Friday, September 26, 2008

So much for Daily!

The start-of-school-stomach-flu hit our home with a vengeance. Every last one of us, except my husband, had about 36 hours of sheer hell. My little guy with autism goes into shut-down mode when he's sick. On his worst day, he slept nearly all day, ate nothing, and drank next to nothing. His eyes popped open just before bedtime and he said "Hey, I'm better!"

Just like that. Well, he stayed home one more day just so I could get some food in him, but he was good. Then it hit me. And my daughter. And my other son.

We're better now and I promise I'll be back with the 2nd installment of how I came to realize we needed to try the GFCF diet.

In the meantime, peace to you all and have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

GFCF Pizza Crust Review

I decided to do a little pantry diving yesterday and I found...

Chebe Pizza Crust

...a packet of Chebe Pizza Crust. All Chebe products are naturally gluten free, but depending on what you buy, there could be casein. I've tried the all-purpose Chebe mix (I'll review that another day) and now the Pizza Crust. It's easy as pie...or crust!

I found the mix at Coborn's, a locally owned grocery store, in their natural/organic foods section and I think I paid somewhere around $4. It's not cheap, but if you can't or don't want to rely on always making homemade, I think this might be a winner for you. Just a quick shout out to Coborn's: you ROCK at the natural/organic foods! They have the best selection of GFCF products in my area. That section of the store even has it's own freezer and refrigerator cases full of gluten free, casein free, natural, organic, whatever you want. They my favorite premium soy ice cream (lalallalalalala...droool), but I digress.

Back to the pizza crust.

You dump the crust in your mixer and immediately see the herbs. Yes, herbs! It actually smells like pizza! In with the mix goes 2 eggs and 2 Tbsp. olive oil. I used extra virgin (EVOO, kids). I mixed this with my dough hook until it had all combined. It took a little bit of scraping, but it worked. Then you add about 4 Tbsp. of a CF milk substitute (again, I used 8th Continent). I needed a little more for it to all come together to my liking. I mixed it as well as I could with the dough hook, then lightly kneaded it in the bowl with my hand.

I plopped the dough onto my pizza stone and rolled out with my rolling pin. The bag claims you can get a 16" circle, but I'm doubtful. I didn't try that hard and this is what I came up would be more the thickness of a hand tossed or traditional crust. See the speckles? That's the oregano.

Chebe Pizza Crust (1)

I poked the dough all over with a fork and baked for 10 minutes at 375 F. If there were any puffs, I poked them again with the fork. The crust baked for another 15 minutes and then I took it out. The directions tell you this is the time to add your pizza toppings, then bake until the toppings are hot. I'd had enough of that smell and was not inclined to wait any longer before I broke of a piece and dunked it in some EVOO on a plate.

Chebe Pizza Crust (2)

The first thing I noticed was the non-bake-iness in the center. Because of this, it's a little chewy in the center, but the flavor was awesome! I would try baking this a little longer next time and perhaps this is why the bag tells you to make a 16" circle. It would probably cook perfectly.

The verdict? If you want to make GF pizza in a hurry, make a few calls and see if your store carries this mix. Then go buy it. Go on, you can do it. I have made excellent homemade crusts and Kinnikinnick sells a premade frozen crust, but this is what you need if you want quick and easy. Let me know what you think!

Why did I start my son on the GFCF diet? Part 1

The story is long, so I will break it up into parts and start at the beginning.

My guy was first identified with "autistic tendencies" in July 2002. I was 28 and pregnant with my third child, another son. My husband was home with L. for the early intervention evaluation and called me at work and asked if I was sitting down. That was about as devastating a blow as a mother can get. Honest to God, I saw my son's life flash before my eyes. I saw him in high school with a girlfriend, I saw him playing football. I saw him graduating college. I saw his wedding and my grandchildren. Then I cried.

I turned to the internet for some quick knowledge and books. I first read "Let Me Hear Your Voice" by Catherine Maurice and became obsessed with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). I bought a very large book of ABA lessons called Behavioral Intervention for Children with Autism. L.'s home-based teacher also used these lessons. When my baby went down for naps, L. and I sat down for ABA.

While I definitely saw gradual progress, ABA did not seem to have the same magic as it had for Catherine Maurice's children. I sought more answers from the internet. I found there was a lot of buzz about gluten and casein, whatever those were. In all honesty, I thought it sounded like a bunch of hooey. I thought these people were grasping at straws, that if there was an answer such as this, the mainstream medical community would be on board and offering it to me.

I talked with my husband about what I was reading and we both agreed that this GFCF diet thing was too weird, too hard, and not worth it. I dismissed it and I was not afraid to say so on the Yahoo message boards I belonged to. I didn't think there was any possible way I'd be able to get my child to adhere to this kind of diet and thought it was way too hard for us to accomplish.

