Friday, January 28, 2011

Eating out HELP! You gotta try this.

I have stated before eating out is really a challenge for us.  I wanted to share a recent experience with you that was just up our alley.

We happened to go to Red Robin (yum) for lunch the other day.  This Red Robin is in Gilbert, AZ (on Stapley and US 60) 1 hour from our house and the likelihood that we will go there again is very small. 

We were taken to our table, (all 6 of us) and the waitress came over to take our drink orders.  Everyone was in the bathroom washing their hands so I ordered for us all. She thought that was very funny that I would know what they wanted to drink.  I honestly thought it was weird that a mom wouldn't know what her family wants to drink...anyway.

She asked if I new what everyone wanted to eat.  I said I did and had a few questions before I got there.  I told her we had severe food allergies and was wondering how to order a hamburger that my daughter could eat that was not going to cost me $15 after we took everything off.  I also asked what was in the guacamole. 

She was very kind and actually worried that we would get something that we couldn't have. (That was a first)  She said she would go find out and bring back what information she had to help us make a decision on what we were to order.

In about 5 minutes, everyone was back at the table circling on the kid menus what they were going to eat and the manager came to the table.  She had heard we have some menu questions and how could she help us.   !!!!what?!!! The manager actually came to the table to help a guest with a question.  I was taken back but started firing away with my questions. 

The first was "What is in your guacamole? Do you make it fresh, does it have seasonings?"  They do make their guacamole fresh every morning.  It is all fresh ingredients and it was not gluten free.  In our case it also had tomatoes in it so we were not able to order it.

The next question was "How do I order a hamburger if I am going to take all the stuff off?  I just need a hamburger patty, bacon, and avocados slices on lettuce.  So you have an suggestions?"  She had plenty of suggestions.  Did you know that Red Robin has menus for all types of allergies?  They have a gluten free menu, a egg free menu, a dairy free menu.  She was willing to bring me any of those menus! Since we fell in all of those categories she suggested that we order a hamburger patty on the side with no seasoning (their seasoning is not gluten free) for $2.50, a topping of bacon and sliced avocado $.99 each and that it would come on lettuce!

She also explained that there fries are cooked in soy bean oil (not our favorite but doable) and that they are not gluten free unless we get no salt.  She also explained that they take great precautions to not let food touch if it shouldn't. She suggested we ordered gluten free fries which are cooked in a seperated frier from the other fries and that they would come in a yellow basket so we would know the difference.  She then asked if she should get going some gluten free fries for the table.  I said of course, yes please and thank you!

The waitress came back and took our order.  She was more than helpful in making sure Riley's stuff didn't get mixed in with the other items ordered and ordered gluten free fries for the whole table just so Riley got exactly what she needed.  And if anyone wanted the seasoning it was on the table and could be added.  The manager, cook staff, and waitress all put on protective gloves to handle all of our food for fear of contamination.  It was total overkill for needs but I really appreciated their attention to detail and to the safety of their guests.

We have been to Red Robin before and never knew these options existed.   I am not sure these differences are offered everywhere but IT DOESN'T HURT TO ASK. The difference a manager can make in helping others with some difficulties is amazing.

Next time you go to a restaurant don't hesitate to ask what they do for your allergy and how they can help you.  You will probably not get the fantastic service we got at the restaurant but if you keep fighting to find out what they can do then you will have more options to eat at than just your kitchen. (and that is nice sometimes)

Next time I find myself an hour from home I will have to look up this restaurant.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Coconut, we are coocoo for coconuts

Coconut flour is my savior in cooking!  It is gluten free and full of all kinds of good stuff.

Coconuts are very good for you.  They are full vitamins and minerals and a great source to replace electrolytes.  Have you ever looked at coconut water?  It is like drinking a Gatorade with out the preservatives and sugar!  We like to add coconut water to our fruit smoothies instead of juice it taste fabulous.

