"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Allergen Free Banana Bread

I'm finally getting around to trying out some of my new recipe books for the allergic-to-everything 2 year old.  Last night my 20 year old daughter made a bunch of banana bread for the rest of us and still had a bunch of overripe bananas left. I figured our little guy would like some banana bread too.  He's really starting to notice and want all the things we have that he can't have.  I feel bad for the poor little guy and he feels sorry for himself too.  So I'm working on making things that are at least similar.

This Banana Bread recipe is from Learning to Bake Allergen Free by Colette Martin.  And if you want to buy just one cookbook on this topic, this is the one you need.  The first half of the book is extremely informative.  I learned so much about why things work and don't work as replacements, what to look for when avoiding certain foods, etc. (for instance, watch out for xanthan gum and maltodextrin if you have a corn allergy.  I never would have known that.)  So without further ado, here's the recipe...

1 cup gluten-free oat flour (I make my own by chopping oatmeal in the blender)
1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I make my own - 3/4 cup brown rice flour, 3/4 cup sweet sorghum flour, and 1/2 cup tapioca starch)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (I use guar gum)
1/2 cup Sucanat (I used brown sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Mix these dry ingredients together and set aside.  (I added a little hemp protein powder to the dry mix too as my allergic-to-everything son can't have any milk substitutes except rice milk, which I was out of, so I used water in place of the milk below).

Mix these wet ingredients together in a separate bowl -
3 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer with 4 Tbsp. warm water (this equals 2 eggs, in case you can have eggs)
1/4 cup sunflower oil (I used canola)
3/4 cup coconut milk beverage (I used water.  We can't have coconut... or soy... and so on.)
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup mashed bananas

After all your wet ingredients are mixed together, slowly add your dry ingredients and mix together until incorporated.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes.  Mine took 55 minutes and is still pretty sticky, but I should have added a little more of one of the flour mixtures as we are at 7,200 ft. elevation.  No nuts for our allergy boy, but you could add them if you wanted.  I have another recipe that has raisins in it, which made me think about adding other dried fruit too.  I might try that in a loaf or two.  Or maybe some cinnamon... but then we're really talking about a different kind of bread, aren't we?  I think the same thing could be done with any mashed fruit or veggies - mango? pumpkin? sweet potato?  Endless possibilities.  I'm guessing you'd have to watch the water content of those other fruits though, and adjust accordingly.

 These are the loaves my daughter made for the rest of us last night.  There are six of them, and we froze four of those.  I wanted to try the gluten free variety before committing to multiple batches, but it came out very well, so I'll probably make a few more loaves of those - or maybe some muffins or mini loaves - so we will always have a treat available for him.

 She also mixed a quadruple batch of cookie dough for me.  This is a recipe called "tub cookies" which is intended to be given as a gift in dough form.

Four batches was enough to fill a gallon ice cream tub.  We have Vacation Bible School at our church and have been asked to make all the cookies we can.  So this is our prep for that.  I'll bake them up over the weekend.  We didn't put anything in the dough yet so we will have options later.  These are usually just chocolate chip cookies, but I think we'll get fancy and use m&m's - ha.  Who knows. Maybe some white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts too.

And here's a picture just to make you smile.  It worked for me :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July in Review

Well.  It appears that an entire month somehow managed to go by without me.  At least that's what you might assume if you read my blog very often.  I just haven't been in the mood to blog lately I guess.  That, and I'm having problems with getting my pictures to transfer to my computer and it's so frustrating that I just avoid trying.  I haven't even been in the mood to take as many pictures.  Hopefully I'll be able to do better...

So, here's what we've been up to this month...

My husband has been working a lot.  It's pretty messy work :)

He brought his work truck home a couple of days.  The boys all thought that was the greatest thing ever.

The littlest two rode with him while he backed into the driveway (big thrill!) and the four year old got to ride with him when he took the truck back out to the shop (a 30 mile drive).

The nine year old went with him one day to get new tires put on the truck in the town 100 miles south of us.  That was a big deal for him.

4th of July - We live in a great location for viewing fireworks - just a short walk over to the football field where we usually sit to watch them.

