Blood Orange Popsicles and Other GFCF Summer Goodies

July 11, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF, Recipes, YUM | 1 Comment
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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!

Autism, Diets and the Holidays

December 17, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF | 2 Comments
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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?

GFCF Pumpkin Cookies with No Sugar

October 15, 2010 at 12:46 am | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF, Mixes, Recipes, Yeast | Leave a comment
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By Shannon Penrod

‘Tis the season to bake scary treats for little goblins who want to share in the festivities but don’t want the fall out of gluten, casein, soy or SUGAR!  This is my newest treat.  I can’t say that the recipe is perfected yet, but this is a pretty good cookie considering the restrictions.  I started with a cake/cookie mix from The Craving’s Place.  This is the same mix I used for Jem’s birthday cake back in June.  The mix comes unsweetened giving you options based on your kid’s needs.  If your kid tolerates sugar, go for it!  I chose to sweeten Jem’s cookies with Earth’s Best pear baby food and carrot juice which added to the pureed pumpkin make these tasty but incredibly healthy, not to mention a lovely pumpkin color.

Ingredients:

1 Cup of The Cravings Place Unsweetened Cake/Cookie mix

1 4 oz. jar of Earth’s Best Pear Baby Food

1/2 Cup of pureed pumpkin

Approximately 1/4 cup of Carrot juice added slowly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the pumpkin and pears together.  Add the mix in slowly.  One tablespoon at a time add the carrot juice until all of the ingredients are moist but it is the equivalent of a paste.  Spoon on to a cookie sheet, press down with a fork and bake at 350 for about 6 minutes. Because these cookies have virtually no fat in them it is best to cook them on parchment paper to avoid sticking to the pan. Cookies should be firm to the touch but not hard.  Allow them to cool before removing from the cookie sheet.  This recipe makes about one dozen small cookies.  Please be advised that the cookie mix does contain corn ingredients.

These make a great lunch box treat and are wonderful to take along to Halloween parties so while the rest of the kids are stuffing their faces your child gets a treat too.

Shannon Penrod is the host of Everyday Autism Miracles on Toginet Radio.  She is also the author of The Autism Miracle in my Kitchen and three children’s books with her son Jem, who is seven years old and recovering from Autism.

Agar Agar…Who Knew???

June 7, 2010 at 1:34 am | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF, Mixes, Recipes, YUM | Leave a comment
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By Shannon Penrod

Okay, for years I have been telling parents, “The GFCF Diet is easier than you think!  We’ve been doing it for years and I don’t own any agar agar, I don’t even know what it is!”  This has been in answer to parents who say, “We haven’t tried the GFCF diet, it’s too hard.”  To me agar agar symbolized baking your own gfcf bread and spending hours in the kitchen preparing everything from scratch.  Agar agar scared me.  I’m not afraid to say it. 

Then last week a couple of things happened.  I had a guest on the Everyday Autism Miracles show who talked about a fabulous Mango Custard that had no sugar in it.  She had gotten the recipe at the Autism One Conference.  It sounded so good I wanted the recipe.  Click here to find it easily – and guess what it had in it? Agar agar!  Which kind of shook me up. 

Meanwhile, I was getting ready for my son’s 7th birthday party and I had foolishly decided to make the cakes myself.  He wanted Lego brick inspired cakes, which meant molding Lego candy bricks.  I knew I could do this for his friends but I didn’t plan on doing it for my son’s GFCF cake, after all that would be impossible, right?  On the web page where they listed the recipe for gummy Lego bricks there was a link to a vegan gummy candy recipe that I couldn’t resist  – and there it was, a gummy candy recipe with agar agar and fruit juice.  It was clear…I was being stalked by agar agar.

I caved in and bought some agar agar and I made some gummy bricks with pear juice (heavily diluted).  I was certain they weren’t going to gel, so I used way to much agar agar and I didn’t tint them at all.  They did gel beautifully!  Next time I am going to tint them with beet juice and blueberry juice,  YUM!  My kid was thrilled.  He calls them his “seaweed candy”. 

Next time I am also going to use a lot less agar agar so they are more gelatinous.  The cake was from a mix that was sugar-free, I added shredded carrots and pear juice to sweeten it and the filling was the left over agar agar and pear sauce mixed with sliced bananas.  I frosted it with red pepper humus, gross, I know!  But I can’t wait to experiment with making a frosting with the agar agar.  Maybe even frosting it with the mango custard!  And now I know what I am going to use to make rice crispy treats…agar, agar!  Who knew it was a girl’s best friend? 