Coconut flour is very high in fiber!  They are a fruit not a grain so they are gluten free and helps digestion.  And it doesn't taste like coconut flakes!  I HATE THE TASTE OF COCONUT FLAKES!  However, I love coconut flour and coconut oil.  I love that they are so fantastic for you and don't taste like an almond joy.  Did you know that coconut oil is one of a few oils that can handle being heated.  Most oils goes rancid when heated and all of their properties change chemically.  Coconut oil stays the same chemically therefore it does what you  need it to do. 

Today I need to make a pie.  Does that make you laugh yet?  No wheat, no nuts, no dairy, no sugar.  Are you laughing yet?  I have been determined to find one that will work.  A little from here and a little from there.  I have a recipe for a coconut pie crust, it comes from "Cooking with Coconut flour" by Dr. Bruce Nife ND.

1/2 cup sifted coconut flour
1/2 cup flaked coconut
2 eggs (duck)
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 tsp salt

Sift coco flour and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients.  Add Coco flour last.  Knead together about 1 min.  Use waxed paper to roll out the crust. (Feel free to tape down the wax paper so it doesn't move a lot)  Roll into a 6 in circle.  This crust is VERY fragile.  Be careful putting it into the pie dish.  You will need to See page 116 of  Nife's book if you need help getting this fragile crust in the dish.  You can email me for more instruction if you need it too. :)

Of course, I am out of coconut flakes, what to do now?  My local grocery store has coconuts.  I decided to process a coconut.  I want to share with you what you have to do.

Step 1:
Pick out a coconut from your local grocery store.  Feel free to shake your coconut to listen for the coconut water to slosh around.  That is all I look for when purchasing a coconut.  The coconut water can evaporate the older the coconut is. Slosh away to get the fresh coconut.

Step 2:
After you have coconut, go get the coconut water out.  You can use an ice pick.  I like to use my cordless power drill.  You need to poke or drill a hole in each of the three brown spots on the coconut.  Make the holes big enough so air and coconut water can exchange and escape.  Put the coconut holes down into a measuring cup.  I like to strain my coconut water while it escapes only because the fibers from the outside can get in the water. Fresh coconuts give lots of water.  My coconut gave us 8oz. of water!

Step 3:
Now let's get the coconut meat.  Put the coconut on a cookie sheet, place in the oven @ 350 degrees until the coconut splits.  It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hr depending on the coconut.  Typically 10-15 minutes.  The split does not have to be huge.  See below.

Step 4:
Now we get to open the coconut.  I take my hot coconut outside in a tea towel and use the cement porch as the pounding block.  Leave the coconut in the towel and whack it with a hammer until it breaks open.  This one broke open in two pieces.  That is not always the case.  Keep whacking until you know you can get the meat out of the shell by prying with a knife.

Step 5:
Remove the meat from the shell.  I use a paring knife to separate the meat.  It comes out with a brown skin which has to be cut off.  I shave that skin off with a knife.  The skin can be tough and thick which you will have to cut off.  The skin could be water like that just needs to be scraped off.  It will depend on the coconut.  Put all clean white meat in a blender or food processor.

Step 6:
Creating coconut milk.  All the white meat should be in a blender. Add 8oz of water to blender and process on high until meat is shredded and the water looks like milk.  Pour contents of  blender through a tea towel lined stainless steel strainer into a large glass bowl.  Let milk separate.  Use tea towel to "squeeze" the remaining liquid.  I like to squeeze the meat into a ball and twist the towel from the top to release the liquid. The liquid is coconut milk.  Put in glass jar and store in the fridge.  My coconut gave us 12 oz of coconut milk!

Step 7: 
Time to make coconut flour.  The coconut meat that is left in the tea towel makes the coconut flour.  Put the meat on a baking tray. Bake coconut meat on tray and cook @ 250 degrees until meat begins to "brown".  You don't want it to burn.  Stir coconut meat so that is dries evenly.  When it is dry you have flour!  YEAH.
My little coconut made 1 3/4 cups of coconut meat!

If you like a finer flour run through a blender or food processor.  (Picture below is uncooked coconut meat.)
I chose to use the coconut meat uncooked in my pie crust!  YUM!