We've also been enjoying watching our local moose herd - though I was a little worried about my pot of cherry tomatoes this morning, when one walked past my bedroom window at 5 a.m. It was fine though.  Surprisingly he didn't eat them.  He must not have seen them.

The boys have been growing like weeds, as you might expect.  Hard to keep up with them and keep everyone in clothes that fit.  Thankfully we have a great thrift store in town.

We've had some rain, including big thunderstorms yesterday.  The boys know just what to do with that...

Obviously, find the nearest puddle and jump in.

There has been a lot of "schooling" too, but don't tell the nine year old.  He thinks he's just playing.  This is a dandelion stem he found.  We measured it - 27 inches!  He's also participated in the summer reading program at the library, and attended two different weeks of Bible camp.  This actually is the key to my idea for homeschooling this year.  I'm not going to call it school and we're mostly going to do fun things - projects, experiments, etc. and reading.

My husband decided to shave all his hair off (which I don't have a picture of at the moment).  He's been doing the comb-over thing for years and was sick of it.  So he had me use the clippers to cut most of it off before shaving.  The four year old is always extremely afraid of getting his hair cut (read: panic attack).  This time he took the scissors outside and started trimming on his own.

Now I know.  Most of you would run out there and be angry with the kid for cutting his own hair. Not me.  This has been such an issue for him.  I kept a close eye on him, but let him clip away as long as he wanted to, then offered to buzz the rest of it off.  Of course he didn't want anything to do with the clippers, so I told him I would use the scissors if he would sit really still.  It turns out he was so afraid of the clippers that he was motivated to sit still and let me use the scissors.  It took us a good hour - between the two of us - but it got done, and it doesn't look too bad.

He had cut it so short with his own cutting that I had to cut it as short as possible.  But he let me do it, and now we won't have to cut it again for quite some time.

I usually try to do all the guys at once, but the timing didn't work out this time.  So now I still need to cut the 9 year old and 2 year old's hair.

When our neighbors flood irrigate their yard, our playground floods.  It was really bad the other day. We had a good three inches of standing water in the playground, and water running out our driveway and into our neighbors.  The four year old walked out into it and told me, "It's really deep."  I wasn't real happy about it because they always do it in the middle of the day when I need the playground, that was the THIRD time that week.  Talk about frustrating.

We came across an old hat that used to be my daughter's when she was this little (she's 20 now).  She was nicknamed the "little bum" and this was her "bum hat."

Looks like it has a happy new owner.

Despite my lack of posting, it has really been a busy month.  Along with everything I've already mention, we've had several different weeks of VBS (Vacation Bible School) to attend, started a new weekly ladies' Bible study (meeting at my house), attended the annual Green River Rendezvous here in town, had doctor appointments in Jackson Hole (77 miles north) for the two younger boys, made an emergency trip to Rock Springs (100 miles south) to get a new lawn mower (that's the closest Walmart), and I've been reading like crazy (working on book #11 for the month.  I've finished my reading goal for the YEAR of 52 books, but I'll post about all that tomorrow.)

We also had a week of stress when our landlords decided to camp out in front of our house, and wanted to do a bunch of repairs which meant they were in and out of our house multiple times every day.  They also dug up the septic line from the house to the tank - which meant digging up our circle driveway - to put heat tape under it.  A wise move, I'm sure, but such a pain.  They promised they "wouldn't be in the way" and they were nothing but.  Anyway, it turns out the house was her parents' house, and she got all sentimental while she was here and decided she wants to move back into it.  So we're going to have to move again.  We have a one year lease, so there is no rush - even though she was really pushy about it - but it's just such a pain to have to move again.  But who knows... maybe we'll find something we like even better.

So there you have it.  Now you know what we've been up to.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Semi-Charmed Summer 2013 Book Challenge

So, you all know how much I like to read...  It really should be obvious by now if you've been following my blog very long :)  I stumbled across a reading challenge when someone in one of my online book clubs posted about it.  It's called the Semi-Charmed Summer 2013 Book Challenge, which you can find info on if you click on that title.  Basically I have to read books that fall into certain categories.  I think this will be fun and an interesting way to get to read some books I probably otherwise wouldn't have.  My 20 year old daughter thought it sounded like fun too, so she is doing it along with me.  (This is my stack of books to be read, minus the three that I'm still waiting on from inter-library loan. I've finished three of these already.)

