Friday, June 13, 2008

Banana Bread

This recipe is amazingly similar to the wheat version! I altered my mom's recipe for Banana Nut Bread. So you can get ideas of how to alter a recipe, I'll make my next post to include the original recipe, the new, altered recipe, and explanations. Also in the picture is a banana muffin. I'll post that recipe later.

Wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free Banana Bread

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 c sugar

1 tsp baking powder, 1 T vinegar, 1 T water
1/4 c flaxseed meal + 1/2 c water

4 medium bananas

1 tsp soda

1 c oat flour(grind oats in a blender)

1 Tablespoon arrowroot starch

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 cup rice flour(I use 1/2 c white rice, 1/2 c brown rice, for more nutrition)

1 c Soul Dog gluten-free baking mix(see below)

1 tsp vanilla

Note: You can purchase flax seed meal, but flax seed offers the most nutrition when freshly ground. I grind flax seeds in my VitaMix. I've read about using spice grinders or coffee grinders. Anyone had good experience with those, or with using a blender? (My regular blender isn't working, so I can't test it out).

Combine flax and water, and set aside, for mixture to "gum up." Cream oil and sugar. Add vanilla and flaxseed meal mixture. Combine baking powder, vinegar and water and stir well, then add to mixture. Mix. Add bananas; mix well. Combine flours and baking soda. Add to wet mixture and mix. Bake 1 hour in 350 degree oven. Makes 2 loaves.

Note: I find this recipe works great in mini-loaf pans. The loaves freeze really well, too!

Note 2: If you're not used to digesting many legumes, this recipe may have too much bean flour for you. If you get gassy, you may need to cut down on proportion of bean flour, and increase rice or oat flour. Then gradually increase more legumes(beans) into your diet. They're nutritious and inexpensive!
Gluten-Free Baking Mix(Soul Dog)
Soul Dog is a gluten-free restaurant. It uses this mix cup for cup to replace wheat, except for bread.
21⁄3 cups chickpea flour
2⁄3 cup cornstarch
¼ cup sugar
3½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Store in airtight container. I recommend in the freezer or refrigerator.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rice Crispy Birthday Cake

Want an easy-to-make wheat-free cake? Try making rice crispy treats and throwing them in a cake pan! I use either non-dairy margarine spread or some sort of vegetable oil in place of butter. In the microwave, melt marshmallows and non-dairy margarine. (Just a little butter, you want a firm product). Then stir in rice crispies. Lots of rice crispies, you're going for a product that will hold its shape well when cool. Pack the mixture down into a cake pan, and let them set up before decorating. When ready, frost a thin layer(called a "crumb coat") of non-dairy frosting on the cake. Let the frosting harden. Then frost the cake again, and decorate.
Before I even had to deal with food allergies, I would routinely use rice crispies for cake decorating. As a child and teenager, I and my siblings would decorate cakes each year and enter them in the county fair. Sometimes our cakes would fall, or not rise satisfactorily, or fall apart when frosted. We found that rice crispies tended to make uniform cakes more consistently than the other cake recipes we used.
The image I've attached is of my daughter's birthday cake this year. We had a party at the park and served rice crispies! The kids enjoyed it. I found instructions off the internet for making the butterfly cut-out cake shape. You use a round cake pan and do a bit of cutting, then piece it together to make a butterfly. I used fruit roll-ups for the antennas.
To make non-dairy frosting, I find a frosting recipe, then use water instead of milk(or I use soymilk or rice milk), and then replace any margarine called for with vegetable shortening, or use both non-dairy margarine and vegetable shortening(this is more expensive, though).
NOTE: Make sure that the brand of rice crispies you use doesn't contain wheat. You never know until you check the label. Watch out for malt flavoring, malt extract, etc if you need gluten-free- this is usually derived from barley from what I understand. All the brands I'm aware of have malt in them.

Overwhelmed, or excited?

