Saturday, September 29, 2012


Yes.  I'm still alive.  But it's been awhile...

My maternity leave is over in one short week.  


I know!!!!!  Where did the year go????????????

You guessed it... I'm heading back to work.  

In fact, I've sort of already started back to work in a sense.  I've been seeing just one client a week over the past month, but spending countless hours speaking with potential clients, preparing for evaluations, and organizing my materials that have been virtually untouched for over a year.  

And to be honest, I'm feeling super overwhelmed by it all.  

I gave myself a good month with both kids in daycare, prior to starting back to work.  My thought had been that I'd just relax, get things organized and just recover a bit from the stressful years we've had with the kids.  I thought I was being all smart and the like, giving myself a kid-free break before going back to work.  Unfortunately, I guess I hadn't realized quite how much work needed to be done before I actually started seeing clients.

And despite only seeing one client right now, I feel like I'm already having a hard time managing everything.  The house is a complete disaster (and our cleaning lady was here just yesterday!!!), I haven't cooked anything novel in weeks and I feel like I'm always getting back to clients waaaaaaaay later than I said I would.  If I don't actually forget to call them back entirely.

This was so not me in my previous life.

Lately, our days have been the type where, day after day, I've been scarfing down a bowl full of black bean soup, the crusts from my kids' bread and the tail end of a banana that they haven't finished for lunch.  I'm just now understanding why people eat the same things over and over and over again.  We've been living on a steady diet of black bean soup and red lentil and carrot soup with coconut.  In fact, I have a batch of the latter brewing in the crockpot upstairs as I type this.  Good thing both of my kids will now eat these soups :)

Last week, I ran to 6 different appointments between myself and the kids and next week I have 7 appointments and daycare is closed for a day.  The prospect of trying to juggle all of these appointments, all the while seeing clients and having enough time to do my paperwork is stressing me out more than I'd like to admit.  I can't quite figure out where the time is going to come from or how I am going to be able to make enough money to help pay for all of the kids' therapy.  My mind is constantly whirring and I'm having a hard time quieting it down these days.  Needless to say, I've been a bit of a stress ball lately and have been thinking I need to get back to some hard core yoga...

All that to say that my blogging is taking a bit of a back seat.  As is my cooking.  And that's ok.  If we eat soup for the rest of winter, we will survive.  My hope is that as I transition back to work, things will miraculously become a bit more manageable, as we settle into a new groove.  At least, that's what I keep telling myself... ;)  I'll try to post when I can, but I also have to prioritize other things in my life right now.  So check back when you can, but I probably won't be updating as often as I have been in the past little while.

Enough now with my life rant.  Time for a delicious recipe. 

I've been wanting to make this recipe for awhile.  Pretty much since last winter, when my kinesitherapist, Hilary gave it to me.  I finally got the motivation I needed to actually go ahead and make it a few weeks back when I accidentally left 6 pounds of ground beef defrosting on the floor in front of my freezer.  Luckily, I found it before it was too late to salvage it.  And I spent my weekend making this chili, mom's spaghetti sauce and my mom's delicious lasagna recipe, which I need to get around to posting one of these days.  Sooooo not what I had planned to do with an entire weekend, but I can't say that I mind having the freezer stocked with some gluten- and dairy-free meals for us. 

Though I love, love, love my mom's chili recipe, I have to admit that I find this one to be just as good.  Which says a lot because my mom's is pretty darned good.  This one has a bit more of a bite to it, which I love.  The mixture of the adobo peppers, beer and the addition of cumin gives this chili a wonderfully different flavour.

Now, I have this little issue with any recipe that calls for any form of hot peppers.  I somehow cannot, no matter how hard I try, avoid getting them in my eye.  I thought I had outsmarted the hot peppers this time.  I didn't touch the peppers at all - I took them out of the jar with a fork, cut them with a fork and knife and scooped them into the chili with a fork.  No hands involved.  And I thought I was completely safe.

Until I took my contacts out a little while later.  Holy #$%?!!!!!!!  Just a little tip to my readers: you should wash the pot in which you cooked the chili with gloves on...

Best Chili Ever

olive oil
2 1/2 lbs. ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken, buffalo or a mixture) (I clearly made mine with beef - baha!)
2 C diced onions
2 C diced bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. diced chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce (found in the ethnic aisle) 
2 29-ounce cans tomatoe sauce
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 29-ounce can dark kidney beans
11-12 ounces dark beer (Hilary used Guiness; I used La Messagère, gluten-free beer)
2-3 bay leaves
1 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. ground cayenne red pepper
2 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. finely chopped dark chocolate (or 70% cocoa)
2 tbsp. instant coffee grounds
chopped cilantro

Note: make sure that you have a really big pot for this recipe.  I used the biggest one I have and still ended up having to split it between two big pots.

