Monday, January 21, 2013

My favorite products

After getting a handle on eating gluten and dairy free, we've found some products we are extremely happy with. I know there are a ton of products on the market, and its hard to sort through them all and know which ones are worth the money and which aren't. The truth is, this list is short. I've had to start making a lot of things, whether it be because I can't find a corn free version, or because we can't find anything that we like enough to justify spending the higher price that comes with anything labeled gluten or dairy free.

Let's start with the holy grail of all things gluten free - FLOUR. I know there are many out there that work, some work awesome for baking but not so well for regular cooking, some are great for everything except bread making. Since I can't find a corn free bread that is gluten and dairy free, tastes good, and doesn't cost a fortune (I know that's asking a lot) I need one that does it ALL. I don't want 4 different flour blends in my house that I have to keep track of, remember what to use each for, and try to reorder in time to not run out. I don't have that kind of mental capacity. So, when I found Better Batter I was thrilled. It does everything, and, its corn free. Now, if you email them and ask them if their products are corn free, they'll give you a disclaimer saying that their suppliers don't use corn for the xanthan gum or pectin, but it could change without their knowledge. I take that as them having to cover their tails. The email I received also stated that they have had many corn-allergic individuals using their products for x-amount of years without any reaction. (PS the pectin is from lemons and the xanthan gum is grown on sugar beets) After reading up on the company, I found that Naomi has corn-allergic people in her family, so its something she's not going to just let slide. I'll get around to posting some of the recipes I have used with great success with Better Batter, but honestly, the only thing I had any problems with was bread, and if you've ever baked bread, you know you can have that issue with regular flour. Also, I found out my oven had a 30 degree difference from one side to the other, so I can't even blame the flour.

Cereal is up next, and its kind of a sore subject for me. Finding a gluten free cereal is pretty easy these days, Rice Krispies has a GF version, Chex has gluten free varieties, we do use the Chex for the twins, but they all have corn and Felix can't touch them. Our go-to cereal for him for a long time was Erewhon Rice Twice, but then they changed the box and apparently their manufacturing process along with it. Its not labeled anywhere on the box (which is something that really gets under my skin) but if you look at the website, its no longer manufactured in a facility that is free of gluten. Felix was reacting, because for him that's all it takes. So, our next round was with Envirokids Koala Crisp cereal. This was like my savior when the last cereal pulled the rug out from under me, but once again the box changed, and so did the manufacturing process. Its no longer safe, but I caught it just in time to scoop up all the old-style boxes (my sister just picked up 12 boxes at their local store). Moral of this story? READ LABELS EVERY TIME!! Really.

Other staples in our house are smaller items, because we have very few things that are pre-made that we can buy.
  • Krema peanut butter is all natural, just peanuts. But, you have to stir. A lot.
  • Eden Organic Apple Butter only has 2 ingredients, and we use it as a replacement for jelly for PB&J sandwiches. Pectin is a pain because it can be fruit pectin or derived from corn, and I refuse to call every jelly making company on the planet to find one that is corn free.
  • Bakol thin rice cakes. I wish I had a link for this one, its a fan favorite here. They're nice and thin and we use them instead of bread sometimes. They are our makeshift bread for PB&J. Our Marc's carries them for $.99 a package, and they're labeled Non-GMO which makes me happy. Plus, corn free. Bonus. 
  • Good Health Kettle Potato Chips are corn free and come in different flavors. The kids love them, but they are expensive and most of the time we just make our own chips. Yay salad shooter and deep fryer! 
  • Goldbaums Pasta tastes like pasta is supposed to taste. If you can't find it around you, trust me when I tell you brown rice noodles are better than anything else. You can thank me later.
  • Vermicelli thin rice noodles are great, I get ours in the Asian food section at the store, just check the label, ours say they're gluten free. They're only about a dollar a pack, and one package is enough for our family if I don't want any leftovers. I make them with stir fry when we don't want rice. Our store carries them in white and brown rice, can you guess what I buy?
  • Quinoa. I LOVE it. Its got a mild taste, I quit using rice in cooking a few months ago, and I don't know if I will go back. We supplement rice for so many other glutenous foods that I think cooking plain old rice is just overkill. Anything that we need rice for, I make this, and I only need a cup for our whole family, and usually I have some left. Look around and see how low of a price you can find, I think the lowest I found was around $6/lb online, but BJ's wholesale club started carrying it in a 2lb bag for $5. I will be buying 10 bags the next time we go in case they stop carrying it. 
  • Enjoy Life Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips Who says you have to give up chocolate when you give up dairy? Not this girl!
I'm sure this list could be twice as long, but I'm cutting it off here. Hopefully my next list will be my favorite baking and cooking ingredients. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What do you eat?