That is how you process a coconut.  Total time it took for this one coconut was 45minutes.  We got 8 oz of coconut water, 12 oz of coconut milk and 1 3/4 cup coconut flour!  Not bad!  Enjoy your healthy new additives to your pantry.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It is time for planting.

The winter in AZ is headed out the door!  That didn't take long.  It is time to head to your local nursery. 

This time of year at my house we grow tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins, onions, and and snap peas.  (You will need to consider how much sun, water and what kind of soil you have to determine what you can do at your house.) We like to grow tomatoes, better boy and early girl, and the better boy is a fabulous tomato for making spaghetti sauce.  It is a large tomato.  At my house it likes full sun and grows around 20 lbs per plant.  My neighbors love them too. :)  Early girl tomatoes are basically cherry tomatoes.  My 6 yr old son LOVES them.  He says they are a gift from God just for him.  He loves to eat them for snacks while playing and he takes them to school for lunch.  (Isn't that cute?)

Usually we put the zucchini in the spaghetti sauce but our favorite way is to grill them!   We let the Zucchini get super big.  Then we slice them in rings about an inch thick.  We put sea salt on them and let them "cry".  Crying is when the moisture  leaks out because of the salt.  If you do this it keeps the zucchini from being mushy.  Pat dry with a paper towel.  We put them on the grill and season with smoked sea salt and garlic.  We like to call it Zucchini Steak.  YUM!! 

The kids like to eat the snap peas while they are outside playing.  Whatever it takes to get good veggies in them.  I love not having to worry about the food that my kids eat.  I don't have to worry about what types of pesticides or what type of manure and what is added to the fertilizer.  Gardens are more than just food for us, they are a way to know that we are getting exactly what we need and not of what we don't...

Hows and Whens:
I like to plant them the last two weeks of January.  By the end of June all the plants are fried from the sun.  I typically buy the tomatoes, onions, and peas as plants.  I like to do seeds for the rest.  I grab the kids and we go out and plant the seed together.  It is nice to watch something they have planted to grown and produce food that they eat. 

In our back yard what comes around goes around.  The Ducks are a great source for fertilizer for the plants which helps the plants in producing a lot of produce.  All the clippings go to the ducks for food.  Excess produce goes to the ducks too.  They love it. (If they are not afraid of it)  And the circle continues. 

So head out today and get your yard going.  It will be so much fun.  Or feel free to live vicariously through us until the need to start your own garden hits you. When we get everything planted and it startes to produce I will update you on the great things to come.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter Harvest!

I have been having so much fun this week. 

I have been cleaning the duck pen and watching those silly ducks is always a treat. (cleaning their pen stinks, literally but they are funny birds).  I decided to plant a peach tree in the duck pen.  The peach tree I decided on is called a Florida prince peach.  (It only needs 150 hours under 45 degrees a year which is PREFECT for our climate)  This peach tree is a high fruit producer. So back to planting this tree.  I wanted to plant it in the duck pen so there would be shade in the summer and the fruit that would drop, the ducks could eat.  Can't beat free food right?  Here's my ducks and the stick of a peach tree in the back.

This tree is basically a small stick sticking out of the ground.  Since my ducks have not ability to protect themselves, they are afraid of everything.  And when I say everything I mean everything, the wind would blow and they would run into their shelter quacking loudly in fear all the way. It is so funny to watch my scared little "chickens".  Now that there is a something new in their pen, a stick in the middle of their pen.  They are so afraid of the stick that they will go around the long way to get to their pool.  As they walk on the far side of the stick they keep a weathered eye on the stick just in case it will jump up and pop them. ha ha it is too funny!

I also have been harvesting lemons from our lemon tree.  So far I (Riley, Jada, and I) have juiced 3.6 gallons of lemon juice and 4 cups of lemon zest! My fingers are raw and cut up but it is so great for our family to have lemon juice for Lemonade (recipe on previous post) and lemon zest for seasonings.  We have more lemons to go, looking forward to trying to figure out lemon meringue pie that we can have.  Anyone have suggestions?