So here are the categories, and what I intend to read for them.  The books all have to be a minimum of 200 pages (with one exception, as noted below), and something I haven't read before.  The books have to be read between July 1 and Sept. 30.  Points are awarded for each book, but in order to finish, you have to read one from each category, so I'm not sure points will be of much use.  Oh, and fair warning.  This list might change as I get going on it.  We'll see.  I just felt like I needed to have it all planned out ahead of time. :)  I think it's a fairly good, diverse group of books.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book you'd like, as long as it follows the above rules. :) — Carly's Voice by Arthur Fleischmann (I'm finishing this one today). It's a non-fiction book about autism.  Awesome book.

5: Read a book that is less than 150 pages long. — Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Gardner (finished this one.  Don't bother reading it.  It was really lame.) 

10: Read a book with a color in the title. — The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey (we'll see. I grabbed this because there was a color in the title, but if it isn't interesting, there are millions more to choose from.  I'm also considering Alan Bradley's Red Herring Without Mustard)

10: Read a book that is not the first in its series. — Insurgent by Veronica Roth.  Second in the series after Divergent.

15: Read a book it seems everyone but you has read! — The Kite Runner  by Khaled Hosseini. I have to read this one for my evening book club at the library anyway so I may as well use it for this too :)

15: Read a banned book. - A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.  At least that's where I'm leaning.  My daughter is reading As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and says it's very good, so I might do that one instead.

20: Read a book written by a celebrity. This can be a memoir or a fiction book published by someone who was already famous by another means. — originally picked up Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill for this, but then I realized it says "celebrity," not "famous person" so I thought maybe I needed to look for something else.  Now I'm leaning toward The Notes: Ronald Reagan's Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom by Ronald Reagan.  

20: Read a non-fiction book that is not a memoir. It can be pure non-fiction or narrative non-fiction. — Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.   I have to read this one for my daytime library book club this month

20: Read a book that takes place in a state you have never been in. If you have been to all 50 states, choose a book that takes place in a country you have never been in. Also do the latter option if you are not American. — originally planned to do The Fugitive Wife by Peter Brown (set in Alaska).  Now that I realize my "celebrity" mix-up, I may use Mrs. Kennedy and Me for this category.  I really want to read it, and I'm sure it is set primarily on the East Coast, north of where I've been (we lived in NC for awhile but were never north of there).

25: Read a book that is at least 400 pages long. — Divergent by Veronica Roth.  487 pages.  Finished this one.  I had to read this one for one of my online book clubs and wasn't looking forward to it at all.  But I read it and actually loved it.  I read it in two days and have the second one on hold to use for my "not the first in a series" category as mentioned above.

25: Read a book with a main character who shares your first name. To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNealy.  This was a very difficult category to figure out.  Took a ton of searching.  But then I came across this book and have great hopes.  Not only does the female character share my name, but the story is also set in Nebraska, where I grew up.  Lived there until I was 13 and still have strong ties there.  I hope it's good :) 

30: Read a book written by an author who was born in or died in your birth year.  1972.  Leaning toward HHhH by Laurent Binet.  I might also do A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi

So that means so far I have three books done (well, I will in about an hour anyway) totaling 35 points in the first 6 days of the contest.  Not a bad start.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do...

Oh, by the way, when I was exploring the site that's hosting this contest, I found another contest - the A-Z Book Challenge.  Basically you just have to read a book that starts with each letter of the alphabet (a, an, and the don't count).  Since I've been keeping track of everything I've read this year, I wrote it all out alphabetically and realized I only need 10 more letters to be done - A, I, J, N, O, Q, R, U, V, and Z.  The books on the list above will take care of A, I and N.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Allergy-Free Birthday Cake

As I mentioned in my last post, our 2 year old birthday boy is allergic to all sorts of things: eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, corn, tree nuts, coconut, sesame, and peanuts ... and those are just the ones we are currently aware of.  It is extremely expensive to test for allergies and they are constantly changing.  I suspect there is something else bothering him lately, as his eczema has been worse and he's had more diarrhea than usual, but I haven't figured out what it is yet.  Last time we had him tested was only 6 months ago and it cost us over $500.