When you tell someone you avoid certain foods due to an allergy or an intolerance, about half the time, they respond with, "What do you eat?" The smartass in me wants to respond with "Food."

People find it hard to believe that we can eat a lot of the same foods and be gluten/dairy/corn free. The catch is, I have to make a LOT from scratch. I don't buy cake mix or muffin mix. I make hamburger buns, salad dressing, dairy free yogurt, etc. I had to make Felix's dairy free margarine, because even the dairy free ones on the market contain corn. But, most of it is easy.

There are thousands of recipes for salad dressing on the internet. I even found one for dairy free ranch dressing that uses homemade mayo (you can buy regular mayo if you aren't avoiding corn or eggs but can't have dairy) and Felix loves it for dipping veggies. It maybe takes me about 15 minutes to whip up, and most of that time is waiting for my food processor to whip up the mayo. If you avoid several foods, click on that link and surf around, her blog is amazing, and she even posts meal plans so you can get ideas.

There are tons of things on the market these days that are gluten and dairy free. Most of them, we can't use because of the corn issue, but don't let that stop you! One thing to remember, though, is that all whole foods (fruit, veggies, meat) are gluten free, as long as they are fresh and not prepackaged. (The jury is still out on baby carrots) Many companies are jumping on the option to label their products gluten free, especially the ones that have always been gluten free. Many types of chips, sauces, or even hot dogs now are labeled gluten free. And, if its not, be wary. The reason is, it may not actually contain gluten, but if it is manufactured in a plant where they also make something containing wheat or other glutenous grains, there could be trace amounts of gluten in them. Some people can eat these foods and be completely fine, but some, like Felix, eat it and react just as badly as if they had eaten something made from wheat. If you are starting out on this gluten free journey, avoiding them is your best bet. That way, once you see how good you feel without it, you can try it and see the difference.

Everyone has different tastes, but after trying many different products, we've gotten pretty set on brands for certain foods that are gluten free. Its no longer a challenge for me to go to the store, and I don't spend hours reading labels while I'm there. If you are just starting, know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It gets better and once you get your bearings, you can handle just about anything. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blame the food

This house has been through a very drastic change in the past year when it comes to foods. My son has food allergies/intolerances and it makes every day just a little bit harder when it comes to preparing meals and packing lunches. Grocery shopping has turned into some sort of scavenger hunt, reading every label, knowing words to look for since one of the foods we need to avoid is NOT a top 8 allergen.  All of this pales in comparison to social events.

First, let me say that I am not writing this in an attempt to gain sympathy or pat myself on the back. Even if you don't have a child with food allergies, its likely that you know someone with them. What does that mean for you? Well, it can mean that if you want to have this person visit your house, you may have to hide all of your peanut filled products, or it could mean asking them to bring food that doesn't contain dairy. It shouldn't mean that you hesitate to invite them over or just pretend that the food allergy doesn't exist since they are probably used to dealing with it.

As a parent of a child with food allergies and intolerances, I can tell you that I've felt guilty for probably causing his food issues, I've felt envy of families that don't have to read labels when they go grocery shopping, I've felt anger that I have to tell my son that he can't have what everyone else is eating when someone sends in treats for a birthday at school, and I've had my heart break when he mentions how he wishes he could eat like everyone else. What you have to understand is that I don't feel these emotions at you for not knowing how to handle my child's dietary restrictions, I feel them towards food.

Weird? Maybe. Justified? I think so.

So, what I ask of you as a parent, friend, relative, neighbor, or acquaintance is this:

Talk to me about it.

  • Tell me what you're having for a birthday party, so I can make the same kinds of things for my child, so he feels included. I have cupcakes in my freezer that I just have to frost so I can bring them to parties and keep him from feeling left out. I can whip up "safe" pizza that he can eat and he's perfectly happy with eating that while everyone else eats their "normal" food. 

