Tuesday, March 31, 2015

homemade paleo and gluten free snack bars...

One of my commitments, or goals, for 2015 is to eat clean.  For me clean eating means to focus on eating whole foods and avoid processed foods, sugar and gluten.  It has been a lot easier to do than I anticipated and I feel so, so much better.  There are many names for this way of eating, but I like to refer to it as clean eating.

As with anything, preparation is the key to success.  I have found that I need to stock my fridge and pantry with whole food options that are easily accessible to me.  If I don't, then I'm prone to be enticed by Grace's Doritos or the gluten free chips that the boys eat.  One way to ensure that I have something to snack on when I get hungry in the afternoon, is to make my own snack bars.

I do keep lara bars on hand for when I travel but they tend to be expensive for everyday or even every other day eating.  I found several recipes on line for homemade 'lara bars', which I played around with until I came up with a bar that I loved.

I love to play around with and adapt recipes I find from cookbooks and bloggers I follow.  I think that more people need to give themselves permission to play around with recipes in the kitchen.  It's okay to change a recipe until it suits you and your family's food tastes.



Homemade Snack Bars

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups medjool dates
1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetend coconut flakes

1. Grease bottom and sides of glass baking dish
2. Combine all ingredients in food processor or vitamix blender
3. Pulse until combined.  This is really up to you!  I don't like my bars to have big chunks of dates or nuts in them, so I process mine until all the pieces are really small.  If you like larger chunks, then you can process your ingredients for less time.
4. Dump the processed ingredients into prepared baking dish and push down with hands.  You want to have the bars evenly distributed in the pan.
5. Refrigerate covered bars for 2-3 hours.
6. Cut into bars.  The size depends on you.
7. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days or you can freeze these guys for up to 3 months.  My bars never last that long. 

Notes: Feel free to play around with the ingredients and/or amounts.  If you don't like cashews, for instance, you can add another nut you do like.  Or if you don't like coconut, feel free to omit it from the bars altogether.

I try and buy the highest quality ingredients that I can afford.  This usually means organic or locally grown.  This is something that is important to me and I think affects the taste of my food and the overall health of my family.  I know that it can be expensive to purchase organic fruits and nuts.  I have found that if I shop at my local health food store, I can find these ingredients in bulk at a more affordable price. 

Let me know if you make these and how you like them.

Enjoy!




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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

real men make (and eat) quiche...

I was talking to my sister the other day about her oldest getting accepted into college.  It was unsettling because, I knew this little boy when he was born and I can't figure out how 18 years went by already.  It also made me think about my boys going off to college.  Which, I'll admit, is not happening soon.  And really, may not happen at all for Luke because he's convinced he always wants to live with me.  

I've told him that there will come a time when he will no longer want to live here and will want to venture out into the real world.  But, he can't picture that.  He refers to college as that time after high school when they make you leave your parents.  Which just tickles me.

Anyway, so as I was thinking about Joe going off to college, I decided that it was time to start teaching my boys how to plan and prepare dinner.  I really feel that it is important to equip your children to be able to thrive in the world outside your home.  This is one thing that Mark and I have talked about at length and we have always tried to teach them, about money, time management, cleaning and taking care of your belonging, just to name a few.

Since they are now 11 and 9, I thought it was a good time to teach them about planning and making dinner.  I have always baked with them.  Even when they were little and it wasn't fun for me.  So they know their way around our kitchen and a little bit about cooking.  

John fell in love with this idea and wanted to do it the next day.  I told him, that he would need to pick a menu for the meal, find a recipe, write down the ingredients needed (so I could buy them), and then cook everything.  He was jacked!  John picked ham and cheese quiche, fruit salad and brownies for dessert.

Which is a surprising meal for an 11 year old boy to pick.  But a friend delivered this meal to my family when Grace and I were away and John loved it.  I will be honest, I had never made a quiche before so I did not have a recipe for one.  But, problem solver that he is, John said  'call your mom, she has a great quiche recipe'.  Evidently, they talked about quiche because mom was here when my friend dropped off the meal.