Anyway, this post was intended to be about this amazing cake!  I'll admit I wasn't really looking forward to eating an allergy free cake.  I tried a gluten free one from a box last year and wasn't that impressed.  That was before we found out he was allergic to way more things than we though.  Most notable of these was soy and corn - which if you think about it, corn starch (xanthan gum) or corn syrup is in everything.   Most of the gluten free mixes have soy in them. So it's been a real adjustment to figure out what to feed this kid.  Mostly we stick with fresh meats, veggies and fruits.  Thankfully he can have most of those.

Getting back to the point, I came across this allergy-free cake recipe.  I'm terrible about remembering where I find recipes, so I'm extremely sorry to whomever I stole this recipe from.  I would give credit if I could find the source.  My best guess would be www.eatingwithfoodallergies.com.  I'm about 99% sure that's where this came from, but don't shoot me if that's wrong :)

 This cake was so amazingly good that it would be a shame not to share it with others who need it.  So here it is.  The recipe made an 8x8 pan, and I think next time I'm going to make it in little square muffin/mini loaf pans so I can freeze it so he will have a dessert to take to places where there will be desserts he can't have.

1 cup white rice flour                                         
1/3 cup potato starch
3 tablespoons tapioca starch                           
1/2 teaspoon guar gum (you could use xanthan gum if you don't have corn allergies)
1 cup sugar                                                        
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt                                                 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract                             
1 tablespoon vinegar
5 tablespoons canola oil                                      
1-1/4 cup cold water

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Combine the rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, guar gum, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract, vinegar, canola oil and water. Mix well.
3) For cake: Pour batter into an ungreased square cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (I was nervous about the "ungreased" part, but the cake came out of the pan just fine.
For cupcakes: Pour batter into a muffin tin with paper liners. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the pan immediately and place on a cooling rack. Makes 12 cupcakes.
1/4 cup rice flour                                             
1 cup rice milk
1 cup sugar                                                      
3/4 cup shortening (I used spectrum palm oil because regular shortening often contains soy or corn)
3 tablespoons canola oil                                  
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)
1) In a medium saucepan, whisk together the rice flour and rice milk until combined completely. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. When the mixture begins to thicken whisk constantly until it is the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2) With a mixer, cream together the shortening and oil until smooth and light, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and cooled flour and milk mixture and beat for another 4 minutes. If desired, add cocoa powder and mix until incorporated completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.

 I sprinkled the baby food dehydrated bananas and strawberries on top to make it fancy.  He especially liked that, but it would have been awesome to put fresh strawberry slices on top too.  I just didn't have any.

You can probably see that the frosting seemed a little grainy.  Well, I shouldn't say grainy - it was more like it was a little separated - like when you make the filling for cream puffs from shortening.  It was pretty warm here, and I wondered after the fact if I could have skipped the liquid oil and just creamed the shortening with the sugar.  I might try that next time.  It didn't set up as firm as I would have needed it to for trying to do a design like you would with buttercream frosting.  The cake was amazingly moist and had a great flavor.

I was planning to make him some homemade ice cream too.  I had heard that Jello products don't contain milk, so I was going to use a pudding mix.  But after reading all the labels on the ones I had here, the only one I thought I might be able to use was a vanilla mix, and it contained "modified food starch." Talk about vague!  What kind of "food" exactly?  Who knows.  In the end, we decided it wasn't worth the risk as corn starch is fairly popular ingredient, and the "modified food starch" was number two on the list of ingredients.  Starch can come from wheat as well, but if it was a wheat starch it would have had to list wheat as an ingredient, so I was sure that wasn't there.  (The top 8 allergens are required to be listed in plain English on the ingredients list.  Corn isn't one of the top 8, so I still was left guessing).  And there is a big risk of cross-contamination too.  Too late I found a recipe for a strawberry sorbet - which just amounts to fresh strawberries, a little lemon juice, and sugar.  But as I've already mentioned, I was out of fresh strawberries.  So we'll have to do that another day.  I dug out my ice cream maker, so we'll have some fun with that later.