  • Let me bring a dish to a family get together. You can even tell me what you would like me to bring, and as long as I can find a good recipe, I'm in! Sure, it may not have dairy or gluten or corn, but guess what? I bust my ass to make sure that what I make tastes pretty darn close to the stuff we used to eat. You might like it just as much, and then I know there is at least one food there that is ok for my child to eat. 

  • Offer to make something. Now, I'm going to be honest. 99.99% of the time, I'll say I've got it covered, but you have NO idea how much it means to me that you asked. Some days I feel just as isolated as my son must feel, and hearing someone say, "Is there something I can make for him?" may just bring me back from a meltdown. If you do it in person or over the phone, be prepared. I might tear up a little.
 But, one of the most important things I can ask of you if you don't understand food allergies or intolerances, is this: Please remember its not a lifestyle choice, its a necessity. I'm not forcing my child to eat this way just because I think its better, I can tell you what kind of reaction he has to every single food we avoid. There are days when I dream of going back to eating the same foods as everyone else, just so I don't dread Thanksgiving or a birthday party or Christmas. But, I wouldn't trade my child's well-being for the world, and that means I accept the social awkwardness that comes with not letting my child eat your food or bringing our own to a catered party. Don't hold it against me or take it personally.

Don't blame me, blame the food.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My gluten free journey

When I began our gluten free journey back in November, I never thought I would feel the way I do now.

I started out grasping for air, trying to find something, ANYTHING that would make my Felix's behavior change. Someone recommended trying a gluten free diet and I knew we were already having issues with dairy, so I thought I might as well give it a shot, right? So, my husband kind of thought I was crazy, but I needed to try, needed to know if this would help before resorting to any sort of prescription.

A little back story: I had ADHD as a child. I'm pretty sure the H part is gone for me now, and I still have ADD. My parents refused to put me on medication, did allergy testing, and removed milk, eggs, and as much sugar as possible from my diet. They told me later on that the doctor they spoke with said that most cases where kids absolutely need the help with medicine is when they have a learning disability along with ADHD because they can't fight to control their impulses. Keep in mind this was also back in the 80s and early 90s when there weren't many options, and my parents were both in education, so they had seen the good and bad effects of medication.

So, knowing that I am lactose intolerant, and that a doctor in the family highly recommended getting Felix off of gluten, so I jumped in feet first. I was overwhelmed, but I fought through it. We started him on some supplements and I was so frustrated that I had to work so hard at grocery shopping, read labels on everything, and find hidden gluten and dairy in things I never thought of. (Beef bullion cubes! They contained both gluten and dairy! What?? I found out the food club brand had neither.) I kidnapped my mom's bread machine and started making bread with mixes that I bought Bobs Red Mill 36995 Cinnamon Raisin Gluten Free Bread Mix and Bobs Red Mill 19550 Gluten Free Bread Mix I felt like some sort of champion when they turned out great, and it really kept me moving forward. I tried explaining to his teacher that this was a process, and it takes time for his system to clear out and see the good effects of the diet, but she was frustrated and didn't seem to think I was doing the right thing. I ignored her.

So, we survived 3 months of gluten/dairy free life, although most of my house was still eating normal food. I would make something, and have it one way for Felix, and another way for the rest of the house. I hated cooking that way. I would eat what Felix was eating, just so he didn't feel alone. My husband thinks its weird that I'm so concerned about that, but I was there. I was in a house where everyone ate dairy products, regular cereal, and things with sugar and eggs, and I was stuck eating plain old rice puffs with soy milk and sweet n low, or option 2 shredded wheat instead of the rice puffs. I was in 3rd grade and couldn't eat birthday treats and instead, was sent to the office to get a measly little piece of sugar free candy from the secretary. I still scowl just thinking about those stupid candies. I vowed to make it different for him. I emailed his teacher and asked if she could notify me when she knew birthday treats were coming in and I would make something for him and send it. She said sure, and I felt good. Well, that was until he came home one Friday and told me he ate a chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing because the substitute teacher gave it to him. UGH! So, I searched for something I could send in and it could be left there. Its a lot harder than it sounds, because gluten free things don't keep as long as foods with gluten in them. The best I could come up with was breakfast bars, so I sent those in.