Did I mention it is also really good for kids with Autism?  It’s alkaline, packed with protein and easier to digest than typical gelatin.  And it’s vegetarian.  My son is not a vegetarian but he only eats things with two feet or less.  Typical gelatin is derived from four-footed animals.

Yeast, Autism and Sugar, Connecting the Dots

May 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF, Yeast | 2 Comments
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By Shannon Penrod

I’m very fond of saying, “I’m not an Autism expert but I’m an expert in my kid.”  One thing I know for sure, my child’s Autism is related to yeast.  I don’t need to argue it, you don’t have to believe me, but I know it’s true for my child.  I don’t know what’s true for your child.  I know that my child was a normally developing child until he had his first infection and took his first antibiotic.  Then he began to lose language like water running through a sieve.  As a parent it was like watching a car accident in slow motion.  We have been putting the pieces back together ever since. 

We have been extremely lucky; we have a luscious little boy who is a social butterfly, is academically on target and has a divine sense of humor.  However, our son’s ability to connect with the world came at a cost.  There have been countless hours of ABA therapy which have made all the difference in the world, but I can tell you honestly that when my son’s diet isn’t right there is no amount of therapy that can reach him.  At first I thought “diet” just meant GFCF.  Then I realised that I needed to remove potatoes, then corn, that’s when I read about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  Since then a lot of foods have been sidelined from my child’s diet.  Here’s the bottom line, anything that can convert to sugar in my child’s system leads to erratic, compulsive, crazy behavior.  Give my kid an orange and one hour later he’s like a drunk who stayed at the party way too long.  Sometimes he is the happy drunk, other times maudlin, or aggressive, or simply “checked out”. 

Sugar feeds yeast.  Yeast is a living thing, it grows when fed.  Here is sucky part, if you don’t feed it, it grows too.  If you starve yeast it grows in an attempt to save it’s self.  This is known as “die off”.  It’s why when you pull sugar out of your kid’s diet they are even more miserable for a while.  It’s hard enough to make the decision to limit your child’s diet and to prevent them from having all the “fun” crap (this is the appropriate technical term for non nutritive, colorful, sugar laden food) that we all enjoyed as kids, it is even harder to stick to the decision when your child’s behavior worsens as a result.  I know for me it was the seventh ring of hell.  Fortunately when I was at the end of my rope, a friend explained die off to me and told me to hang on a little longer.  Four days later I was able to have my first conversation with my child.  I can tell you that there is nothing better than being able to converse with my child.  Sure there is always a moment at birthday parties when they haul out the cake and I have a twinge of regret that my child doesn’t get to participate in the fun.  But then I thank God for the fact that it isn’t a peanut allergy and I remind myself that he can have his cake or he can be a part of the world around him.  That’s when I hand him a gluten free, sugar free cookie with no artificial sweeteners or colors and I watch him talk to his friends. 

It took me a long time to connect the dots but I’m glad I did.  If yeast is an issue for you, I strongly urge you to look at the sugars (natural and otherwise) in your child’s diet.

Shannon Penrod is the host of Everyday Autism Miracles on the HerInsight Network.  She is an author, speaker and coach and most importantly the mother of a six year old recovering from Autism.  You can subscribe to the free podcast of Everyday Autism miracles on iTunes or download it here.

GFCF Pretzels Using Namaste Pizza Crust

April 22, 2010 at 4:41 am | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF, Mixes, Namaste Contest, Recipes, Yeast, YUM | Leave a comment
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by Shannon Penrod

Before we went GFCF my son loved pretzels.  When we started the diet I looked for a substitute and we found the Ener-C pretzels, they were expensive but they worked, he loved them.  Then when we started working with our DAN Doctor he asked us to remove all soy, well that meant the Ener-C pretzels were out.  We switched to another brand then, I’m not sure which, it may have been Glutino.  Whatever it was had yeast in it and when we eliminated yeast from our son’s diet we effectively eliminated store bought pretzels.  That’s when I started making them out of Namaste Pizza Crust mix!  The make really nice chewy pretzels, you can add kosher salt before putting them in the oven for a real authentic soft pretzel.