1.  In a large pot over medium high heat, sauté the ground meat in olive oil until cooked.  Drain the meat and set aside.  

all 6 pounds of beef, that I fried up and split between different recipes

2.  In the same pot, sauté the onions and peppers until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and chipotle peppers and cook for another 2 minutes.  

3.  Add all remaining ingredients, except the chopped cilantro.  

be sure the chili isn't too close to the top before adding the beer, as it foams a bit

4.   Add the meat to the mixture.  

5.  Loosely cover the pot with a lid and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.  Remove the lid and continue to cook for another hour.  Allow it to simmer a bit longer if you'd like the sauce thicker.  

6.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the bay leaves.  Stir in the cilantro.

Serve with grated cheese and additional chopped cilantro and enjoy!

We love scooping this up with some delicious Neal Brothers organic blue tortilla chips with flax (the green bag) that we've found at our local health food store.  They're to die for!

Makes 10-12 servings.

Difficulty level: moderate

Friday, September 14, 2012

Authentic Cauliflower Cheese Soufflé

I have to admit that I am not the soufflé maker in our household.  Rather, it is my husband, Jérôme, who is the master soufflé chef.  In fact, so much so that he received a wonderful soufflé dish from our friends Brandi and Gilles for his 40th birthday.  Which he raced home and made a soufflé in the very next day.

Although Logan is turning into a master eater - he ate lasagna for dinner tonight and even asked for more!!! - there was a looooooooong period during which soufflé was one of the only foods he would eat.  Alternately with mom's mac and cheese.  Plus a few random things, like yogurt and crackers.  So Jérôme was making soufflés constantly for awhile there.

We tended to make them with cauliflower because Logan couldn't tell there were vegetables hidden in there.  But we also occasionally made a broccoli or zucchini soufflé instead (see bottom of post).  To simplify my life, I would steam the entire head of cauliflower or broccoli at once and freeze it in Ziploc bags in little soufflé-like portions.  This way, we could whip up a soufflé at a moment's notice when we had nothing left for Logan to eat. 

The vegetables need to be really well cooked for this recipe so that they will mash well and blend smoothly into the texture of the soufflé.  So you want to steam them well beyond how you would normally cook them if you were just going to eat them with dinner.  To save time, I steam them in the microwave, by placing cut pieces of cauliflower into a bowl with a bit of water and covering the bowl with a plate.  I then just keep checking the vegetables until they are super soft.  Then mash them as much as possible with a fork or potato masher.

Sadly, there is no soufflé eating going on in our household these days, now that we are gluten- and dairy-free.  Though I'm thinking that I may have to try to dream up a recipe that meets these criteria for Chloé, as she's getting to an age where she's old enough to start (hopefully!) enjoying these kinds of things. 

Soufflés sound really tricky.  People are terrified to make them.  But they're actually not as difficult as they seem.  You just need to beat the egg whites really well and be super gentle folding them into the other ingredients (no whipping!).  Another trick for success is to not prepare this in advance. The egg whites will begin to fall and your soufflé will not be a success.  Steps 3 and on need to be done just prior to putting this in the oven.

4 eggs, separated
béchamel sauce 
1 C mashed cauliflower or broccoli
1 Cgrated cheese (preferably Swiss, but any kind you like works)

1.  Prepare a béchamel sauce, following the instructions in this post here.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2.  Mix the steamed, mashed cauliflower and grated cheese into the béchamel sauce.
3.  Separate the eggs and set the yolks aside.  Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks, such as this:

4.  Mix the egg yolks into the béchamel sauce, one by one, being sure they are well incorporated.

5.  Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the béchamel.  This is what makes the soufflé rise.  If you are impatient and just stir everything together, you will not end up with a soufflé.  This is exactly why Jérôme is our soufflé maker around here - he has much more patience than I do!

For those who have no experience folding in egg whites, here's a video demonstrating the proper technique:

(omg I wish I could eat those lemon pancakes!!  I'd be making them tomorrow morning!)
6.  Butter a soufflé dish.  If you don't have a specific soufflé dish, any deep, round, relatively non-stick dish will do.  Buttering the dish well is extremely important, as the soufflé needs to be able to slide its way up the side of the dish as it rises. 