After school, John came home and I reminded him that he wouldn't be able to play or watch TV because he was responsible for cooking our dinner.  He was still excited and wanted to keep his menu a surprise from Luke and Mark.  We read the recipe together and then he gathered all his ingredients.  He was able to prepare the whole meal with very little help from me.  I did make suggestions, like how big to dice the ham, but he did everything himself.  Since he's not quiet tall enough, I did put everything in the oven for him but that's all I did besides supervise.

He even set the table with matching plates, cloth napkins and candles.  He was so thrilled when he was able to call us all to the table.  The whole meal was a hit as evidenced by the fact that there was literally no left overs.  He can't wait to do it again.  Next time he wants to make enchiladas and rice.



Here's the recipe we used.  It's super easy and yummy.  It's a little different from the one my mom gave me because, for some reason, I just can't seem to stick to a recipe the way it is written.  I talked to John about this when he was cooking because he wanted to add more ham and less cheese.  Which I told him was fine and how it would change the taste of the final product.  He ended up putting 8 ounces of ham and about 4 ounces of cheese in his quiche.  I told him the most important thing is that he makes good food and has fun doing it.  I'm hoping to instill a love of cooking in both boys, since they already love to eat.

John's Ham and Cheese Quiche


Ingredients:

1 pie crust
6oz ham, diced
6 oz cheese, shredded
4 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Crack eggs into medium bowl, beat with whisk
3. Add sour cream to eggs, whisk to combine
4. Put diced ham and shredded cheese in bottom of pie crust
5. Pour egg mixture over ham and cheese
6. Bake for 35 minutes, check to see if it is done.  The eggs should be set and not jiggle.  Keep adding 5 minutes until it is done.


Enjoy!  And, let us know if you make this quiche. 

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

week four summary...

This post on week four is a little delayed because, of the real world and my re-entry into reality.  I spent the weekend snuggling on the couch with my babes in front of a fire and trying to find all my stuff that got moved around while I was gone.


Grace finished her feeding therapy strong.  The last week was much of the same of the first three weeks, you can read those posts here, here and here.

We continued to have Grace drink from a cup and transitioned her to a regular cup from the cut out cup.  We are still holding the cup up to her mouth for her to drink and feeding her every bite of food.  We will work on Grace's self feeding and drinking skills in the future.  Right now, she is getting 7-8 ounces of liquid from a cup which is great progress.
 

We added several new foods to Grace's diet.  She ate sliced deli ham (lunch meat), pancakes with syrup, french toast sticks and macaroni & cheese. 

 

It is difficult to tell if Grace likes new foods but she is eating everything we present to her.  She will also eat anything for a dorito (just like mama!).

Overall, I would consider the feeding therapy to be a success.  I did ask for an additional week, something I never thought I'd do but I felt like we were making such good progress I wanted it to continue.  I'm concerned about transitioning Grace back to the real world and I am anticipating some regression.  Mark and the boys came up on Friday so Mark could get some experience feeding Grace and help me check out of the Ronald McDonald House.  This last week, the boys had 3 snow days and a 2 hour delay, in March.

 It was so funny because Grace ate really well for me in the session that Mark observed but she fought Mark in the session he was in charge of feeding her.  It really shows me how smart she is that she knew to fight 'the new person'.  For that reason, I think she will fight the new feeding program at school.  However, her teacher is amazing and I know they are on board with making Grace successful.
We will now be going back to Hershey for monthly follow up appointments, so they can make sure that Grace continues to progress and that we will reach all the feeding goals we have for Grace.

It's good to be back home...

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

stop the r-word...


Grace and I are wearing our shirts today in support of the sixth annual spread the word stop the word day.  Of course, she gets to wear her supergirl shirt because people with intellectual disabilities are super heros.  

 People with intellectual disabilities (like Grace) matter and using the r-word to signify something is stupid or less than, demeans them and you.

I encourage you to find another word to express what you mean.  I suggested using ridiculous in this post.  However, according to this article there are too many words in the english language to count so you should have no problem finding another one.


Go here to join the movement and make a pledge to stop using the r-word.



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Monday, March 2, 2015

week three...