Anyway, I hope this recipe has been helpful to you!  It's going to get a lot of use around here :)

***EDITED***  Be sure to eat this all the first day.  It wasn't so good on day two.  Might have been okay if we had frozen it or maybe even refrigerated it, but I wasn't so impressed with it on day two.  It dried out quickly and developed a bit of an aftertaste.  I wrote the post after the first time we ate it. ;)

The Little Man is 2

 Our youngest turned 2 yesterday.  Hard to believe it's been that long, and yet here we are.  What a joy this little guy is!  He is a very busy little man.  He loves to run and climb and play in the irrigation ditch.  He's brave ... a little too brave for Mama's liking, but also a ton of fun.  His vocabulary is amazing, and he fits right into the family.  He LOVES to read.  For hours.  And hours. :)

He's also had some real challenges, and we're thankful he's doing as well as he is.  He is allergic to tons of foods, and despite the doctor's belief that the allergies would decrease, they have actually gotten worse.  The ones we know about right now are eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, corn, tree nuts, coconut, sesame, and he is deathly allergic to peanuts.  So making a suitable birthday cake (or even his daily meals) is a challenging.  I'll do a separate post on his birthday cake, as the recipe I found and tried this time was amazing.  I literally wouldn't have known it was an allergy-free cake if I hadn't made it myself.  I think it's going to be the only kind of cake I make for birthdays in our family so the poor little guy can have some each time.  He's number 5, so we do a lot of celebrating around here.  He also has very bad eczema, which often prompts well-meaning strangers to suggest odd treatments.  The latest was a woman who I'm pretty sure wasn't dealing with a full deck.  She was sure he needed to take Emu oil or liquid aloe vera - both internally.  With all the allergies he already has, I've decided not to ever take a chance with odd treatments that have to be ingested.  Seriously though, doesn't it seem likely that if there were a simple cure for this problem, our excellent pediatrician  - or at least the dermatology specialist - would know about it?  Okay enough of the rant.  Let's get back to the party.

 He had a fun time unwrapping his presents.

Papa and Bugga came over for cake and ice cream and to see him unwrap everything.

 His 20 year old sister bought him some dried fruit - apricots and pineapple.  When he found it, everything had to stop until I opened the pineapple and let him dig in ;)


His four year old brother was as excited about the birthday party as he was.  Here he was wanting to give the birthday boy a hug :)

I love how excited they get about the smallest little things - like in this case, a simple ball.

This big box was full of medium sized balls.

He about fell into the box trying to get them out.

As soon as he did, he would take them over to someone and share them :)

Here's a blue one for Papa.  Bugga had already been given a red one.

 Daddy bought him a monster truck.  (Actually Daddy did all the shopping for us.  He bought the balls, the monster truck and a sail boat).

His sister also gave him a stuffed tiger that looks just like Hobbs from the Calvin and Hobbs comic strip.  So that's what we're calling him.  He shared that with his nine year old brother.


He was giving Hobbs a big "squeeze hug" as the four year old calls it.

His nine year old brother gave him a couple of boats.  This one is a jet ski, which he immediately took by the handle bars and started making motor noises with :)

Then it was time for cake.  This was quite a treat for him since with all his allergies, he rarely gets cake.  I make him cookies from time to time (oatmeal mixed with mashed bananas and baked) but cake is a rare treat.  He can't have any of the boxed mixes because they usually contain xanthan gum, which is a corn product, and he is allergic to corn.

Don't you love that face?  He was trying to figure out how to blow the candles out.  The four year old was very eager to help him out with that.

Birthdays are SO exciting!

 Sister was trying to get him to blow...

Here we go!  (Don't mention it to the company, but I think there was a little moisture in that blowing!)

I couldn't decorate it like i normally would have so I just sprinkled some of those dehydrated strawberry and banana pieces on top ... you know, the ones that are in the baby food section?  He loves those.

I think he thought the entire pan was for him ;)

It started off neat enough...

But in the end, he wanted the rest of the pan  ... and he had given up on the fork.

Grandpa sent him a musical card, which he though was the most hysterical thing ever.

It didn't take him long to figure out how to make the music start over... and over...

Of course when you receive four boats for your birthday, it's a must to have a bath after the party ... not to mention the chocolate covered face and hands...

He sure had it figured out how to play with that jet ski!

Anyway, it was a great party and a great day.  We're so thankful for each and every one of our blessings!