Then one day someone started attacking me through email.

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Bread Review

What the biggest problem I hear from people trying to follow a gluten free diet? There are no good gluten free breads!!

Thankfully, this hasn't been an issue in my household thus far because my son does Not (with a capital N) eat bread. Never has, don't think he ever will. But I do. And so does my other son and daughter. We have loaves of regular store bread and I make a mean honey oat bread in the bread machine, but I've started to think I should follow a gluten free diet as well. Just to see where that takes me. So I'm going to try out some bread recipes. Let's face it, commercial gluten free bread isn't very yummy. If you have some lying around, make bread crumbs.

Our first choice is one I found in my cupboard - Bob's Red Mill Homemade Wonderful GF Bread Mix.

Bob's Red Mill Homemade Wonderful GF Bread Mix

I was able to find this mix at a couple locally owned grocery stores near my home that have wonderful natural and organic foods sections. It's also widely available at Whole Foods or you can order online at Bob's Red Mill. They produce a fantastically diverse line of gluten free products so I thought I'd give this a try. I followed the instructions for using a bread machine, but there are also instructions for making the bread in the oven.

Many GF bakers will say that you need a programmable bread machine to make GF bread because it only needs one rise. I have a Breadman, which to my knowledge, is not programmable in quite that way, so I do it exactly as I would for a regular wheat bread. I've never had any abject failures so I'm comfortable saying that you can use your machine the same way.

All you need to make this bread is the mix (duh) and warm milk-substitute (I used 8th Continent Light Original), eggs, and margarine or oil. I heated my milk in the microwave just shy of boiling and whisked it gradually into the eggs and oil. For my Breadman, liquid ingredients go in first, then the mix, then the yeast in a well on top of the mix. Easy peasy. The bag states that the mix makes a 1 1/2 lb. loaf so I set my machine to the regular bake cycle, 1 1/2 lb. loaf, light crust. It took 240 minutes.

Bob's Red Mill Homemade Wonderful GF Bread Mix

Here's a shot of the dough during the first bit of real mixing, nearing the first rise. It's important to remember that a lot of GF bread dough isn't going to look the same as wheat bread dough. If this were wheat bread, I'd be panicking and adding in more flour until the dough cleaned the sides of the pan. I did not do a single thing to this dough. It has more the consistency of heavy cake batter. I suppose it might be worth it to try to add a little more flour and see if that lightened the finished bread, but then again this is a mix. If you're buying a mix, you want the mix to be all you need. We're talking convenience here.

Bob's Red Mill Homemade Wonderful GF Bread Mix

As you can see, I could not wait to dive into the warm crusty "butt" of the bread before I took a picture. That's my favorite part! You can also see that the light crust setting worked out very well. The crust is light colored, crispy, and a little thicker than you would expect from typical breads. The bag states that this bread is "moist and flavorful" and I have to say that's absolutely right. It is moist, dense, heavy, and has a good flavor. There is a little bean-y tinge from the garbanzo bean flour that I am not a super-fan of, but I can deal with that. It's kind of like the difference in flavor between white bread and whole wheat bread - not bad, but a little different.

Last night, after cooling, I put it into a plastic zipper bag to store it on the counter. The loaf (minus a few pieces eaten by me and my son) felt extremely heavy, but the flavor is still nice and it has retained a fairly fresh feel and taste.

I think this bread is a little too dense and doesn't have enough squish to make a good cold sandwich...say for a lunchbox, however, this would make a fantastic toasted sandwich or open face sandwich.

So give it a try. It's hearty and tasty so if that's the kind of bread you're into, you'll probably find this one is a winner!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A New Beginning

Welcome to GFCF in Real Life!

I'm Jenny, a mom to three fantastic kids, one of whom was diagnosed with autism at age 2 1/2. We started the GFCF diet (gluten free-casein free) 5 years ago and have seen fantastic results. My son is not cured, but I can say that everything has been worth it and he is far better off with the diet than without it.

When I started my son on the GFCF diet 5 years ago, there were not many resources, nor many cookbooks, and the diet was widely regarded as quackery. I had to get over my own misconceptions about the real importance of diet before I could really embrace this choice and dive in. I'm so glad I did!

My goal for this blog is to be a resource for those who may just be starting out with the GFCF diet. It's hard and sometimes confusing and I hope that I can be a guide who can help you on the path to success.

I will do my best to post daily with tips, tricks, recipes, and stories to help you along the way. Or you can laugh at me. That's fine, there's probably a lot to laugh at! You can feel free to let me know of anything that's on your mind or ask me anything and I'll do my best to answer. I want to be here for you and maybe we can help each other!

Glad to have you here with me!