Monday, April 11, 2011

Gluten-free Chicken Nuggets

I found this recipe in Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, and you know what that means folks--you will get broccoli in your children! I made some changes to make it safe for William, and my kids go ballistic over them. I just need a nice recipe for homemade ketchup, now. :)

Broccoli Chicken Nuggets

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 bunch broccoli
1 egg
1 c gluten-free flour of choice
1/2 c flax seed meal
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder (I've found that McCormick's spices are generally safe)
olive oil for pan

1.  Chop broccoli coarsely, add to boiling water, turn down heat to med-high. Cook 10-12 minutes. Remove before broccoli starts to lose its color. Drain, reserve some water.

2. Put broccoli in food processor and puree about 2 minutes, adding water from broccoli (or use fresh, but the broccoli water has all the nutrients in it lost from boiling) as necessary to achieve desired consistency. Set aside, let cool.

3. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.

4. Lightly beat egg in a separate mixing bowl and add broccoli puree.

5. Dredge chicken through egg/broccoli mixture, then through flour mixture. Heat oil over medium heat.

6. Cook chicken nuggets until browned on outside and no longer pink on inside, about 10 minutes, turning nuggets once or twice.

The whole thing, start to finish, takes about 40 minutes, and less if your puree is made ahead of time. Jessica Seinfeld will tell you she makes all her purees at the beginning of the week, puts them in ziploc bags, dates them, and freezes or refrigerates them, and they're ready to go. One of William's therapists even told me once to use baby food for this, if you're in a pinch. Good ideas, guys!

And thus concludes the recipe section of today's entry.

Question of the day: anybody have any great methods for knocking potential ear infections on their butts? I've got him on a great multivitamin and he likes garlicky foods, and I even give him oil of oregano when I think he's fighting something, but he's messing with something right now I can't seem to shake. He's not in ear infection territory yet, but I think he might be in a few days. I don't want to do another antibiotic! I'd love to hear suggestions.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cats and Bananas (um...not a recipe)

My parents are so cool.

My mom's been doing a ton of sewing for my kids, and her most recent "reveal" involved three skirts and a dress-up wedding dress/sparkly shawl combo for Nora with two tiaras, also a bunch of shirts and books and games. I mean, it's just beautiful stuff and I can't wait for her to wear it all. Nora wore her wedding dress around all evening, saying "I can wear this at my wedding!" So freaking cute.

For William, she made some beautiful pants that will be so comfy on him. He doesn't complain too much about jeans or the otherwise less comfy pants I make him wear, but he always acts so happy when he's wearing comfy pants. I mean, I know I'm happier in comfy pants. How would that not be multiplied by sensory issues? :)

My dad even got in on the fun, and as a very talented painter, decided to paint some t-shirts for William. He painted a Cat in the Hat on a gray shirt, and I swear, I had to study it to find evidence of it being paint--not screen printed. It is stunning. He also did a banana on a yellow shirt. William loves the banana shirt. He just wants to hold it and look at it. And when he saw the cat in the hat shirt, he said "hat."And then "cat-a-hat-a-hat-a-hat-a-cat-c-c-c-c-at-hat" in rapid fire until the syllables no longer made sense.

My parents are so cool.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hummus, Chicken/Rice Soup, Lasagna

I'm into fruit and hummus these days. Not together. Actually, I don't like hummus at all, but my husband and kids do, so I'm making a lot of it. :)

William doesn't like carrots. So he dips his carrots in hummus and licks it off. I'm hoping one of these days he accidentally gets a bite. Anyway, the garlic in it is helping him fight off all the new bugs going around. Anything that keeps away yet another ear infection is a keeper in my recipe book. Plus, all the fiber from the chickpeas is doing very, very good things for him.

So here's my recipe.

Hummus, with variations
1 can rinsed chickpeas
1 tbsp gluten-free, soy-free tahini paste (probably won't say on front of package; you'll have to check ingredients for factory exposure information)
juice from 1/2 lemon
3 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. paprika
dash of ground cayenne pepper
olive oil

Blend everything together in the food processor except the olive oil. Pour oil in a steady stream through the feed tube with processor running, a few tablespoons at a time. Let it blend for a few seconds, and add more olive oil until desired consistency is reached.

Variations: Add a roasted red pepper or two, or olives, or spinach (maybe saute it first). I tried the roasted red pepper version the other night, and my husband had to go to bed to stop himself from eating the whole bunch of it. :) No really, that's what he said. *Note: it's really best if you serve it right away. Still great the next day, but it's sorta like homemade bread--best when it's still warm. Or, well, room temperature.

Super easy. The most time-consuming part of that is the cleanup. Unless you're in a different world from me and actually have a non-human dishwasher. :)

Also, here's a main dish I tried recently. My kids aren't much into soup or rice, so it didn't go over very well with them. But all my friends' kids love soup and rice, so I figure yours might, too. And I thought it was good.