I hope you have a productive week.  I will be scraping my fingers on lemon tree thorns and lemon grater,  All for such a great cause a drink I dont' mind my kids having. :) 

Here's to you having a productive week too.  Cheers

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Egg Allergy anyone?

My daughter went through about 2 years of every time we went to the doctor we had to take one - three more things out of her diet.  We were not allowed wheat, sugar or milk. So we ate lots of eggs and bacon.  You can get eggs anywhere right?  It was any easy way to stay main stream for my daughter. 

Then the doctor visit came where we were told she was allergic to chicken eggs!  OH MY GOODNESS! WHAT THE HECK?  What do I feed her what do I feed her, what do I feed her?  I cried for three weeks.  She was eating fruit smoothies, rice and meat.  I could not wrap my brain around what to do for her.

The doctor did say something about Chicken eggs are different than other eggs.  We could look for quail eggs or duck eggs.  She gave me a name of a website that would sell both.  So we checked it out.  $40.00 for a dozen duck eggs!

I happen to be a part of a couple different co-ops.  So I sent out an email looking to see if anyone knew where to get duck eggs in town.  I was so blessed when a woman who runs one of the co-ops had ducks in her backyard and she sells the eggs. OH what a blessing!  We tried the eggs and my daughter did not have any adverse reactions. Yeah, we were back in business!

Throughout a few months we decided to raise ducks ourselves.  We wanted the eggs to be available as we needed.  So we did A LOT of research on ducks.  We decided that we could do it. 
We decided on khaki campbell ducks, they are known for egg production.  They can lay up to 350 eggs per year per duck.  We made a pen, duck house, bought food, and feed troughs.  Then we ordered the day old ducklings, they were so cute!!!

The real blessing has been the people we have met because of the duck eggs.  Our five little ducks actually feed three additional families who have egg allergies!

No duck eggs do not taste any different than chicken.  Duck eggs are bigger.  The only difference I have found is that you need to add a little more flour in baked goods to help soak up all the duck egg.  That is an easy fix.  We eat scrambled eggs, over easy eggs, hard boiled eggs, we bake with them, home made pancakes, and breads. 

Stories of ducks and pictures to come.  They are funny little birds and they are my lifesaver.

Monday, January 10, 2011

One of our favorite drinks

Since we have been talking about sweeteners I wanted to share with you one of our favorite drinks.  It is a tart lemonade, which we like.  It is so great to have another option other than water. 
(tip:  Did you know that lemon juice is actually a base not an acid when you drink it.  So if you struggle with an acidic stomach try this recipe to help even things out)

Homemade Lemonade
1 cup of Lemon Juice
2 TB Stevia

Mix lemon juice and stevia.  Pour into a 1 gallon pitcher.  Fill the Pitcher with ice and water.

Raspberry Lemonade
1/2 cup of raspberries. Blend in blender add to lemonade. Taste lemonade over ice you might need to add 1/2 tsp of stevia to sweeten up the raspberries. 

Strawberry Lemonade
1/2 cup of strawberries.  Blend in blender and add to lemonade. Taste test to check for sweetness add stevia as needed.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Eating out!

How hard is it for you to eat out?  Can you go to a friends house and eat with out thought?

My daughter called me from a friends house the other day, she had been invited for dinner! I went silent, more like a deer in the head lights, "uuummm, uuummm"  I know in a minute I am going to have to be very rude and throw the ediquette book out the window and ask, "What are they eating?"  "Sure I will talk with her mom" "hi, sorry but can you tell me what you are having for dinner?"  "Can you please read the ingredients on the box" "I am so sorry but she can not eat that, she can have the meat with salt and garlic"  "I would love for her to be able to stay, I will bring food she can have to compliment what you are having, is that OK?"  As soon as I hang up the phone I start putting together an impromptu dinner and head out the door to make the delivery.  Oh my Gosh, I forgot to tell them that she could not have iodized salt on the meat...We will cross our fingers that she will not have an issue with the salt.

