack one that passes inspection from a snotty 7 year old girl who thinks that flame colored cheetos are healthy! Thank goodness I like a challenge!
I have found a few things that are really helpful to pass the little girl lunch police. Applegate Farms lunch meats are GFCF, they taste good, they smell good and they look like regular cold cuts with none of the crap. No nitrates, no fillers, nothing but turkey and water. You can even get it in bologna flavor! Hah! Take that cheeto girl!
Jem’s favorite lunch is now bologna wrap – using a brown rice tortilla from Food for Life. I throw some sliced cucumbers in a bag, some baby carrots in another bag, a bottle of water and an ice bag and I have an easy GFCF lunch that passes everyone’s test, including Jem’s.
By Shannon Penrod
The other day I ran into a woman I had not seen in years. The last time I saw her was shortly after my son was diagnosed with Autism. We had begun having therapy sessions at a local business that specialized in early intervention using a “Floortime” Approach. Jem was 2 1/2, and had lost almost all of his language. After speaking in full sentences he was down to five words that he would use sparingly. I was terrified.
He was in a group of eight kids and he was by far the most severe. He couldn’t sit in the circle with the other kids. He screamed as if he was being peeled. It was terrible. So terrible that I have blocked most of it out. But I ran into the parent of one of the other children the other day. Jem was with me and I could see in her eyes that she didn’t believe that it was the same child. She asked me a question and he pipped up and answered, telling her all about his friends in class and how glad he was that it was Friday because he didn’t have any homework for the weekend. The mom looked at me with tears in her eyes and asked me what the secret to our success was.
I didn’t hesitate. I told her that the diet was first. When we started GFCF Jem started gaining five new words a day. Being GFCF opened the door for him to be teachable. Without it we could have done everything under the sun and I don’t think we would have been successful. I have always believed that on a gut level. I didn’t understand the science behind it until I went to the recent DAN Conference, now I understand why it is true.
But ultimately I followed my gut, we did the diet and it started our child on the road toward recovery. We also got the very best ABA imaginable and we did some biomedical intervention. But you know how Oprah always asks her guests “What’s the one thing you know for sure?” The one thing I know for sure is that the GFCF diet made it possible for the ABA to work and made it possible for us to get through some of the negative side effects of biomedical intervention so we could enjoy the benefits. The GFCF diet is the bedrock on which we built our son’s intervention, without it I think it’s very possible we wouldn’t have gotten our child back.
I can not know what is right for your child. You need to look to your own gut for that. But I do know that if you have read this far, you are either GFCF or considering it. I am begging you to follow your gut. For your sake and for your child’s sake. It’s incredibly doable and the rough transition will be over before you know it. Please follow your gut.