Adapting recipes to be non -wheat,-eggs,-nuts,-dairy is a whole new way of cooking! Sometimes I look at a recipe and I can work right through deciding on a substitute for each item needing a substitution. Other times, I look at a recipe, and feel, WOW, this is overwhelming. I think, "I can't use this recipe, I can't use [this item] or [that item]. I have recipe books checked out from the library that are free of the most common allergens, and I sometimes stare at them and think, "barley? I can't use that for my daughter," or "quinoa flakes? I don't have those." I know the authors specifically say that you need to be able to adapt recipes. But it definitely involves a whole new set of knowledge, or experience, or at least an optimistic attitude and patience.

Sometimes I really have that optimistic attitutude, and EXCITEMENT. The attitutude is that for each recipe that appears to be useless as it contains food allergens, there really are several possibilities of tweaking it, and maintaining a successful recipe. It's also the attitude that, hey, if this doesn't turn out that well, it's OK, sometimes that happens. And often flops can be utilized successfully in another recipe, which is fun and rewarding in and of itself. (ie: I make waffles and they stick to the waffle iron, so I scrape them off two hours later and make them into crumbs for breading chicken).

It really has been my hobby lately to experiment with substitutions and/or using new recipes. I'm learning about a whole new world of food. I often feel I want to know it all at once. I want to try this alternate flour or that alternate flour, this recipe or that goes so slowly sometimes, with two little children who need my attention most the time., and with SO MUCH TO DISCOVER! I often cook with my toddler. I enjoy being able to do this together, despite the additional stress of needing to stay on my toes before she dumps in this food or that food without being properly measured. She's an eager learner, and the type that naturally takes initiative rather than waiting for instructions. : )

"Your child is allergic to all that? WHAT does she EAT?"

My toddler was diagnosed with allergies to peanuts, dairy, eggs, and wheat when she was not yet 12 months old. It was good she was diagnosed so early, because she didn't know what she was missing when she saw someone with ice cream, for example, as she never had tried it. It was so frustrating, though, to see everyone else's growing babies and toddlers with little Gerber puff snacks(Veggie puffs, for example) or cheerios, or teething biscuits or goldfish crackers, and to read in the ingredient lists that each of these products had wheat or dairy! I found that MOST ALL of Gerber's baby products have wheat or dairy in them, other than the pure fruits or vegetables. Meat sticks? Contain whey. Sweet potato veggie puffs? Wheat starch. Arrowroot cookies? Wheat flour. Even many of the "dinner" combinations of stage 3 or 4 baby foods have wheat flour added, or have dairy products. Beyond baby foods, several products on the shelves have wheat added as a thickener, or have dairy of some sort, or have egg or nut. It can get so frustrating! However, I have found, over time, ways to get around these problems.

I discovered Gerber's apple wagonwheels(it's been a while, is that what they're called?) were fine for my daughter to eat. Also dried, dissolvable fruits or corn. I read the labels on several different brands of cold cereals, to find that Lucky Charms cereal had no wheat(note from Oct 2009- it Lucky Charms do have wheat currently), while any brand of Cheerios did contain wheat. Corn Chex has barley(which my daughter cannot have)(note from Oct 2009-Corn Chex is now Gluten-free, no barley malt) , but Rice Chex is just fine for her, as well as Kix. These, along with fruit snacks, became my daughter's little snack-on-the-go foods. I used cereal for snacks at home or even meals outside of breakfast.