The consistency of the dough is key to making pretzels.  It needs to be about the same consistency as Play-Doh.  Gushy enough to roll into a ball, but not so wet that it sticks to your hands is perfect.  At my altitude this is about one cup of Namaste Sugar-Free Pizza Dough Mix and 3 tablespoons of water.  Add the water slowly so you can see what works for you.  Mix the dough and then separate into two pieces.  Roll 1/2 of the dough between your hands to create a long tube.  Once you have it in a tube, place it on a piece of wax paper and gently knead the dough making it longer and thinner.  The spices in the mix will make it impossible to continue rolling it between your hands without breaking so slowly work the dough out with your fingers, smooshing it back together if it breaks or cracks.  One you have reached the desired length (about a foot) take both ends and cross them attaching the ends inside, like a pretzel. If the pretzel breaks just smoosh it back together, they are very forgiving before you cook them. Do the same with the other half of the dough and then transfer the two pretzels to a baking sheet.  Cooking on parchment paper is ideal but not necessary.  Sprinkle with kosher salt if desired.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 6 minutes, do not burn or even let them get very brown. One cup makes two large pretzels!

Shannon Penrod is the host of Everyday Autism Miracles on www.toginet.com.  The show airs live every Friday at  2pm EST/11am PST.  Free podcasts of the show are availabe at www.toginet.com/shows/everydayautismmiracles or you can subscribe to the free podcast on iTunes.

The GFCF Adventure -Reparenting Ourselves

March 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF | Leave a comment
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This blog was originally written in December of 2007, but I wanted to repost it after watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Food is such a big deal. To all of us. When did it stop being about nutrition and become about fitting in and feeling comfortable and feeling LOVED? I hope Jamie Oliver can be helpful in reparenting all of us where food is concerned. I am still working on it.

Dec. 14, 2007

We went to a holiday party tonight and one of my son’s friends (they are both 4 1/2) gleefully broke her roll in two pieces and a placed one half on my son’s plate. She said, “Here, a Christmas present for you!” and she smiled like she had bestowed the Frankincense and the myrrh! I tried really hard not to over react. I wanted to sand blast his plate, to make sure it was crumb free, but I was really aware of my son watching my reaction, so I asked him, “Is that something you can eat?” He looked at me and looked at her and then said sheepishly, “No, I can’t eat that.” Then there was a long conversation with the little girl about how some people can’t eat certain things. We started listing off the things that my son can’t eat – but for everything I said that he couldn’t eat, he told her something that he could eat – completely without prompting – and that was when it occurred to me that I might be doing a better job raising him than I am raising myself.

I’m always trying to put things in terms of what he can do instead of the opposite… but there I was listing all the things he couldn’t eat, while he reminded me of all the things he can eat. Later on in the night he suddenly launched himself at me and gave me a huge hug and a slobbery kiss as he said. “I love you Mama!” right before he ran off to play with his friends. I was reminded of what an adventure we are on. And adventures aren’t always easy – but they are always worthwile!

No Sugar, No Artificial Colors, Pink Lemonade

March 19, 2010 at 6:54 am | Posted in Birthday Parties, Recipes | Leave a comment

This weekend we get to welcome in SPRING!  Already the days are longer and here in Southern California they are warmer.  Today Jem asked me if we could make Pink Lemonade.  This is an easy to make refreshing drink that doesn’t cause and wild behaviors and he thinks of it as a big treat.  If you are ambitious you can steam your own organic beets to make to coloring.  I don’t have that kind of time so I just use a splash of liquid from a can of salt free beets.  I sometimes take some of this to a birthday party.  The rest of the kids have punch and his drink is just as colorful without all of the side effects.

GFCF Corn Free Popcorn

March 5, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF, Mixes, Namaste Contest, Recipes, Yeast, YUM | Leave a comment
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Listen, when I say that I can make almost anything out of Namaste’s Sugar Free Pizza Crust, I’m not kidding!  Someone asked me the other day if I work for Namaste, because I’m always talking about it – here’s the sad truth – I don’t work for them I just love their stuff.  If your kid has as many dietary restrictions as mine, you’ll love it too.  Jem can’t have corn – it is too starchy and converts to sugar in his system and where there’s sugar – there’s yeast.  A little corn and I have a drunk elf – seriously he acts and smells like he’s been to a bar.  So, no corn – what do you do on movie day at school when all the other munchkins are dining on popcorn?  I make pop corn out of pizza dough! 

I take one cup of Namaste’s Sugar Free Pizza crust mix and slowly add water one tablespoon at a time to get the right consistency, today it took 8 tablespoons of water (it can vary greatly depending on the humidity where I live)  The dough needs to be wet, but not soupy.   It needs to be wet enough to spoon it on to a cookie tray in small globs that will remain slightly spiky.  It should look like big popcorn.

