The Secret of Everything

January 31, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Posted in GFCF | 3 Comments
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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.

GFCF Chicken Meatballs

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!

What’s For Dinner Tonight?

August 6, 2010 at 12:14 am | Posted in GFCF, Recipes, Staples, YUM | Leave a comment
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by Shannon Penrod

A friend and fellow “Autism Mom”  called me last month and asked we what was for dinner that night.  I didn’t have a good answer, in fact, I didn’t have an answer at all.  I felt embarrassed, like I had failed in motherly duties.  But it got me thinking about how I plan meals and how I cook for my son.  I’m big into improvisation. 

I know I need a protein, a carb and a vegetable – within that format I like to play.  Over the last month I took some pictures of dinners, to document what I cooked.  Here are just a few of the easy prep improvisations I pumped out with little planning and almost no fuss!

The first one I like to call “Can Salad” this is when you have no fresh food in the house and don’t feel like slaving over a hot stove.  Okay the nutritional value isn’t the same as fresh food, but it’s not as bad as eating fast food either.  I included kidney beans, sauerkraut, olives, sliced beets, italian green beans, hummus on rice cake and some canned salmon.

The next dinner was a twist on tuna noodle casserole, with rice sticks, olives, tuna and olive oil.  Sometimes I make this with salmon and add a splash of lemon juice. It requires salt but Jem loves the texture of the rice sticks and they are easy to make.  I get mine at Trader Joes. The garnish is cucumber and carrot.

The last is one of our staple meals, Shelton’s Hot Dogs with carrots, hummus on a rice cake, and some left over rice noodles with olives and peas.  The eyes are black olives also.

I like improvisation.  I probably should know what’s for dinner every night before 4:45, but in truth this way seems to work best for me.

Traveling with a Kid on GFCF

June 26, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Posted in GFCF, Staples | Leave a comment
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by Shannon Penrod

I always tell people the GFCF diet is not hard, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  I like to keep things simple, fast and easy.  Nothing else seems to work in my life.  It’s the same principle I apply to traveling.  We are getting ready to take the longest “vacation” we have been on since my son was born.  I say “vacation” because the reality is that I will be working while my husband and my son will “vacation” right near me.  Vacationing or even being away from home can be a real adventure, especially when there are dietary restrictions.  There are several things that I like to do to smooth the way.

1. Call ahead and get the lay of the land.  I googled health food stores in Owego, NY (that’s were we will be for the first 13 days) and found a wonderful shop called The Mustard Seed.  I called and introduced myself, told them when I was coming and asked if they had my core staples.  I was in great luck!  Erik, the helpful clerk on duty, was able to confirm that they have my son’s bread (Food for Life brown rice, yeast free) his brown rice tortillas (also Food for Life) and they carry Namaste mixes!  They do not carry my son’s hot dogs (Shelton’s Chicken and Turkey) but are looking into getting them.  And while they do not carry the red pepper hommus that we are addicted to (Cedar’s), they do carry a different brand from Emerald Valley that is also gluten free, I can’t wait to try it.  I also got the great news that they are open 7 days a week so we can get what we need even on Sunday!  Yeah!  I feel so much better knowing that I’m not going to be attempting to smuggle a case of brown rice bread onto the plane!

2. Have a restaurant back up, mine is Subway!  Subway’s grilled chicken is gluten-free, did you know?  When ever we need a quick meal out we head to Subway!  Thank goodness they are literally EVERYWHERE!  My son gets a salad with 3 chicken breasts.  I am always very specific with the sandwich artists about the fact that both my son and I are horribly allergic to wheat.  I ask them to put on fresh gloves and to refrain from touching bread while making our salads.  We have had great luck with this.  So whenever we travel I always make sure that I know where the Subway restaurants are.  As it turns out there are 3 Subways in Oswego, NY and one of them is within walking distance of the college campus where I will be teaching.  Life is good.