7.  Cook at 425 degrees Farenheit for approximately 30 minutes - we always find it takes a fair bit longer, but it will depend on your oven.  The most important part of making a soufflé, egg white folding aside, is to not open the oven door while it is cooking.  At all.  Not even a peek!  Use your oven light.  Otherwise, your soufflé will fall.  You will know that your soufflé is cooked when the top is nice and browned:

8.  Serve immediately upon taking out of the oven.  Even a successful soufflé will fall once it is taken out of the oven.  If you have company over, you want to have everyone sitting at the table before you've even taken this out of the oven.

Enjoy :) This goes super well with a spinach salad or with Brandi's salad.

Although it is not quite as delicious as when it comes right out of the oven, we did freeze this soufflé in Logan-sized portions to pull out over time as we needed them for him and it worked well for us. I didn't ever try it, so I'm not sure if it tastes quite as good after being frozen as it does straight out of the oven, but it's at least good enough for a kid ;)

Variation: You can replace the cauliflower with either steamed mashed broccoli or with grated zucchini, cooked in a pan.  We also sometimes put a bit of cubed ham in ours.  Or at least, we did, pre-picky eaters ;)

Difficulty level: moderate to difficult 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ten Tips for Picky/Resistant Eaters

Last weekend, I was at the market, paying for a cart loaded with fruits and vegetables, as Logan stuffed his face with strawberries faster than I could pass them to him.  The lady in front of us looked at my cart and said to me, "wow, he must be the best fed kid on earth".  And I just had to chuckle and think just how ironic it was that she said that.  Little did she know that he had been seen at the Pediatric Feeding Program just the day prior for resistant eating.

I just smiled politely and responded "yeah... he actually doesn't eat all that much".  To which she responded, "well, it looks like you give him lots of opportunities to see you eating good foods.  So I'm sure that he'll start eating well too".

This is the traditional wisdom around picky eaters.  Just keep presenting them with the foods they don't like and they will most likely eventually try them.  And probably even learn to like a few.  Unfortunately, this isn't quite as true for resistant eaters as it is for picky eaters (see here for a distinction between the two).  Though picky eating is a stage that most toddlers go through, without intervention, resistant eating persists beyond the toddler years.  Just being patient and waiting it out doesn't work with these kids.

The reason is that (at least in my opinion), a lot of these resistant eaters have some sort of issue that has contributed to feeding difficulties:  be it sensory problems, oral-motor difficulties, reflux, food intolerances, celiac disease, etc.

These kids need a special approach to encourage them to increase the types of foods they will eat over time.  Though people always say that a child will not starve themselves to death, in fact, 4-6% of children will not eat, regardless of their level of hunger (either because it is just too difficult for them, or because it hurts them too much).  

I wanted to share some of the tips for picky/resistant eaters that we've picked up along the way, to help out others who are experiencing feeding challenges with their little ones.  As much as we learned them in the context of our little resistant eater, I'm sure they'd be helpful for picky eaters too.

Our OT mentioned that there are 32 steps that a resistant child needs to go through before they will accept to eat a new food.  So clearly, eating can be a complex process for these children.  If you don't respect letting them slowly work their way up the hierarchy of steps, you are not going to be successful in having them accept new foods. 

Now, I don't know all of the steps just yet.  We are still learning and I'm sure that I'll do another post down the line as we learn new strategies to help our little guy.  But I wanted to share some of the things we have learned so far that have worked well for us.  We've gotten some of this info from our OT and some from the book Finicky Eaters:  What to do When Kids Won't Eat.  These are not things that you will necessarily have to do with every child.  But if your child is struggling with eating, I am pretty convinced that trying to incorporate some of these techniques might help.  Or, at least, it did for us.

1.  It is up to the child what and how much he eats.  No pressure should be placed on the child regarding whether or not he is eating or what he has chosen to eat from his plate.

I put this point first, as I feel that it is the cardinal rule.  If you don't follow this one, I think that you're only heading for more trouble with these tough kids who are already digging in their heels, not wanting to eat.

As I remember reading somewhere, it is your job as a parent to provide adequate and nutritious food to your children.  It is entirely the child's responsibility to decide whether or not to eat, what to eat of the foods that are offered, and how much.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have bit my lip, or perhaps even made a quick comment as someone sitting with us has repetitively said to Logan, "eat your chicken, Logan".  Eating needs to be pressure-free.  A non-issue.  You don't want to give any attention to what or how much the child is eating.  