Week three started off slowly.  Due to my accident, we needed to get a rental car but none of the local agencies had one (because I wasn't the only one who was in an accident due to the snow).  Thankfully, Mark was able to drive Grace and I to Hershey to pick up a van there.

This week was very similar to the previous two weeks.  We are continuing to introduce new foods to Grace's diet and increasing the amount she she drinks from a cup.  Some of the new foods are scrambled eggs made with milk and cheese and chicken noodle soup.  Grace is also drinking 7-8 ounces of milk a day from a cup.  We are encouraged that she is eating new solid food but need to increase the amount of food she is eating so that she is not eating late at night.
 
We also continue to spend a lot of time in our back camp area.  Grace has discovered that she loves {loves} princess sing a long videos.  So we are spending hour after hour after hour watching them. 


 On Tuesday night, Grace didn't think sleep was necessary so she stayed up till 4:00am.  It wasn't fun.  She also got a bloody nose.  So it was super special to wake up after only 3 hours of sleep to blood all over the sheets - NOT. 

The one bright side to the sleepless night was that she fell asleep at 7:30 on Wednesday night with the lights and TV on.  So I got to watch survivor and keep the lights on later than 8:30.  I've been spending every night reading books on my iPad in the dark, so it was nice to be able to watch TV instead.

It also turns out it was a good thing I couldn't figure out how to clean our bedding because she had another bloody nose on Thursday night.  I think Grace is having bloody noses because it is so dry here.
There are therapy dogs (and pigs) here at the Ronald McDonald House almost every night.  Most nights there are too many people and too much noise for Grace to get comfortable enough to get close to the dogs.  But last week, it was only Grace and another little girl when Coda the 150 pound male Newfoundland showed up.  Coda's mom was so gracious and talked to Grace until she got comfortable.  Grace eventually petted Coda on the head and back.  It was cute to see how happy Coda's mom was that Grace petted him. 


The therapists remain pleased with Grace's progress during therapy.  They are encouraged that Grace is on the right track and impressed with her drinking and eating.  During our fourth and final week, we are going to focus on adding additional solid foods to Grace's diet.  We are also going to work on getting her more calories during the day, so that she isn't up till 11:00 or midnight, as she is now.

Mark was off work this weekend, so it was nice to have some family time.  We had a movie night on Saturday and watched Big Hero 6, which was really good.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

the orange dump truck...

Recently, Grace has shown a tendency to pick one toy that she prefers.  Here at the feeding clinic, she is fixated on an orange dump truck.

She typically finds it every day and will pick it up and carry it around. 
Sometimes she likes to sit and spin it's wheels.  Over and over and over.

 Out of all the toys here, this is clearly her favorite.
 A few days ago, she was holding it and a little boy wanted to play with it.  When Grace put it down, he went to pick it up and his mother stopped him.  Telling him, no that was Grace's toy.  He promptly threw a fit.  So mom took him out of the waiting area into the feeding room.  He continued to cry.  Grace stood there watching him.  Then, she picked up the dump truck and walked into the room with him.  She put the truck down at his feet and stepped back.

I said to him, 'Grace is sharing it with you.  You can play with it.'  So he picked up the truck to play with it.  Grace just smiled.  My sweet and special girl shared.  Intentionally.  To provide comfort to another child.

I was almost in tears.  Sharing is something that moms spend untold hours trying to instill in our children from a very young age.  However, this is not something that we have actively tried to train Grace to do.  She is not one to typically play with a toy for very long and due to her developmental delays she chooses baby toys.    When they were all little, her brothers would allow her to play with a toy until she got bored and then they would just pick it back up.  We never made her share because we were usually so darn happy she was showing a preference for something and using her hands.

When it was time for the boy to have his feeding session, Grace picked up the orange dump truck and walked out of the room.

We have long suspected that there is more to Grace than we have been able to tap into.  It is difficult to get a sense of what a person is capable of when they are non-verbal.  But this uninterrupted time of being with Grace has shown me that there is untapped potential in there.  Our job going forward will be to figure out how to reach her and help her grow into it.