Slow-Cooker Wild Rice Soup
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (1 c)
2 stalks celery, chopped (1 c)
3/4 uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 c)
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaes
1/2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel (the original recipe called for a full tsp., but I thought it was overpowering. If you like your lemon seasoning like *kapow!*, you might use the whole tsp.)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 chicken breast halves, with bone (2-1/4 lbs. total)--I just used the boneless, skinless variety.
3 14-oz. cans chicken broth (or a box and a half of Kitchen Basics--best chicken broth around, and yeast-free)
1/2 c snipped fresh parsley

1. In a 4-4/2 qt. slow cooker, combine carrots, celery, wild rice, onion, rosemary, bay leaves, lemon peel, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Top with chicken. Pour chicken broth over all.

2. Cover, cook on low 6-6 1/2 hours, or on high for 3 hours. Remove chicken and cool slightly. Discard rosemary sprig and bay leaves.

3. Cut chicken from bone; discard bones. Chop chicken and return to soup along with parsley. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

I thought it was a great soup. It's especially great for these unseasonably cold days we've been having, or even just when it's dark and rainy. I like soup on rainy days.

The last recipe I'm sharing with you today is another family favorite. This is a good recipe for entertaining, and all of us with restrictive diets know how important it is to be able to entertain with food "normal" people wouldn't find weird. This is certainly a break from the norm, but I've found that guests always really love it. And it gets my kids eating spinach. !!!!

Spinach Lasagna
1 box rice lasagna, uncooked
1 jar gluten-free pasta sauce (I get Rao's homemade, sort of expensive and might be only local around here, but it's seriously the best sauce I've had that isn't Mom's. Amy's is really good, too.)
1 box frozen spinach, thawed (in a pinch, it's fine to throw it in frozen; just takes longer)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can red kidney beans
1 can chickpeas
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
water or olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add spinach, and cook for a minute or two (or, if you've added it frozen, saute until completely thawed and heated through).

3. In a food processor, blend both cans of beans and salt. Gradually add water or oil in a steady stream until desired consistency is reached.

4. Set up a lasagna-assembly station: 9x13 baking pan, blended beans, spinach mixture, sauce, and uncooked lasagna noodles. Spread 1c of the sauce on bottom of baking pan. Layer noodles on top, spread with bean mixture, top with spinach mixture. Repeat layers until you run out of materials (I usually end up with 3 or 4 layers). Top with remaining sauce, cover with foil, and pop in oven for 1 hour.

We usually have tons left over, which makes lunches super easy for a few days. I usually pour a little extra sauce on leftovers before I heat them up, since this dish tends to dry out a little when it's been in the fridge.

In other news, William is totally rocking ABA. He's tolerating a toothbrush in his mouth for five seconds (which is a huge improvement) and saying "bubble" and "raisin" and pointing with one finger toward the specific foods he wants. And although he's probably the least verbal of anyone in the program so far, he's also one of the most social. His therapists have been very excited about his desire to be around and interact with the other children. These are incredible changes in him, and we're very, very hopeful about it all.

I hope your day is full of hope, too (and yummy things to eat). :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Food on the Table

One of the greatest challenges we have faced so far in our road to recovery with William is the restrictive diet we've had him on for eight months. I've bought a million cookbooks that are of little to no use to me, because the meals are either disgusting (to me or my kids), unhealthy, or unsafe for William. If I toss the cookbooks and go with packaged foods, we're spending three times what we normally do at the grocery store. So, since I end up adapting every recipe I find anyway, and we hardly have the budget for prepackaged gluten-free nonsense...I am sharing my own info for:

1. The parent who is overwhelmed by a $10 gluten-free frozen pizza.
2. The parent whose kid won't eat strawberries. Strawberries!
3. The parent who isn't excited about spaghetti squash.
4. The parent who is tired of spending hours every week researching recipes and then spending additional time adapting them.
5. The parent who refuses to feed his/her child french fries and Rice Chex for every meal.
6. And finally, the parent who is SO. HUNGRY.

From now on, my posts will also include my recipes for the week. Here's what I did this week:

Protein-Veggie Quinoa
This one is something I pulled out of the air when I was low on groceries and didn't have a car to get more. :) It can be a vegan dish as well if you use vegetable broth. I used quinoa instead of rice and threw in black beans and almonds to up the protein factor, but the veggies are interchangeable. In the future, I'm probably going to try roasted red peppers and cooked broccoli. Use what you've got on hand. My kids liked this. I actually liked this.

2 1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
2 c dried quinoa, washed well
1/2 c black beans
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 c baby spinach
1/2 c diced onion
1/4 c raw almonds, processed into coarse pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano

1. Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan. In the meantime, saute onions in hot olive oil, about two minutes.

2. Add almonds to onion saute. Saute for five additional minutes, or until onions are translucent and you can smell the almonds toasting.

3. Add quinoa to boiling broth, cover and reduce heat. Simmer on low to medium heat for 12 minutes.

4. Add onion/almond saute to quinoa. Add tomatoes, black beans, spices, and spinach. Keep mixture on heat until spinach has wilted, about 3-5 minutes.