Now, of course, I still pay attention to these things.  But I don't let on to Logan that I am paying any attention at all to his eating.  My attitude towards him is, "Eat if you want, don't if you don't.  That's fine."  Said in a way that conveys that he truly has the control regarding these decisions and that it's not secretly annoying me (even if sometimes it is!).  By the time he was maybe just past a year old, I had learned that he'll eat when he wants and that's just that.  And the recent feedback from the psychologist was that this was the perfect approach to take.  So if you are having struggles with your child not eating well and haven't taken this type of an approach yet, it's probably the first thing you want to try.

2.  Never, EVER put something into your child's mouth without his/her consent. 

This point ties in closely with point #1.  It is up to your child to determine whether or not he wants to eat.  Forcing him to eat something that he doesn't want to eat is only going to turn things into a power struggle and won't get you anywhere.  Imagine if someone randomly shoved something in your mouth that you didn't want to eat.  I'm sure you wouldn't be too happy either!!  

3.  Let your child play with his/her food.

Children need to be familiar with a new food before they will be willing to put it in their mouth.  We have let Logan play with his food from the get-go, but our OT has confirmed that this was a great thing to do.  We don't have many limits on what he does with his food, as long as he's not throwing it around the kitchen!!  In fact, sometimes McQueen and Mater even eat some of the foods that he doesn't want to.  

The psychologist who we recently saw the Feeding Clinic told us that she doesn't disagree with these types of techniques to help encourage feeding, and is also aware that this is a typical OT technique.  However, she also commented that we need to understand that this will create eventual behavioural challenges.  This was already evident to me.  At some point, we will have to lay our foot down with a "no more toys at the table" rule.  And I'm plenty ready to do that, once he is eating well.  In the meantime, I'm willing to allow it, on the grounds that it will apparently help him become more comfortable with putting new things in his mouth.

4.  Only put one new food on your child's plate at a time.

This helps decrease the child's anxiety with respect to trying new foods.  Given that there is no pressure to eat specific foods, the child can become exposed to a new food (repetitively), while still having enough food on his plate that he accepts eating.  

Our OT mentioned that, for these picky/resistant eaters, each way a food is cut or cooked is considered to be a "new food".  For instance, if the child eats steamed whole baby carrots, raw baby carrots, shredded carrots and diced carrots (raw or cooked) would all be considered to be a "new food".  So even though the child eats steamed whole baby carrots, if you steam baby carrots and cut them into pieces, this needs to be placed on the plate as the new food, alongside other foods the child already eats willingly.  

5.  Serve only a very small portion of new foods.

This way, your child will not feel overwhelmed at the prospect of a mountain of food that he doesn't like on his plate.  Keep in mind that you want to be serving a small child-sized portion and not a small portion for an adult.  For instance, when we introduced corn, I probably put 5-8 kernels on Logan's plate.  The child can always ask for more if they eat everything.  And you can progressively increase portion sizes as the child accepts the new food.
6.  Keep a little bowl on the side of your child's plate where he can put any foods that he doesn't want to be on his plate.

If the child won't accept a certain food on their plate, serve that food on their plate, but let them know that if they do not want to keep that food on their plate, they are welcome to put it into the bowl instead.  If they do not yet tolerate touching the food, encourage them to use a fork or other utensil.  The child will eventually come to tolerate the food being on their plate.  We were lucky that Logan began tolerating disliked foods on his plate very quickly after we introduced this.  Though I am sure there are other children who will be more resistant.

7.  Use a divided plate. 

My sister got Logan a "construction plate" for his birthday.  Which is essentially a fun divided plate with some fun utensils. This helped us immensely.  More than I could have imagined when she gave it to him.  The minute a piece of corn or a pea gets out of its own compartment, Logan's right there, guiding it back to its home.

8.  Model eating and enjoying varied foods.

In order to encourage Logan to try new foods without putting any specific pressure on him, we often talk about what we are eating during meals.  For instance, I may say to my husband "mmm, daddy, these peas are so good!  Do you like them too daddy?".  To which my husband will obviously respond "mmm... so good".  Now, clearly, this will only work with toddlers.  When Chloé is eating something new, I'll comment, "Look!  Chloé's eating a muffin!  She likes the muffin."  Without making it into a criticism that Logan won't eat that food or making it into a competition.  I simply say it as a passing comment.  And sure enough, he will sometimes pick up something new to try.  Sometimes, he picks it up, moves it towards his mouth and says "no".  And that's fine too.

8.  Use shaping to progressively work towards your feeding goals.

There is a bit of a pervasive belief in our society that when a child does something they shouldn't, they need to be told 'no', punished and told what they should have done.  While I don't disagree that children need both limits and consequences, there is no question in my mind that positive reinforcement is a much stronger tool than punishment.