We lucked out this time.
I am not sure how to educate people of our needs.  Do you know?  We order food at restruants like a fussy high maintance princess.  We send food from home every where we go.  It gets tiring to constanly trying to think of what she can eat, where will she want to eat, what are the others eating so she doesn't look completely out of place...

Eating out is difficult.  We don't live in a part of town that has healthy restruant choices.  Anyone wanna open one? :)  We would come. Just to have choices, it would be nice.

Now that you know why, here's the what

Not sure where to start...I have had a request for what we do for sugar substitutes.  Therefore, I guess it is a good place to start.
All four of kids are allergic or sensitive to sugar.  In finding ways to feed my kids I have learned: that sugar is added to ALMOST everything, white Sugar is a common factor that suppresses your immune system, and fiber helps with the absorption of sugars.
What we do at our house for sugar substitutes are Raw Honey, Stevia, and Rapadura.

Raw Honey is different than store honey.  You can find Raw honey at Sprouts, Wild Oats and I am sure Trader Joe's has it but I am not certain.  Raw honey has different definitions so my definition of raw honey is the honey is minimally processed and minimally heated (under 115 degrees).  When honey is not processed it keeps valuable nutrients and enzymes that my kids need to digest these sugars.  Honey varies greatly, you will have to find one that you like the most.  I buy different honey for different reason; cooking, eating straight, and toppings.  Honey actually has different tastes.  We have tried lots of honey.  The one that we like from sprouts is called "White gold" it is made in Canada.  My husband loves this one for flavor and thickness! I just found a local company called "Made by Bees" who has a FABULOUS selection of honey.  They have a private stock line which I love.  Their Private stock desert wildflower which taste almost exactly like my hubby's white gold.  I love local and really want to support it.  Cost wise it is comparable to store bought, however I really like the test better than anything I have gotten in the store.  The three honeys I am using in my kitchen right now are all from Made by Bees, for cooking I use Private stock orange blossom, for eating I use Private stock desert wildflower, and for putting at a topping (like on toast) is private stock mellow yellow.

Stevia is basic enough.  It is an herb not a sugar.  Down fall for stevia is it is really hard to cook with.  We use stevia mostly for drinks, like homemade lemonade and hot tea.  Occasionally we use it to sweeten breakfast, like quinoa flakes or oatmeal when you just need a little sweet.  I have found two types of stevia.  The one you can buy at a grocery store, white like sugar in packets or in shakers.  This can be fortified or not.  You can decide which one you like.  The other type is one I found and ordered not knowing.  It is still called stevia, it is just unbleached.  Which makes it green and VERY earthy.  My family could not get over the color it made foods and drinks, so we do not use it for anything.  Just wanted you to know there were different kinds out there. 

Fun Stevia tip: We planted a Stevia plant in the backyard.  My kids would eat leaves while they were outside playing...

The last sweetener we use is called Rapadura.  I order this sweetener since I have not found it at a local store.  I personally buy it in bulk but it can be purchased in 1 pound packages.  Rapadura is an unprocessed sugar. Being unprocessed it retains it mineral and enzymes that help in the digestion process. It still has the molasses attached to the sugar.  It comes in granules, I like to put it in the vita mix and make it more like a powdered sugar to help it dissolve more readily in our foods.   The taste, nutrition and flexibility in cooking make it my families favorite sweetener.  I use Rapadura in baking, for ice creams, and as a topper for toast and oatmeal.  The biggest downfall to this sweetener is its color.  Since it still has the molasses, it is brown.  Taste wise it can be almost a 1 for 1 substitute for white/brown sugar in baking however, aesthetically the differences are huge.  I don't make white sugar cookies anymore. We go with lots of chocolate desserts to hide the color.

I am sure your head is spinning so I will finish sugar substitutes at another time. I will give some great recipes that you can use these to try them.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What is the issue?

