Saturday, February 26, 2011

Vegetable Lasagna

This is one of our favorite lasagnas.  A friend gave us the recipe ages ago; I think she got it from Southern Living.  Speaking of which, what is the etiquette of posting recipes from books or magazines?  Should you not do it, or is it okay as long as you site the source?
Anyway, I digress.  This lasagna is relatively low fat and the vitamin C in the sweet potato allows your body to absorb the iron in the greens to a larger extent.  The flavors are fantastic.  You can make it with gluten-free lasagna noodles.  However the only GF lasagna noodles I have found are rice noodles, and I really don't like the taste of rice noodles.  In many lasagna recipes I use polenta instead, but that does not work in this recipe because it turns out too runny.  Instead I get some corkscrew or elbow corn GF noodles and just put them on the bottom of the dish.  You don't get the traditional lasagna layers, but you have all the same ingredients and tastes there.

Vegetable Lasagna

6 oz gluten free corn or quinoa noodles
1 1/2 obs fresh mustard greens or spinach
1 C minced sweet potato (use a food processor or grate it)
1/2 C finely chopped onion
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 C tomato sauce (canned works better than fresh in this recipe)
6 oz tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 C small curd cottage cheese, drained
1/2 lb mozzarella, grated (you may want to use more; but with no layers in this recipe you can get away with this amount)
1/4 C parmesan or asiago cheese, grated

Saute onion in oil until almost tender; add the sweet potato and continue cooking until all is tender, not brown.  Stir in greens and tomatos and oregano.
Cook the noodles according to instruction.
Put the noodles in the bottom of a 9x9 pan.  Then add tomato mix, then cottage cheese, followed by the other cheeses.  Bake 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Encouraging Signs

It seems like the last few times I have posted have been difficult times, with me just searching for the silver lining to the dark clouds.  And though the first few days after we started the new therapy exercises were days of childish behavior, H seems to have settled down and is acting pretty normal.  Now the good news: as we were doing homework tonight I had her correct the spelling of several geographical names in her social studies notebook.  She had the correct spelling on the map on one page, so she only had to copy it correctly onto the next page.  Several months ago when she had to do something similar, it was torture.  Horrible attitudes and only being able to keep two letters in her head at a time.  This would make spelling something like "Washington" take at least 5 steps, as she kept glancing from map to page.  Tonight she was able to keep 5 letters in her head at once, making "Washington" a two step process and "Arkansas" a one step process since she already had the first three letters correct.  She was also able to find one letter errors in words that I told her to check, something she could not have done two months ago.  I know this may not sound like much to you, but it really is huge.  And best of all, we are moving in the right direction!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cincinnati Chili

For February's Go Ahead Honey It's Gluten Free challenge I decided to make Cincinnati Chili.  It has chocolate in it, a must this month, but is a wonderful savory dish instead of sweet.  Cincinnati Chili has long been a favorite of my husband's.  (he says one of the reasons he married me was that he knew that even if the marriage was a bust, he would be well-fed.  ;-)  Thankfully we have a great marriage as well).  It is traditionally served over spagetti, with beans, cheese, and diced onions (if you want to get romantic, you might want to leave off the onions).  Though you can use gluten-free noodles I like to make a batch of polenta and eat it over that instead.  Add a good salad and you have a great meal!
ps-sorry for the lack of photos; as I am sure you have noticed, I am not very good with getting photos taken much less loaded onto the computer.

Cincinnati Chili
1 lb ground beef
2Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 bay leaf
3 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 ounce unsweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces tomato paste
1-2 cups water

Brown the meat and drain any fat.  Add all of the other ingredients and let simmer for a couple of hours.  Serve over pasta or polenta, with beans, cheese and chopped onions.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The sixth week-an update from the therapist