We try to steer clear of any criticisms of what Logan isn't doing well at the table, but rather, reinforce any approximation of the behaviour we are working towards.  For instance, the other day when Logan picked up a cucumber and put it back down, I said to him "I like how you just picked up your cucumber".  Clearly, I would love for him to eat the darned thing.  But picking it up is one step closer to eating it than leaving it on his plate is.  

We will also make a really big deal out of him trying anything new.  For instance: "Daddy!  Did you see that??  Logan tried some peas!".  Or if he eats a lot of something he typically won't eat, I'll say to him, "Logan!!! Did you eat that all??", in disbelief:

The trick here is to use baby steps to work towards what you ultimately want the child to do.  And to praise, praise, praise every time the child gets one step closer.  This is something I know almost innately, from my career as a Speech-Language Pathologist.  And it can work for essentially any behaviour, if done consistently.  

The balance of positive to negative reinforcements should always be a minimum of 10:1.  Pay attention to your verbal interactions with your children.  Parents' instincts tend to be to comment on what the child is doing wrong.  For instance, to say "no pushing", instead of saying "gentle hands", or "I like how you were gentle with your sister".  For each time you give your child a negative reinforcement, such as "no pushing", he should hear 10 positive reinforcements.  And quite, honestly, I doubt there are many parents who meet that criteria (my husband and I included).  But we can do our best to strive towards this.

9.  Without putting too much pressure on the child, encourage him to try new foods - while redefining the meaning of the word "try".

"Trying" a new food does not necessarily mean putting it in your mouth and swallowing it.  There are many steps to get a child to eat a new food.  And you need to work your way up the hierarchy of these steps to get the child to accept trying the food.  You need to do something that is only one step more difficult for the child than what they can currently tolerate.  This is the only way that you will experience any success.

For instance, if the child cannot yet tolerate being in the same room as a food, expecting the child to eat that food is much too advanced of a goal.  A more reasonable goal would be working towards getting the child to accept being in the same room as that food, even it is has to be at the opposite end of the room.  If a child will not yet tolerate a food on his/her plate, that would be a reasonable goal to work towards, even if it only remains on the plate for a few seconds.   

For picky eaters, there can be up to 25 steps to work towards, in order to get the child to eat a new food.  For resistant eaters, there are up to 32 steps.  You need to analyze where your child's current comfort level is.  Some of the steps that can be encouraged with the child include:

  • smelling the food
  • touching the food with a finger
  • handing the food to someone else
  • kissing the food
  • licking the food
  • using the food as a "tool" for other foods (i.e. if the child doesn't eat carrots, but eats hummus, getting them to eat hummus off the the carrot without having to eat the carrot)
  • putting the food in the mouth and then spitting it back out
  • putting the food in the mouth and playing with it with your tongue
  • putting the food in the mouth, chewing it and then spitting it out
You can find more detailed information on these steps here.

We have been fortunate enough that we haven't had to do every step on the hierarcy.  We started by using a bowl next to his plate to get him to tolerate new foods on his plate.  From there, we were able to go straight to kissing foods.  We have had a routine of kissing all of our foods goodbye before we put them in garbage.  

You can see in the above video that Logan doesn't love the feeling of the foods on his lips, but he will tolerate them.  So we continue doing it, all the while praising him for kissing them. Logan very quickly started trying waaaaay more new foods when we began this kissing.  Some days, he would kiss something and then immediately say "Logan try" (which just flippin' blew me away!!).  This is how he fell in love with his new best friend, "guaccoli" (guacamole).  In fact, this is also how he began eating hummus, carrots, watermelon, peaches, red lentil soup... the list goes on. 

As a side note, had Logan not been tolerating the kissing relatively well, he would have been the one holding the spoon.  But this video was taken when we had already been doing this for awhile.

P.S.  Notice how he asked for dessert at the end of each video?  He so knows kissing is part of the routine to get him dessert.  As much as I did not want to EVER use dessert as a reward, we have been encouraged to do so by our OT, to help encourage him to do whatever step we are working on (i.e. kissing). 

We are now working more on having him hold things in his mouth for a second and spit it out.  He's more reluctant to do this, but we've managed to get him to do it a few times.  We make it into a game.  We all do it at the table and he ends up giggling and, often times, joining in.