So you might ask what is my struggle.  Is it really a struggle enough to write a blog about?  I am not sure.  So you can decided for yourself.  I have an 11 yr old daughter, Riley, who has allergies.  I guess allergies is a weird word, when I hear it I think of hay fever, when you hear it you might think swollen, but when my daughter hears it she thinks "my life."
Her life is this...She can not breathe air fresh enough.  Most foods she eats will compromise her digestion and therefore her health.
Riley is environmentally allergic to cats,dogs, trees, grass, weeds, dust, dust mites, some flowers, some bushes, any pollen,  Anything floating in the air.  A reaction can be anything from sneezing to her throat swelling as she breathes, causing asthmatic distress.  She has many food allergies also.  That list is: Wheat, dairy, sugar, chicken eggs, yeast, preservatives, soy, goat milk, oats, spelt, rye, salmon, iodized salt, thyme, potatoes, tomatoes, paprika, and pineapple to name a few.  These reactions can range from itchy hands and blisters on her head to hives the size of a paper plate or even swollen organs causing them to not work properly and a skin rash that resembles ground beef, to the worse reaction that is a 105 fever and vomiting for 5 days.  Just think of the implications of these allergies...She has been in the hospital many times, she has missed an average of 14 days of school each year, and physical activities are hard for her to compete, eating out at a restaurant is next to impossible.  All the while she is 11 years old!
That is her life.  Working around obstacles, finding a way to live strong and persevere in the midst of trail and all the while trying to find JOY in her life.
I would like to bring your thoughts now to her mother.  She has to clean the house, find cleaning supplies that will not set off an asthma attack, prepare food she can eat (any everyone else in the house), sit with her daughter and cry with her because she can not go to a birthday party and eat cake and ice cream, help her work through not being a victim to circumstance,  find the right doctor who can help for eat different thing she has wrong, and she has to find a way to do it all on a budget designed for a family who is  unemployed.  Do you see my struggle yet?
At our house we have a motto. "FINISH STRONG"  How do we do that?  We see it as an option to learn as much as we can and put as much of it to use as possible.  That is the silver lining.  I have learned many "useless" facts while caring for my daughter.  We have tried products and have opinions of them to pass on.  We have learned new techniques (old techniques that are not in practice by many people today), and we have learned how to substitute all kinds of things.  That is where you come in.  I would like to offer this information to you in this blog.  Now you can understand "my struggle, your gain".  I don't want anyone to feel alone.  I spent many hours alone wondering "what do I do?"  I would like to share my story in hopes that you may feel support and know that you are not alone.
I am looking forward to sharing this time with you and I am really grateful that you are willing to listen to what I have to offer.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Where it begins...

So I was sitting at a Cooking class from Maggie at Whisked Away tonight. (the bacon wrapped stuffed dates were fabulous!)  In my normal fashion, I asked lots of questions of how to substitute what would go best with what, instead of what was on the recipe.  Maggie indulged me with grace and kindness. :)
My Mother, someone who helps me with food for my family, was there.  We spent the time making the fabulous recipes giggling and having loads of fun.  My mom and I kept talking about substitutions and what we thought would work for them.  Naturally, other guests and Maggie asked questions about why we were substituting.  The conversation opened into a lot of "useless" facts that I know because of the life I have been given. Facts like; duck eggs, making butter, gluten free foods, super foods, shopping for foods.
The guests were very kind and listened to all my many tales.  They actually asked questions and wanted to know how and why I knew what I knew. They were allowing me to talk which got me excited about what I know and made me feel as though I might have something to offer others.  They all shared that I should begin a blog that shared all the things I have learned in my struggle, share my struggle, and my love for what my struggle really is and where is has brought me.  All in hopes that there might be one person out there who needs to hear this information as much as I did at one time. 
For those guest and Chef Maggie who really encouraged me to do this, Thank you for the thoughts and ideas for this blog.  Thank you for the biggest ego boost of my life! and Thank you for being willing to follow this blog! I hope I don't let you down!
So it begins...My Struggle will hopefully be your gain.