Bake at 400 degrees for only a couple of minutes – Don’t bother walking away.  You need to bake it long enough to dry the dough out, but not long enough to brown.  My oven runs hot and I am at altitude so it only takes about 4 minutes.  Keep an eye on your oven the first time to time it – nobody likes burnt popcorn.  I serve it as is, but you can add salt if you like.  It’s good hot, cold or room temperature and it travels well!

What can YOU do with Namaste Pizza Crust Mix?  Enter the recipe contest on Everyday Autism Miracles and you could win a prize and have your recipe featured in Namaste’s new cook book!

GFCF and Birthday Parties

March 15, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF, Mixes | 1 Comment
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By Shannon Penrod

Birthday parties!  It’s enough to  make any parent of a child on a special diet run for cover.  When your kid is GFCF it can make you want to run into the street screaming with your hair on fire! 

If you’re willing to let go of some of your “preconcieved notions of birthday party fun” you can actually negotiate the dietary restriction thing easily and enjoy yourself at the party  – and your kid can have a good time too!

The first step is to have a plan.  This is SOOOO important.  Talk to the parent throwing the party and ask what they are planning on serving.  I go to a lot of kid’s birthday parties and the menus are fairly limited.  Usually it’s pizza, hot dogs, corn dogs, chicken nuggets or hamburgers for the meal. topped off with cake and or ice cream for dessert.  Often there is a Pinata full of candy.  Sometimes there are chips, veggies, salsa, fruit and occasionally a salad.  Most of which my kid can’t have.

I always pack as if there is going to be NOTHING for my child to eat. And I always tell the host/hostess that I will be bringing his food.  It saves everyone time and worry.  Ultimately it prevents dietary accidents too!

100_52861I try to take something similar to what they are serving – today I am going to a pizza party so I am taking his pizza. (Namaste pizza crust with broccoli, carrots, peppers and Shelton’s turkey hot dogs, sometimes I put shredded beets on now that Jem doesn’t have tomatoes anymore.)

If they are having hot dogs, I precook some Shelton’s hot dogs, chicken nuggets I make GFCF nuggets by coating sliced chicken with the pizza crust mix.  Corn dogs I coat the cooked dogs with pizza crust and either bake or fry them. 

They make and sell GFCF corn dogs and chicken nuggets but they all have either sugar, corn, potato or soy – none of which Jem can eat.

100_5289For a cake subtitute I take a birthday cookie.  This is made from GFCF pancakes, which are stacked and cut into a shape.  I have cookie cutters for every occasion that do this trick.  I put the “cookie” in a festive cupcake wrapper so it looks special.

Over the years Jem’s diet has changed so much, and the plan has had to change as well.  I used to take a bag of GFCF pretzels and a bag of grapes with me to every party – when they were cut from his diet I had to have a new plan.  For the most part Jem knows what he can’t have, although he is much more vocal about not having sugar than he is about not having gluten, or milk.  Sugar actually comes up more often with all the candy that is freely offered to children.

I try whenever possible, and it isn’t always possible, to think ahead.  Its so much easier to make his birthday party food when the present is already wrapped and the card is already signed.  Hectic makes me resentful.  If on the morning of the party I have to wrap the present get him to sign the card and get his food ready I start resenting everyone who doesn’t have to pack a GFCF pizza in their purse. I try not to go there by thinking ahead.

Lastly, I always, always, always take water to a party.  I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten to a party and all they had was juice, soda and or milk.

A word about mental preperation… when children ask why my son is eating different food I tell them he can’t eat their food, that it makes him sick.  Usually the will say, “Like an allergy?” and I say, “Yes, just like an allergy.”  

When an adult asks me, I tell them that if my son eats those foods he literally looses the ability to communicate– sometimes for days.  For my child this is true.  It stops the conversation and I no longer have to justify myself.

Jem loves going to birthday parties.  He loves to look at the cake and I usually let him take a picture of it with my camera.  He loves to watch the kids eat it and asks to see what color it turns their tongues.  He does this while he happily noshes on his birthday cookie.  He does notice that his food is different, and that is a wonderful thing for a boy recovering from autism.  He will sometimes even ask the kids what their food tastes like. 

I could waste time feeling sad about it, instead I rejoice in the language he uses and the glorious, glorious questions he asks.  And the fact that when the meal is over he skips off to play with his friends.  That makes it all worthwhile!

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