In any case, each parent needs to decide what step is appropriate for their own child.  Keep in mind that, in choosing an appropriate stage, you need to consider not what you want the child to be able to do, but what he/she is currently able to do.  And you then need to pick a step that is only slightly more advanced than what he/she is able to do now.  If you pick something that is much more advanced than what the child is already able to do, you will be setting him up for failure.  This will only lead to increased stress for the child and the parents.

10.  For children with oral hypersensitivity, use desensitization techniques to increase tolerance of food in the mouth.

One last tip that is probably only pertinent to children who are having feeding issues due to sensory problems.  Logan's issues are related to a hypersensitivity in his mouth.  The feel of food in his mouth bothers him much more than other people.  Because he can actually feel the food in his mouth much more than we can.  He can gag and throw up on something as simple as a little piece of cracker in his mouth.  

In order to help desensitize his mouth, OT recommended we use a disposable vibrating toothbrush and start brushing the inside of the cheeks, tongue, palate, etc. You let them do it first and only do it if they accept it. No forcing of anything.  If the child does not yet accept a vibrating toothbrush, you can try brushing the inside of the mouth with a regular toothbrush.  And if the child won't let you do it, try to encourage them to do it themselves.  There also exist a few chewy toys that can help desensitize the mouth, such as the Nuk brush or chewy tubes.  We purchased a few of each of these so that the kids can always be wandering around the house, gnawing on these, giving themselves their own occupational therapy.

So there you have it.  This is what I've learned so far.  And I'm sure there will be lots more to come.

Using these techniques have gotten us a long way so far.  Like here:

and here:

 and here:

And, my absolute favourite, here:

And last night, Chloé even ate some red lentil and carrot soup with coconut milk (with the veggies puréed/grated) followed by a peach muffin.  And I almost died!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mexican-Style Chicken with Cilantro and Lemon

As fall knocks on our door, my kitchen is abustle with all sorts of freezer-friendly dishes and treats.  Chloé has been in full-time daycare for two weeks now, as I prepare my return to work.  The countdown is on:  26 days and 16 appointments left until I officially return to work...

I have been taking advantage of my free time this week to stock our freezer full of dairy-free and gluten-free food, now that we're on this new diet.  In passing, we gave up on our freezer challenge.  With all of our recent therapy costs, we decided that it was best to not get into any more renovations just now.  Which means that I can cook to my heart's delight!!

Earlier this week, I whipped up some delicious peanut butter cookies (and threw in some chopped peanuts this time to boot!), a vegan mac and cheese, these gf peach muffins, a new smoothie and pudding recipe, plus another twist on the banana soft serve - all of which I will post shortly.

Tomorrow's plans include a lasagna, red lentil and carrot soup with coconut milk, another batch of my delicious new super-powered granola bars (yes! we've eaten all of them AGAIN!), gf biscuits to go with the soup, a gf apple tart and... if I still have time... a batch of South American black bean soup.  Whew... just typing this out exhausts me.  But it'll be nice to have meals and treats in the freezer when I'm working and too busy to make anything.

I also made a batch of this Mexican chicken earlier this week.  Fall has gotten me back into pulling out my beloved slow cooker.  Beloved because most recipes are super quick and delicious.  And there's nothing better than coming home to a delicious smelling house when you've been out all day.

1/4 C raw pumpkin seeds
2 tsp. cumin seeds (I just used ground cumin and it worked fine)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 lbs. chicken pieces, skin on breasts, removed from legs and thighs
2 onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. crushed black peppercorn
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 to 2 serrano chilies, chopped
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 C cilantro leaves (you can use the stems here too)
1 tbsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 C condensed chicken broth (undiluted)
finely chopped cilantro and green onion
lemon zest

1.  In a skillet, over medium-high heat, toast pumpkin and cumin seeds, until pumpkin seeds are popping and cumin has released its flavour.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. 

2.  In the same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and brown in batches.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware.  Reduce heat to medium.  (Yeah... I skipped this step... no time...!).

3.  Add onions to pan and cook, stirring until softened.  Add garlic, tomato paste, salt, pepper, oregano, chili pepper, cinnamon and cilantro and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Transfer contents of pan to a food processor.  Add lemon zest and juice, chicken broth, pumpkin and cumin seeds and process until smooth.

4.  Pour sauce over chicken and cook on Low for 5 to 6 hours, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork.  When ready to serve, garnish with cilantro, green onion and lemon zest.

Serves 4 to 6.

Difficulty level: moderate  

Taken from: The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fat-Free, Sugar-Free Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

This simple recipe is just a twist on the chocolate banana spinach ice cream I recently posted.  Which is based on that delicious banana soft serve.

