Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Even Fruit Bats Like a Little Chocolate Now and Then

I am sorry to have been absent over the last month or two. Summer is in full swing around here and finding things for a bored 5 year old and an inquisitive 2 year old to do does not leave a lot of time for blogging. I have several posts I need to catch up on because I have been very busy in the kitchen!

I stumbled upon a recipe on Facebook a couple of weeks ago for a dairy free version of chocolate mousse. We try to encourage the kids to substitute fruit for a sugary dessert a lot of the time and they do so very willingly. It makes both me and my husband very proud that both of our kids would rather have kiwis or raspberries for dessert than a cookie. In fact, we have nicknamed them the "fruit bats" because they devour it like it is going out of style. But, like all of us, they enjoy having something sweet and decadent once in awhile. This dessert seemed perfect as a "Nate Friendly" dish.

It is called No Moo Chocolate Mousse and it came from a great blog I have recently discovered called 365glutenfree.com. The blogger's name is Andrew Cordova and he is publishing a new gluten free recipe every day this year. There are so many that I want to try in the near future, but this one really caught my eye because it brought back some great childhood memories. My family used to eat brunch every Sunday after church at the Officer's Club on base (my dad was in the Army for many years) and every week I would always look forward to the chocolate mousse they would have for dessert. It was something special that we couldn't get at home and it just seemed so elegant, served in a little glass dish with a dollop of whipped cream.

So, while I didn't have the fancy glass dishes (we used Gerber bowls), I wanted to make an elegant mousse that everyone in the family could enjoy and share in. Andrew's recipe looked quick and easy, which is what every mom or dad who is cooking for children wants to see! I whipped this up after dinner last night in about 10 minutes. I had already refrigerated the canned coconut milk so I didn't have to wait. This step is crucial because if you do not chill it you will not get the rich coconut creme that rises to the top as the water cools.

After scooping out the thick creme into a glass bowl I added the remaining ingredients and whisked it by hand for about 5 minutes. It was definitely not an easy task and I will probably rely on my electric mixer the next time I make this, but it was worth it! The mousse turned out amazingly light and fluffy, almost like a chocolate cloud. Both Nate and his big sister Olivia loved it and devoured every bite. My husband dipped graham crackers into his and declared it a winner.

And, as I am sure my daughter will be ecstatic to hear, you can even dip fruit in it! I think this recipe will become a family favorite. I hope you give it a try and check out Andrew's blog for more gluten free inspiration!

The Fruit Bats posed for a "post mousse" picture

 That smile is all I need to know that I did well!

Time to get ready for a bath!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bread? Why Not?

Bread. It is a staple in our diet. We can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I found out Nate had a wheat allergy, I had to give up bread while I was still breastfeeding. Let me tell you, that was one of the hardest things I have ever done! I never realized how much I loved it until I couldn't eat it anymore.
There are a lot of gluten free bread products out there that I tried during this time. Some are pretty good and others I wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole. Udi's Gluten Free Foods makes yummy tasting sandwich bread, but the slices are so small I feel like I am eating a mini-sandwich. I would usually eat two sandwiches just to feel full. And while I love using the Egg Replacer* (more on that in a minute) from Ener-G, I do not care for their bread. It tastes like cardboard to me and has a disturbingly chewy texture.

The other problem we were having at the time I wanted to introduce bread was that Nate developed an egg allergy as well. Many of the alternative bread companies made their products dairy free, not all of them take out the eggs. So I had to find another way to introduce him to bread. That is where my mom came in. She suggested King Arthur Flour (KAF)and their line of allergy friendly products that include everything from multi-purpose GF flour to GF muffin and bread mixes. All of the products I have used from KAF are also soy free and nut free, which is important because of Nate's peanut allergy and his sensitivity to soy.
On other occasions when I have made this bread, I used ground flax seed in place of the eggs. While you could use the Egg Replacer* product from Ener-G, KAF recommends the flax seed. It gives it a better texture and has a higher nutritional value.
Nate recently tested negative for his egg allergy, so we have received the green light to make his baked goods with eggs.  I thought I would try them in this new loaf I am making today.
 All you need is a box of the KAF GF bread mix, 3 eggs, 4 tbsp oil (or you can use margarine if there are no dairy allergies in your home) and 1 1/2 cups of water.
 There will be several different stages of allowing the dough to rise. You will have to let it sit in the mixing bowl for at least 30 minutes.
 Then transfer it to the baking pan you will be using, cover it with plastic wrap and follow the instructions on the box. I usually have to let mine sit for about 50 minutes.
 Then you will need to remove the plastic wrap and place it in a 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. Our house will start to smell amazing! There is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread!
I have had really good results with freezing this bread. You can slice it into sandwich sized pieces, wrap it in aluminum foil and then place it in a freezer bag. Then when you want a sandwich or some toast, you can pop out the slices you need, defrost them in your toaster or on the counter and enjoy!
                       Nathan likes his with some Polaner's All-Fruit Blueberry Spread. Delicious!!!!