But here's the thing... We were still having behavior issues. I know, I know it can take time for gluten to find its way out of the body, but it seemed like something more to me. It was like this 6th sense in my head was telling me there was some sort of pattern and reason to it all. So, one day when Felix was home from school, we had a good healthy breakfast. He decided he wanted cereal for lunch, and since it was organic, gluten free, and dairy free I figured why not. So, he ate his cereal, and about a half hour later the downward spiral began. Attitude, meanness, mood swings, all out of nowhere. So, I thought maybe I missed something in the  cereal and picked up box to check the ingredients. First ingredient was corn meal. I have family members that have issues tolerating corn, so I decided to cut it out and see if it improved.

Let me tell you, corn is by far the hardest thing to remove from your diet. Gluten and dairy combined was nothing compared to this. Basically, everything that is somehow processed probably contains corn. Corn starch, corn syrup, citric acid, and the list goes on. Did you know there are about 100 different names for ingredients derived from corn, so you're probably eating it without knowing? Its crazy. So I started the process of removing it from his diet, but it was SO hard. I felt like every time I turned around, I found another 'oops' where I gave him something that I didn't know contained corn. So, I cried, got frustrated, and then I just started making EVERYTHING.

While its hard, and it would be nice once in a while to be able to cook with all the shortcuts I used to and not have to make broth before I use it, or not have to make salad dressing, my family is eating healthier because of it. Also, when my son goes to visit grandparents, if I eat gluten after not having it for so long, I wake up feeling hungover. My whole body aches, I have a headache, my brain is in a fog, and I'm just so tired. I would have never done all this for myself, but because of Felix's problems, I found out how to make myself healthier.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Take 2...

So, I feel like I abandoned this blog. Maybe I should give this another shot. Are you ready for a 6 month update? I'm ready...

So, I have 9 days of having babies in this house left. I don't like it. Especially, because these are very well going to be my last 9 days ever of having a baby in the house. Don't get me wrong, I know that once they turn 1, its not like some magic dust turns them into toddlers, but its a definite sign that so many things are coming to an end.

I feel like these monsters have changed me so much. I look back to when I had Felix, and I did what I needed to do for him, but I didn't really research to see what the best decision was. Honestly, I was 20 and flying by the seat of my pants. I have seen myself grow so much in the past year as a mother. I even stopped using disposable diapers and made my own cloth ones! Seriously, who knew? I gotta say, we have not had one blowout since switching, and Lily was the blowout master. I'm talking around 4-5 a week. I would rather clean poop off of where it is supposed to be, than be cleaning poop covered clothes.

I remember when Felix was a baby, my mom telling me that at 13 months, it was time to stop breastfeeding, and I said, "sure, ok" and that was that. Oh, wait, this is going to be one of THOSE posts. That's right, I breastfeed, I'll do it in public if I have to (though I try to avoid it in any way possible) and I am not going to force them to stop on their first birthday. Remember? There is no magic dust.

So, for all you haters who think that breastfeeding should be done in a dark, secret room, and not talked about, and stopped as early, if not earlier than bottles, this one is for you.

I am by no means a "breastfeeding nazi" and I am not trying to convince you that my way is superior. I just think that our society has placed such an awful stigma on something so innocent and pure, and it pains me. Should everyone breastfeed? I think everyone should try. That's it. Give it a shot. If you hate it, then at least you know, right? I don't by any means judge parents that use formula. Seriously, I really don't. I couldn't find it in me to pump at work, if I had gone back. I would probably give it a shot, get frustrated and uncomfortable, and be done with it. Plus, breastfeeding really is about comfort. If you had a nurse with awful bedside manner try and "help" you breastfeed, the discomfort could make it difficult, and give you a negative vision of the whole thing.

So, 10 years later, here is my plan and my reasoning for keeping on:

You see that little guy? That's my Logan. Not all babies start out this way, and he did. Lily didn't need oxygen, but boy was she tiny.
So, they didn't have the picture perfect start that some babies do, and they came out fighting. I want my children to have every and any opportunity to be the smartest, healthiest, best they can be. If I stopped breastfeeding ON their birthday, and then found out they weren't growing as well as they should be, I would totally blame myself. I would be kicking myself if we had to give them toddler formula or pediasure, when I could have just kept giving them breast milk.

