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.

GFCF Chicken Nuggets -Egg Free!

February 14, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Posted in GFCF, YUM | 2 Comments
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Okay – you have decided to go GFCF – But what do you feed your kid? Never fear – This recipe will be a staple, even my husband loves them!
There are 2 different versions one with egg one without – today the egg free!

Egg Free, GFCF Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients:
Canola Oil – for frying
Boneless Chicken or Turkey sliced 1/2 thick or less – cut them big or small to make strips or nuggets.
Namaste Sugar Free Pizza Crust mix
Salt to taste

Directions:
Make sure the meat is fairly uniform in thickness, rinse and pat dry. Cut the meat into strips or chunks (whichever your child prefers), put about 3/4 of a cup of the pizza dough mix into a quart sized zip lock bag. Place some of the meat into the bag and close securely. Shake the bag until the meat is completely coated. I have my child do this and we sing “Shake your Turkey” to the KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Shake, Shake, Shake” tune. He loves it.

Heat some canola oil in the heaviest pan you own. Make sure that you keep the heat at medium so you don’t set off the smoke alarm like I do! Place the coated meat into the pan once the oil is hot. There should only be enough oil to cook one side. Let them cook while you shake another batch. Turn the  meat when the top side is almost completely white and the bottom side is crispy brown. Only flip once. When both sides are done let them drain on a clean white dish towel and add salt to taste. The first time you might want to crack one open just to make sure the inside is done – if it isn’t you need to reduce your heat and cook longer. Serve after they have cooled slightly.

If you drain them sufficiently they travel well – I take them to birthday parties and on car trips with a cold pack. You can microwave them to heat them up – 20 seconds does the job.

We make chicken nuggets often but we also make turkey nuggets  – I buy Trader Joe’s sliced turkey cutlets and cut them into strips – it takes seconds to get them in the pan. We buy the Namaste Sugar Free Pizza Dough mix at Whole Food’s Market and Lassen’s Health Foods. The Pizza Crust Mix is a staple in our kitchen we use it for everything from pizza crust to pretzels.- It is a God send!

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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