It's quick, you know? A lot of these recipes require an investment of like an hour and a half. That's silly to me. Who has that kind of time?

Almond Chicken and Roasted Green Beans

I serve this with brown rice and a salad. William doesn't like salad, and we're trying to get him to fall back in love with green beans, but the rest of us enjoy it. Plus, if he decided to try some when we weren't looking, it wouldn't end badly. :) My kids always eat this up, and it's one of my husband's favorites. Prep time: 20 minutes. Total oven time: 45 minutes.

1 lb.-1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
3/4 c raw almonds
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. salt
2 c fresh green beans, washed, ends snipped, and snapped to 2-inch pieces
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Put almonds, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. rosemary in food processor. Process to fine crumbs, about 1 minute. Beat egg in small bowl. Pour crumbs into a separate, larger bowl. Set up breading station: egg bowl, crumbs bowl, baking pan sprayed with olive oil.

2. Butterfly breasts in half or pound them to 1/2 inch thickness. Dredge them through egg, crumbs, and position in baking pan. Bake 25-30 minutes.

3. While chicken is in the oven, put green beans in a mixing bowl and mix with olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Toss to coat. Cover baking sheet or jelly roll pan in foil, shake green beans out onto foil, trying to keep them in a single layer.

4. Pull out chicken and change heat to 400. Roast green beans 15 minutes.

We also ate a lot of pan-fried chicken and my homemade pesto this week over Tinkyada pasta. :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Yesterday was kind of an odd day for the little guy. While he's been very engaged and happy and giggly lately, he suddenly took a turn for the closed-off. We thought he was maybe toying with a virus or something. Figures. Anyway, I tried throughout the day to get him to look at me, stay on my lap and sing clumsily with me like he does. He wouldn't.

Just before bedtime, then, he was riding around on his little car when I caught his eye. He was saying something I couldn't really understand. "Sawww" or "swaaww" or something. George was like, "Star! That's right, buddy!"

I jumped on it. "Twinkle, twinkle, little star...," I sang loudly.

His glance stopped on my eyes, and suddenly, he was with us again.

"How I wonder what you are...," I continued.

Silence. But he looked off in a corner, so quietly, so pensively.


I didn't freak out. He's sung that part before, and lots. But it did make me smile. I felt like I hadn't seen this little guy all day.

"Tinko, tinko, wiwa taww."

George and I looked at each other. He'd heard the same thing I did, unbelievably. I mean, sometimes I think my mind fills in too many blanks and I end up the mother of, like, a nonverbal son, who thinks her little guy can spit out sentences. But he heard it too. I'm not crazy.

Oh, William. Sometimes I wonder what you are, but, end of the day, it doesn't even matter. You just shine so bright.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In Celebration of Love

I've always disliked this holiday. I mean, it's just so squishy and ooey gooey and is only allowed to be celebrated by people "in love." It always seemed cheesy and unfair to me, so from the very beginning of my relationship with my husband, I said we will not be celebrating Valentine's Day. He was like, awesome.

We will, however, be celebrating it from now on. This was the day William chose to say "I love you" for the first time. And he said it to me.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Good Enough

It's interesting how I think about my son.

I often times think about him as sickly, different, neurologically unhealthy. And then, when someone suffers loss or I become, for one reason or another, acutely aware of worse suffering in the world...I realize I have a healthy little family. It's not that autism "isn't so bad" or anything like that. It is. It's awful. But guess what? I've never sat at my kid's bedside in the hospital, pleading with God for his life. Maybe we're lucky, because plenty of parents of autistic kids have done it. But we have not suffered in that way, and for that, I'm thankful.

I think of autism and what it takes from us all the time. What I fail to think about is what it doesn't take from us, or what it actually gives us. To clarify that last part--I hate it when people say "God gave us autism because of A, or because he wanted B to happen, blah blah." That's nonsense. God didn't give us autism. He certainly didn't allow it so that we could find sweet little blessings within it. If he did, he's a sadistic, awful being in whom I have absolutely zero interest, unless you count the interest I'd have in his demise. No, God didn't go handing out autism and pick our son as a winner. Human greed messed up the earth, and my son's autism is a very sad result. But I think God blesses those who suffer. And He's blessed us immeasurably by giving him a beautiful mind, and making us daily witnesses to his brilliant intelligence and sweet spirit. That is certainly worthy of taking up space in my mind, and it doesn't nearly enough.

As I write this, William is learning to say, "help." He's playing with a little wind-up dump truck. Yeah, he's playing with it all wrong. You're supposed to wind it up and put it on the floor, watching it zip around the room and spin in circles. Instead, William just holds it and listens to the winding mechanism whir, and watches the wheels spin. I don't care. Know why? Because when it stops going, he hands it to me, looks me dead in the eye, and I make him sign "help." A few times, he's abandoned signing completely in order to whisper "help" in my ear. Well, it's more like "hep," but that's good enough for me.

All of this, right now, is good enough for me. It won't hold, I can guarantee that. But it is really, really good to have a moment like this.