2.  All those people that you trust whole-heartedly about what to do and not do, are pretty much the same people that tell me that breastfeeding is great, and is recommended until age 2. WHAT? TWO? Yes, I typed that correctly. I have to say, I was totally with you at some point, but really, now I feel like I should do what is best for my babies and not care about what society has told me is acceptable, when the people that they turn to for anything else regarding their babies tell me it is not only acceptable, but beneficial. 

3. I'm lazy. 

Ok, maybe lazy isn't the right word, but I am really not looking forward to weening two kiddos. If its not a problem, why should I put myself through the ringer to stop? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Well, that's my rant. Sorry it wasn't quite the update I had planned for, but these fingers have a mind of their own. I promise after these monsters turn 1, I will probably let my breastfeeding habits disappear into that dark secret room, at least until they decide to stop :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas time

So we took some Christmas pictures this week. Does anyone have any tips for getting twins to both look at you and smile as well as a 6 year old? It took some serious effort, and the final choice for our Christmas cards did not contain 3 smiling children. No one was crying so I say close enough. We took pictures until we ended up with one of these
I really think it is my favorite out of the bunch, though. I was the mother that took pictures when my first son cried, and shared them with the world. I love them just as much as the happy ones. Speaking of which, my little momma's boy who rarely gives anyone a glimpse of his infectious smile gave me one of these.
I want to blow them both up and put them in gigantic frames on the wall. Too bad they are in Christmas outfits.

So we are working on the sleeping through the night thing, and I was fooled by my little twinsters. They did so awesome at the beginning, but the past couple nights (while I am battling a sinus infection, too) I have had to go in and give pacifiers at least 5 times or more. Good thing I am sleeping on the couch and not upstairs. I hate going up and down stairs in the middle of the night. I must share, though, we have a good soundtrack to sleep to. These awesome cds called Rockabye Baby! that turn popular rock music into lullabyes for babies, so mom and dad can enjoy them. Search for rock a bye baby I promise if you check these out you will not be disappointed. My favorites are the Beatles and Beach Boys, and Hubby's is the Guns N Roses album. I also bought one as a shower present for my sister in law who loves Greenday, so she was ecstatic.

Hope everyone sleeps well tonight, and I wish my son would. Off to pacify him once again....

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Finally sleep!!!

So, I took my little  monsters to the doctor last Thursday for their 6 month checkup, and the doc said they should be sleeping through the night. I was a little skeptical at first, as most doctors just say that and don't give any other explanation as to why some children don't (at least in my experience) and just tell you "they should be"

Well, I must say, I am impressed with my doctor. She has boy/girl twin niece and nephew, so she does have an understanding of twins, and she also explains everything she recommends so that its a logical decision. She told us that nighttime feedings are usually empty calories and the babies only are eating because their body gets into a light sleep cycle and they don't know how to get back down into a deep sleep, so they cry. She recommended giving them their pacifier and if they didn't go back to sleep, nursing, but not giving them a full feeding. I liked these options better than the doctors words of advice with my son. "He should be sleeping through the night, you need to get him to sleep."

I started Thursday night with just giving Logan a pacifier at midnight when he started fussing. He went right back to sleep! Its like they heard the doctor say that they didn't need to eat and they listened! (I know that is ridiculous) They did awesome, and slept until 6 am when I fed them, and then they went back to sleep until 10. I didn't get a lot of sleep because I had to give pacifiers a few times, and I was concerned, but I was excited. Last night was night 3, and I got up twice to give a pacifier to Logan (Lily is my champion sleeper, most nights before I would wake her up to eat after feeding Logan to keep them on the same schedule) and they slept from 8:30 last night until 9:30 this morning!! I went to bed at quarter after twelve and got 9 hours of sleep!!

I kind of feel like a dope for getting up every night with Felix for a whole year. However, it seemed right at the time, and with one, it wasn't as exhausting.

My next step will be to let Logan cry for a few minutes before giving him his pacifier to see if he can learn to put himself to sleep. I'm not talking ignoring him for a half hour, but the past few nights, I have gone in immediately just to get them weaned off of the nighttime feeding. So, maybe after a few more days I will work on that.

All in all, I must say, Christmas came early for me!