3. Get accommodations that suit your lifestyle.  For us having a refrigerator and at least a microwave is imperative.  Yes, a stove is even better, but a microwave will work for my family if it’s a fairly short period of time.

4. Pack something for the trip.  Years ago when we had only been GFCF for a few months we flew to Iowa to be there for my niece’s wedding.  Actually, that’s wrong, we TRIED to fly to Iowa – it didn’t quite play out the way we intended.  We ended up stranded in Denver after hours in the airport we ended up renting a car and driving the rest of the way.  It was the most hellish 48 hours of my life, BUT I did have a little cooler with food that my son could eat and that saved us.  I had no intention of being in Denver so I hadn’t researched ahead to find out what if anything was close to the airport. It didn’t matter.  I was covered.  Rice Cakes are lightweight inexpensive and a life saver when it comes to traveling.  I also cook hotdogs and then freeze them – they thaw slowly giving you a healthy window when you can eat them.  While on planes I ask the flight attendants for ice to keep them cold.  I learned the hard way that taking a gel pack presents a security nightmare.

Traveling with a GFCF kid may not be the easiest thing, but it beats the heck out of traveling with a kid that is in the middle of huge meltdown and unable to control or console himself.  I’d rather plan ahead and pack some rice cakes.

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.

Lazy Lemon Chicken Legs

April 8, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Posted in GFCF, Recipes, YUM | 2 Comments
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by Shannon Penrod

I admit it.  I am a lazy cook.  I like to do things the REALLY simple way.  I know some people think of the really simple way as going through the drive through at a fast food restaurant, but I don’t have the luxury of doing that on my son’s diet, and his diet makes the difference in him being able to talk and learn, so I’m not giving up on that!  But I don’t want to give up on keeping things simple either.  So over the years I’ve come up with some really easy recipes that get the job done.  This is a fav!  It takes less than 5 minutes to prep the chicken, about 45 minutes to cook it and makes enough for several meals!

Ingredients:

A jumbo package of chicken legs – you can remove the skin if you want (it’s healthier without it – but I’m lazy and leave it on)

One large lemon

1 tablespoon of dried basil

1/4 Cup olive oil or canola oi (you can mix them if you like)

Salt to taste

3 Cloves of garlic

Press the garlic cloves into a large bowl.  Juice the lemon into the bowl, add the basil and oil and salt.  It should smell great.  Rinse the chicken and toss 4 pieces at a time in the mixture. I don’t dry the chicken before tossing, that’s how lazy I am!  Toss the chicken and put it into a shallow baking dish.  Arrange the legs so you can fit in as many as possible!  Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes.  I don’t even turn the chicken.  When done the chicken should be a nice brown on top and bottom and the meat should be falling off the bone.  Check at least one piece to make sure that it is done at the bone.  The juices should run clear.  I remove the chicken from the pan almost immediately and let it cool on a clean white dish towel – this helps to drip grease and means that I can start soaking the pan almost immediately.  I always let the pan soak in hot soapy water overnight which makes for quick clean up the next morning.

The chicken is great hot or cold and packs well for picnics, as long as you bring napkins to clean hands afterward.  It’s great lazy cooking!

Natural Dye Easter Eggs

April 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Posted in GFCF, Recipes | 2 Comments
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by Shannon Penrod

Sometimes I have great ideas, other times they are just mediocre, and on occassion they are just big hairy losers. This week I decided to make natural dye Easter Eggs. Verdict: mostly big hairy loser with elements of mediocrity.

The mission: create colorful easter eggs using only edible natural elements to achieve the goal.

The method: boiling the eggs with vinegar and a color element. Blueberries for blue, beet juice for pink, spinach for green and turmeric for yellow.

The result: The turmeric eggs were beautiful, the blueberry eggs were gruesome, the beet eggs were bland and the spinach eggs just looked dirty!

But it was a well intentioned idea – and the yellow eggs were beautiful!

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!

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!

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