We saw H's therapist today.  I am completely exhausted, mostly from constantly telling H "sit down", "pay attention", "obey", or "use a big girl voice."  I have no idea why, but she was more out-of-control there than at home.  In spite of this, the therapist was also able to see some of the progress H has made and confirm some of the things H's teacher and myself have seen.  It was not as much progress as I had hoped we had made, but at least it was progress.  It was actually more progress than the therapist expected to see, I think.  She said it has helped that we have done the therapy every day.  As a consequence she gave us several new exercises to do at home.  One, which would be challenging to me, is to walk heal-to-toe while tossing a ball from hand to hand.  I can't wait to try this with H.  We also get to try a new game called "Blink".  I don't think she will like that as much.  Anything dealing with speed or timing tends to get her frustrated.  I will have to make sure she doesn't play against brother until she is good at it.  And unfortunately, we still have to practice the crawling, H's least favorite activity because it is so boring.  But I had an idea, that maybe we could give her headphones to listen to her favorite CD while she crawls.  That may make it more fun.
Good luck if you are dealing with this as well.  I am sure you are as exhausted as I am!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lawn Chemicals and Pressure-Treated Wood: the fifth week

It has now been almost 5 weeks since we started the therapy.  I decided to blog today rather than wait because something happened today that was both frustrating and encouraging.

The frustrating part was that we had a bad end to the day.  H. was having trouble focusing, sitting still, and kept coming back to a negative attitude of "I can't do this".  This was very surprising because she has been doing so well all week.  Now by "well" I mean that she did her homework without complaining, and I didn't have to sit right beside her all the time to keep her on task.  I still had to help her stay organized, I still had to help her study for her tests, I still had to chastise her about not writing down all her assignments, and I still had to send her back into school a couple of times when she didn't bring the right book home for her assignments.  The teacher still sent home notes saying H was acting silly or not following directions on tests very well.  But she did fairly well in her tests, did her homework, and had a good attitude at home.  Today when I picked her up from school she seemed to be reacting like normal.  But then I let her go play for an hour at a friend's yard.  After she came back and we tried to do homework, it was not fun.  Negative attitudes, constant distractions, constant moving.  She promises she didn't eat any treats or juices or food over there.  But she did eat some of the snow that had fallen last night and some of the icicles from their porch.  Groan.  I know the neighbors get their lawn treated monthly (we don't) and I know their porch is made with pressure treated wood.  You do know that pressure-treated wood has arsenic in it, right?  And that it is not allowed to be used for surfaces where eating will take place.  Of course the chemicals they put on lawns to kill all insect life and prevent seeds from sprouting are a whole other subject.  I can't prove that her behavioral change is due to an ingestion of these chemicals, but it seems suspicious to me.

So, that was the frustrating part.  The encouraging part?  That this regression in behavior has made me realize the huge difference between the way she has been this week and the way she was two months ago.  Again, I can't say for certain that these changes are due to the therapy.  It could be that she just matured and would have shown these positive changes anyway.  After all, her teacher and I have been working with her all year.  But again, it seems suspicious to me that we are seeing such a huge change now.  Now that we are doing therapy.  Even her teacher commented that "now that you are involved in her homework she is doing much better at school."  Huh?  I have been VERY involved in helping her at home since school began.  And considering how many times I have emailed the teacher or met with her in person I would think she would have realized that.  However it is only recently that her teacher noticed a difference.  By the next article on this subject I should have seen the therapist again.  It will be good to see what she says!

If you are coping with similar problems, my sympathies are with you!

Easy Crumb Pie Crust

This is the pie crust we use for almost anything but chicken pot pie.  The surprise ingredient is chex cereal.  Either rice or corn is good.  I like to use the chex cereal for crumbs for three reasons: it gives the crust a yummy taste, it is less expensive than buying GF cookies, and we almost always have some chex cereal around (I can't say the same thing for cookies).  It is so simple to just pour some chex cereal in a blender and make crumbs with it.  It also gives me something to do with the few tablespoons of left-over cereal crumbs in each box.  The most common pie I make with it is pumpkin pie; I use the Libby's recipe but with fresh (or frozen) pumpkin from my co-op box and with 1/3 the sugar.  I don't feel guilty with that pie since it is giving the kids some milk, eggs, and squash.  Another pie we like is a yogurt custard pie; again, fairly healthy.  For a real indulgence we make key lime pie.  It is my kids' absolute favorite, but it is loaded with sugar.  I use the Cook's Illustrated recipe.  It is better than any store-bought pie.

Speaking of which, can someone tell me the etiquette for posting recipes from cookbooks online?  I don't see it done very often, so I suspect it is not allowed.