As she got older, we had to find more foods for my daughter to eat. We found she really loved "potato pearls," a product similar, but different, from potato flakes. She loved to eat these dried potato granules in dry form! These were basically her staple food for awhile. And on trips away from home, these were so easy to take along with us for her stay at relatives houses. (note from Oct 2009, read labels carefully, at least one kind of potato pearls my daughter had did have an allergen, I think milk). My daughter likes oatmeal. Actually loved it every morning for quite awhile. (And she'd have it for meals other than breakfast, too). We also discovered she liked sweet potatoes. We would simply bake one potato in the microwave, dress it with olive oil and salt, and she'd eat it! Then she gravitated away from the sweet potato, but she likes regular baked potatoes, still with only olive oil and salt(now , at 2 1/2 yrs old, she uses barbecue sometimes, too). For awhile, my daughter ate a LOT of hot dogs, plain potato chips, cereal, and fruit. Not the greatest balanced foods, I know. Then she caught on to chicken drumsticks. Plain. All we had to do is boil them up for her, or even easier, just cook them in the microwave. No spices, no breading. She also enjoyed rice, chicken broth, olive oil(for added fat), and hamburger mixed together, for a space of time, as well as rice mixed simply with tomato sauce and sometimes hamburger. We discovered that she loves rice pasta(which is impressibly almost like the wheat version), though usually she will only eat it well when it's just been cooked. She really doesn't it leftovers of that very well. She seems to prefer it plain. Lately, she's not into it as much. I hear it's common for a toddler to really latch on to a food, then grow tired of it, or simply latch onto another one.

I was very happy when my toddler got used to rice milk. She wouldn't drink it at first. She would tolerate small amounts of soy milk, but we thought her frequent diarrhea might be connected to soy, so we stopped giving her soy for months. (We've brought it back and she seems just fine now). My husband got her to start drinking rice milk. She refused it until he brilliantly decided to drink it out of the carton in front of her and she mimicked him! I was, at first, a little upset that he drank out of the carton in front of her, but it actually got her to start drinking the milk! And then we got her to drink it out of a sippy cup. This was a good addition to her diet because we use enriched rice milk, which has calcium and various other important nutrients. Now that we give her soy, she also enjoys enriched soy milk and soy yogurt.

Basically, we have found foods for my toddler to enjoy, many of which are simple to prepare. As I've tried to actually cook or bake things special for her, she often hasn't cared for them anyway(ie: rice-vegetable stir fry, or pinto bean tamale soup). She didn't even eat cookies very much when I baked them, at first. I think she had to get used to the idea of eating cookies! What I'm trying to get at, is that it hasn't really done much for me to worry about cooking things special for toddler, other than staple whole foods. She likes simple foods. The motive and energy behind my learning to bake without her allergic foods was more for me, as I am breastfeeding her younger sister, and am going off of dairy, eggs, nuts, and limiting wheat consumption. I also wanted to combat my fear of "what if my children don't outgrow their allergies, how WILL they have nutritious, enjoyable diets?" And I wanted my child to start being able to experience the enjoyable treats other kids and adults experience. I don't know that my toddler will always be content with having fruit snacks instead of cupcakes at a birthday party. (note from oct 2009- my toddler as grown into a young girl who is open to trying new things, and eats well overall, with a very healthy range of nutritious foods from all four main food groups. She still likes simple, basic meals, like a complex carbohydrate(ie sweet potatoes, simply fried in canola oil), separate from a meat(like a hamburger simply cooked with wheat-free soy sauce, or a very lightly seasoned roast, which she likes to dip in barbeque sauce or ketchup), separate from a fruit(fresh, smoothie, juice), separate from a vegetable(she actually likes cauliflower(she grew to like it with soy sauce and now will eat it without as well), carrots, and cucumbers). She does like basic soups in which I cook ingredients together, for example, lentil, rice, drumstick soup with carrots and celery).

So, what does your baby or toddler eat, if they're allergic to wheat, eggs, dairy, and nuts? How have you dealt with efforts at providing balanced nutrition? I hear a lot about the importance of adequate fat in the diet before age 2. (Now that's a challenge without dairy, I welcome your ideas! note from Oct 2009- adding canola oil to vegetables, potatoes, etc is one idea. Also, I notice my little girl loves meat fat, and I don't hold her back from eating it) What has been your experience with your child and your doctors? Anyone have successful experiences working with a nutritionist? (I haven't gotten one for my child, but I wonder about getting one).

(note from October 2009- I have learned a lot about nutrition since this post- I strongly recommend Joneja's book "Dealing with Food Allergies in Babies and Children." I feel much more confident now in providing a nutritious diet for my children. See my front page on my blog, "recommended books."