Strawberry banana is one of my all-time favourite combinations.  Right up there with chocolate and peanut butter.  I'd say that 90% of the smoothies I make are strawberry banana.  Strawberry banana yogurt, ice cream, this delicious strawberry banana bread... you name it.  So I had to tag this in amongst "Lindsay's favourites". 

We've been eating this every single day after dinner since I first made it.  I think I've made three batches in less than a week.

As with the chocolate version, this couldn't be easier to make (or healthier).

All it takes is 4 frozen bananas and about a cup of strawberries.  I used fresh, since they are in season, but I'm sure frozen would work well too.  If using frozen though, I think I would partially defrost prior to using, to be sure that they blend well (unless you want chunks).

First, I just stuck the strawberries in the food processor and blended until smooth.  You can also just pulse if you prefer to leave chunks.  But you know Logan and his food issues.  So no chunks for us.  That's ok.  I prefer it this way anyhow.

Then you throw in the frozen bananas

and mix until smooth.

See?  Couldn't be easier.

I decided to throw some chocolate chips into our first batch for Logan.  See, he's a bit selective in his texture issues.  He will sometimes branch out and try mixing textures if chocolate is involved.  So I am now using this as a way to encourage him to try mixing textures of foods.  Teehee...

I just threw in a handful of dark chocolate chips and stirred with a spoon.

Personally, I much prefer the version without chocolate.  I find the chocolate wrecks the whole delicious strawberry-banananess of it all.  And I've never really been a fan of chocolate chip ice cream anyhow.  Plus, Logan ended up just picking out the chocolate chips and eating only them.  In true Logan style.  So we've been back to the plain version ever since.

Ter, do you like how I'm putting my deli day skills to use?

As with the original version, you can either serve immediately as a soft serve, like in the picture, or place in the freezer to harden.  

Enjoy!!  I'm just back from zumba and think I'm gonna head upstairs to get a bowl of this.

Difficulty level: easy

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Difference Between a Picky Eater and a Resistant Eater

As I mentioned before, we've been seeing a lot of feeding changes around here lately.  In fact, I feel like we have been seeing monumental changes over the past couple of weeks.  Logan has been eating like a champ.  In fact, I feel like he does nothing BUT eat these days.  What a change!!  Chloé's had a bit of an insatiable appetite for everything these days too.

Yesterday, while we were apple picking, Logan ate 4 apples.  

No, that is not a typo.  

He actually ate 4 apples!!!  Including the skin!  

This is the kid who wouldn't even consistently eat an apple a few weeks ago.  He has, on a few completely random occasions, eaten the odd apple - but he generally refuses them when offered one.  Time will only tell if apple picking was just special incentive to eat some this time...

that's right - two at a time!!!
He has also miraculously begun loving corn on the cob this week:

This is the child who, up until recently, ate a very limited selection of foods and refused to try anything new.  At all.  Well, unless it was a new kind of cracker.  Or cereal.  Or ice cream.  And he would throw such wicked fits if we didn't just give him his preferred foods (such as hot dogs and crackers). 

I'm sure that some of these changes are due to tips we have gleaned from our OT, and from the book Finicky Eaters: What to Do When Kids Won't Eat, which our OT recommended to us.  

But I have to admit that I also feel that his eating has changed drastically since we cut gluten and dairy from his diet.  My gut tells me that the elimination of these foods has also contributed to the recent massive changes in eating we have been seeing lately.  I'm suspecting that he is truly intolerant to something or other.  But we will only know for certain whether or not he has any food intolerances once we have reintroduced these foods, in a few more weeks.

These days, I feel like Logan is almost more of a typical picky 2 year old than a resistant eater.  He now tolerates most anything on his plate, even if he doesn't always touch or taste it.  He doesn't gag on food nearly as much as he used to and he hasn't vomited while eating at all lately (thank goodness!).  He is sometimes willing to try new foods on his own.  In fact, he has incorporated the word "try" into his vocabulary, which is huge.  He actually asks us to let him try things now!! (as if we wouldn't!).  We can also sometimes negotiate with him to get him to try a tiny, tiny bite of things he doesn't want to.  And he doesn't freak out when he doesn't get exactly what he wants on his plate the way he used to.  

Mealtimes, though still noisy and chaotic, are much less stressful than they used to be, as he will often sit and eat little bits here and there instead of running around in a screaming, tantruming mess. 

In a later post, I will share some of the tips we have learned that have helped improve his eating.  

But first of all, I wanted to explain the distinction between a picky eater and a resistant eater.  This information comes from the book Finicky Eaters.  