*Egg Replacer from Ener-G is made from Potato Starch and Tapioca Flour, along with other leavening ingredients to mimic the effects of eggs in a variety of baked goods. Be forewarned, the texture will not be the same as it would be if you were using eggs, but it definitely gives you more opportunities for baking.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ice Cream Dream Come True

Ice Cream. It is a treat that just about everyone loves in one form or another. Most of us have no problem going to the grocery store or ice cream shop and picking out our favorite flavor . It's not that easy for a person with a dairy allergy. Places like Coldstone and Bruster's are pretty much off limits. Grocery stores are getting better, stocking soy based and coconut milk based desserts, which have definitely helped the food allergy community to enjoy dessert again. The only problem with these treats is the price tag. It costs a little over $5 for a pint of coconut milk based ice cream.  So I decided to try my hand at making some homemade coconut milk based ice cream for Nathan.

I took out my ice cream maker that I got as a wedding present many years ago (thanks Whitney and Jake!) and got to work. I had plenty of coconut milk to replace the cow's milk but most of the recipes I found also called for heavy cream which is a huge no-no in our world. I racked my brain for something I could add as a thickener to give the ice cream a little more substance. I decided to try out xantham gum, a staple ingredient in allergy friendly baking that I keep stocked in the pantry. After doing some research to determine how much I should add to my liquid, I was ready.

This is my recipe for homemade Coconut Milk Ice Cream:

2 cups Coconut Milk (I used So Delicious Original Coconut Milk)
2/3 cup of sugar (I will be experimenting in the future on alternative sugar substitutes (honey, agave)
1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp xantham gum

Whisk the coconut milk and sugar together until they are dissolved. Add vanilla. For the xantham gum, be sure to add a little at a time and whisk it thoroughly. It has a tendency to clump up quickly in liquid.
Add to ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's directions as far as how long to mix it and store it afterwards. Makes 1/2 quart.

Mine thickened up really well and looked so good only after about 15 minutes. After it was done, I put some in a bowl and then the rest went into a freezer safe container and was stored so it could harden a little.

Nate absolutely LOVED it and it made me feel good that I could finally give him a treat that I knew would not harm him in any way. There is something about watching your child eat ice cream for the first time that warms your heart!

 Getting his first taste

 Trying to lick the bowl!

That smile makes it all worth it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Inspiration

This is my inspiration for this blog: my son Nathan, AKA Nate. He was diagnosed with multiple food allergies when he was about 8 months old. In this picture, taken prior to his diagnosis, he has a large rash on his face that came from eating products with both wheat and dairy in them. I was also breastfeeding exclusively so he had been ingesting these ingredients, albeit in a more diluted form, since he was born. As you can imagine, I felt extreme Mommy guilt when I found out that I had been giving him the foods that attacked his body without really questioning the constant rash on his face or other symptoms that came and went. I just didn't know what to look for with regards to a food allergy.

After a full week of being up all night with him in early May 2011 and a very scary incident with a half swollen left eye from eating a teething biscuit, I went to my pediatrician. With my spirit broken and sleep deprivation setting in, I cried as I told her what had been going on. She immediately suggested that we see an allergist for some testing because something wasn't right with my baby boy. The allergist ran skin tests on Nate and found out he had multiple severe allergies to wheat and dairy, along with less severe allergies to green peas and green beans. We immediately cut out all of the offending foods from both his diet and mine since I was breastfeeding still. Almost overnight, you could see the change in him, both physically and behaviorally. His rash cleared up on his face for the first time in his entire life and he started sleeping through the night again.

After dealing with the guilt and the "why me" issues I had for awhile, I brushed myself off and realized that this little boy was depending on me to keep him healthy and feeling good while still eating yummy foods. So I started reading labels, researching food allergies and allergy friendly products, and talking to all of my friends. I am still so thankful to all of them who helped me get started because I really did not know what I was doing. They gave me cookbooks and magazines, referred me to helpful websites and shared their recipes with me. I started experimenting in the kitchen, making my own baby food purees and converting some of our favorite recipes into Allergy Free, Nate-Friendly recipes. By doing this, I rediscovered my love for cooking and now get excited about trying new recipes to feed the whole family.

Over the last 11 months or so, Nate has thrived. He is now a healthy, happy 19 month old who loves to pester his 5 year old sister Olivia, wave to every bird and dog he sees or hears and dance in circles. His wheat and dairy allergies are still severe and he has added eggs and peanuts to that list. He also has garlic and apple allergies that are less severe, while green peas and beans have faded. We are hoping and praying that all of these allergies will fade away with time, but until then I will continue to find ways to help Nate experience and enjoy many of the same foods that everyone else does!