Crumb Pie Crust
1 1/4 Cup chex cereal crumbs
5 Tablespoons butter, melted

Mix the cereal and butter.  Press it into the bottom and sides of the pie pan.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Allow it to cool before gently pouring in the pie filling.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Citrus Stir fry with Chicken

I rarely get to watch any TV shows these days, between watching 3 kids, working part time, and keeping a house in order.  So it was a treat to catch even the last 10 minutes of a cooking show on PBS last week.  I don't know which chef it was, but at the end of the show he quickly showed some of the things you can do with citrus fruit.  One in particular struck me as sounding yummy, which led to the following recipe.  I happened to have leftover chicken which I used in it, but you could use any meat you like.  My husband and I both loved the flavors in this dish.

Citrus Stir Fry
vegetable oil for stir fry
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
1 large or two small bell peppers, seeded and sliced
2 small oranges, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
2 cups cooked chicken
2 Tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch

Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, water, and cornstarch.  Set aside.
Heat oil in a wok or skillet.  When it starts to shimmer add in the onions and peppers.  Stir constantly, until onions begin to become translucent.  Add the oranges, peas, and chicken.  Stir for 1-2 minutes until everything is heated.  Add the soy sauce solution and remove from heat.  Serve with brown rice.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The fourth week

This week was similar to the second one in that there was a dramatic change half way through the week.  Thankfully, the change was for the better this time. 

Earlier in the week H. seemed to react to any type of discipline or stress in a particularly immature way.  She would start crying or shrink into herself when faced with any negative comment, and she actually bit someone at school to get their attention.  I called the therapist in a state of despair.  She told me that as the brain starts to re-work itself that the child will sometimes regress for a short time to earlier behaviors.  In other words, they react to things in a manner appropriate for a child whose age is the same as the age of a child who would normally be developing some of the brain connections that are being re-worked in your child right now.  I hope that makes sense.  In any case, by the end of the week H. was acting more normally, and was actually approaching the great behavior we were seeing at the end of the first week.  I doubt it is permanent, but I hope that it is!

Gluten Free bread

I am not a big bread eater.  So going gluten free four years ago was not a tramatic experience.  The things I missed the most were pizza and pancakes, for which I fairly quickly found recipes.  I didn't, and mostly still don't, miss bread.  I find savory pancakes or corn tortillas are great substitutes for bread when making sandwiches.  However my daughter loves toast and though I let her have wheat, I try to keep it to a minimum.  So I have occassionally played with gluten-free bread recipes (my favorite is from Gluten-Free Mommy).  The problem with all these recipes is that they contain xanthum gum.  I have never enjoyed xanthum gum.  I know it is supposed to be fine to eat, but there is something about bacterial slime that is not appealing to me.  I keep waiting to hear that large quantities of it are dangerous, similar to the history of aspartame.  So a while back when I was changing around Shauna's biscuit recipe and turned out a biscuit that held together really well, I thought it might work for a small loaf of bread.  And it does!  This bread uses the congealing ability of buckwheat, flax, and oats to hold it together.  Because it uses so many whole-grains/seeds, the resulting product has alot of flavor.  And it is so easy to make!  The main thing you have to be careful about when making this bread is letting it rise too much; you want it to only increase in size by about half, instead of the usual double.  If it rises too much you end up with a crack running horizontally through your bread.

Guten Free Brown bread

1/4 C warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 C ground flax seed
1/2 C oat flour
1/2 C buckwheat flour
1/2 C tapioca flour
1/2 C white rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3/4 C buttermilk or yogurt (milk will work as well)
2 Tablespoons butter

Mix water, yeast and sugar.  Let it sit until it is bubbly; when that happens, mix in the flax seed and continue to stir it for about 2 minutes.  It will be like a slurry. 
In the meantime mix together the oat, buckwheat, tapioca and white rice flour along with the baking powder and salt.  Mix in the egg and buttermilk/yogurt.  Mix in the yeast slurry.  Lastly, melt the butter and mix it into the bread dough.  It should have the consistency of thick cake batter.
Pour it into a greased loaf pan.  Cover and let it sit until its size has increased by half.  Then bake it in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  Let it cool before you take it out of the pan.