As difficult as it has been to be away from home and my other loves, this time is precious to me.  I always dreamed of mother daughter time when I became a mom.  My visions included mani/pedi sessions, trips to Manhattan, shopping and lunches at fun tea houses or funky cafes.  You know, girl stuff.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my heart's desire would be fulfilled in a feeding clinic.

My love for Grace has always been larger and more encompassing than I thought possible.  In talking to other moms of special needs kids, it's just the way we love these little humans whose special needs are more visible than the rest of ours.  But this time has been a balm to my soul.  A gift of encouragement from a gracious and loving God.  As our third week draws to a close, I wanted to make sure I remembered the gifts and not just the sleepless nights, isolation and loneliness that have been my companions these past weeks.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

snow...

This  past Saturday the kids and I headed out to see friends shortly after it started to snow.  The roads were pretty slick, but they seemed manageable.  About half way there, I realized that maybe we should have stayed home.  Shortly after that, the pick up truck in front of me stopped in the middle of the road.  I looked up ahead and realized two things.  One, that there was a car blocking our lane (he had pulled half way out of a side road) and two, I wasn't going to be able to stop.  I wasn't going that fast but the roads were just too slick and I had no traction.

I was able to slow my van down a little and turned the wheel so the impact was on the passenger side of the van.  In the split section before we hit, I told the kids I'm not going to be able to stop.  Thankfully, thankfully, no one was hurt.  I remember looking back at the kids and saying 'are you okay'.  And then saying a prayer 'thank you Jesus!'.  Later, they told me that I said a bad word right before I hit the truck.  There's no doubt in my mind I did.

The passenger in the truck was out before I could open my door.  He was so concerned about me and the kids that I got a little teary eyed and truthfully, I was shaking.  I said, 'I'm so sorry.  I saw you stop for that car and had no brakes.'  And then I said, 'This is my first accident in 32 years of driving.'  I had literally never caused an accident before.

He was so gracious and was also an off duty paramedic.  So thankfully, he knew what to do to summon help.  When he got off the phone with the police, he told me that they had received four calls about our accident.  He asked me to get my identification from my vehicle.  I was so shaken, I forgot to think of doing that.  As I was reaching into my car, my phone rang and it was Mark.  He was calling because he knew we would be leaving for our friend's house and wanted to tell me the roads were bad.  I just laughed, a little hysterically maybe, and told him I was well aware of that since I had just hit a pick up truck.


My boys were freaking out.  They were so scared.  I kept hugging them and telling them, 'we're okay, we're okay'.  But still they were freaked out.  They both declared they hated snow and never wanted to see it again.  By this time the police were there and I was realizing that I didn't know who to call to bring us home.  I have plenty of friends but the storm was getting worse and I kept hoping that someone I knew would just happen to be passing and offer to give us a ride.  Instead, the guy I hit took us home.  I may or may not have sent him a thank you card.

All afternoon and night, I kept hugging the boys and telling them it was okay.  The most important thing was we were okay and my van could either be repaired or replaced.  Then they started dreaming of getting me a new vehicle.  They suggested an extended cab pick up truck or a jeep.  As I was putting them to bed, we prayed about the day and thanked God that everyone was healthy and unhurt.  They reiterated their dislike of snow.

On Sunday we woke up to the news that I wouldn't be able to get a rental car until Monday.  Because Mark had to work in the afternoon, we all pitched in to shovel the driveway, sidewalk and front walk.  It was easy going with all four of us and didn't take long.

After the shoveling Mark helped the boys build a snowman.  This also helped them remember why they enjoyed the snow.  Even though it caused dangerous conditions for driving the day before, in the sunshine of a new day they remembered how fun it could be too.


They tried several different versions of the snowman.  I called them outfits and was told I was wrong.  They settled on the WVU snowman as their favorite.  I personally liked the mini-snowman the best.


Grace and I have a rental van here in Hershey so we're fine.  There are tons of calls and follow up to be done about my van but (again) thankfully no one was hurt.  I'm so glad that Mark was able to help the boys remember their love of snow.  Now, I'm over winter and want SPRING...