Picky eaters don't eat a huge variety of foods.  They don't like to try new foods.  They have favourite foods that they prefer eating and complain when this is not what is served.  It is quite typical of toddlers to be picky eaters.  And I'm sure that every one of you can think of an adult you know who you would consider to be a picky eater. 

Resistant eaters are further down the severity continuum than picky eaters.  They are picky eaters to the extreme.  We are now in the realm of dysfunction.  Ernsperger and Stegan-Hanson (2004) have stated that "resistant eaters typically have an extreme reaction when presented with new or novel foods that continues even as they grow older".

Picky eaters, in comparison, are less intense in their food choices and in their reactions to novel foods.

The characteristics of a resistant eater are as follows (child demonstrates one or more of the following):

1.  Limited food selection.  Total of 10-15 foods or less.
2.  Limited food groups.  Refuses one or more food groups.
3.  Anxiety and/or tantrums when presented with new foods.  Gag or become ill when presented with new foods.
4.  Experiencing food jags.  Require one of more foods be present at every meal prepared in the same manner. 
5.  Diagnosed with a developmental disorder, such as Autism, Asperger's Syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified.  May also have a diagnosis of mental retardation.

Before I read this book, I knew that Logan was a picky eater.  And though I found his eating patterns caused stress in our lives, I didn't necessarily understand that it was abnormal or problematic.  I mean, my gut told that me it was, but everyone kept telling me that toddlers are picky and that it's just normal.  So I was somewhat conflicted between what my gut was telling me and what I was hearing from everyone else.

When I read this book, there was no more denying the obvious.  Logan met all of the last 4 criteria (for number 5, I considered diagnosis with a sensory processing disorder to meet this criteria).  And in terms of the different food groups he ate - at the time I read the book, he would not consistently eat any fruit other than bananas, any vegetables or any meats.  So starches and dairy were really the only food groups he would accept to eat. 

I realized that I was dealing with a resistant eater.

Not much of a surprise.  Logan's been a bit of a resistant everything ;)

Plus, being a resistant eater is very common in children with sensory processing disorder.  Some have issues with the texture of food, some with the flavour (some kids don't like anything with flavour, others crave intense flavours).  And still other kids have issues with the temperature of food (disliking or craving things that are hot/cold).

I have had people frequently tell me that if we were just "tougher" with Logan... more strict and the like... that he would just eat more.

Thing is (and my gut already knew this), pushing a resistant eater to eat... it just won't work.  It'll only make things worse.  These well-meaning people have clearly never actually dealt with a resistant eater.  But in an upcoming post, I'll give you some tips that will actually help you to get them to eat a bit more.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Healthy Date Squares

My sister recently asked me to e-mail her my date square recipe.  And by recently, I mean maybe 3-4 weeks ago.  And I still haven't done it.  I somehow found the time to actually make a batch myself (eat them) and blog it, but have yet found the time to e-mail her the recipe.  Funny how that works sometimes, eh?

So here ya go Kris ;)

I've adapted the original recipe ever so slightly to make them both dairy and gluten-free (see bottom of post).  However, I'll post the recipe as is too so that all of you who don't have to be on this crazy diet can enjoy the real thing.

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour (I used to use whole-wheat)
1 1/2 C rolled oats
approximately 1/4 C hemp seed
1 C lightly packed brown sugar (I find 1/2 C is enough for the regular version; I used 3/4 C in the gluten-free version to hide the taste of the gf flour mixture)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 C butter or margarine (I usually use a bit less)

Date filling:
1 lb. dates, chopped (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 C water
2 tbsp. lemon juice

1.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar and baking soda.  

2.  Cut in butter with pastry blender or in food processor until mixture is crumbly.  

3.  Press half of the crumb mixture into nonstick or lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.  (I made mine in an 8-inch square pan - I prefer to eat a smaller square with lots of filling).

4.  Date filling:  In a covered saucepan over low heat, cook dates and water for about 15 minutes or until thickened and smooth, stirring occasionally.  (You may need to add extra water while cooking if mixture becomes too thick).  Stir in lemon juice.  Spread over crumb layer; sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.  

5.  Bake in preheated 350 degree Farenheit oven for about 35 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cut into bars.


Makes 42 bars if made in 13x9 inch pan.

For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free certified oats and Bob Red's Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour instead of regular flour.

For a dairy-free version, use Earth Balance spread instead of butter.

For a dairy-free, soy-free version, use coconut butter or Earth Balance's soy free spread instead of butter.

Difficulty level: easy to moderate

Adapted from Cook Great Food.