Food Finds

After several friends telling me about the organic items available at Costco, I decided to go check out this megastore for myself.  I’ve been thinking about getting a membership there for a while.  The bulk produce is a big draw for us.  I’d also heard that Costco hae some “natural” baked goods and that they carry Huggies diapers in bulk. (We go through a ridiculous number of them.)  I was delighted to find that in addition to a lot of organic produce, I was able to find tortillas, french bread and a rosemary bread loaf that were all dairy and soy free.  They advertised lunchmeat cut straight from actual turkey breasts although I didn’t get to go check that out.  I had the kids with me and didn’t have as much time to explore as I would have liked, so hopefully there are more discoveries to be made.

In the last few weeks I’ve also found some new soy/dairy free ice creams that I can get at Whole Foods or my local grocery store, Dierbergs.  My favorite one is the So Delicious Cherry Amaretto coconut based ice cream.  So Delicious also makes a soy/dairy free mint chip coconut ice cream that I love, but I have to scoop out the chocolate flakes.  My daughter loves to”help” me with these and takes care of eating the chocolate spoonfuls. (Check your container though.  My container said soy free and contained no almond or soy lecithin but the website had a different list of ingredients for this item.)  The So Delicous website is really great for finding allergy information/ingredients for their products.  The third frozen delight I found is a sorbet made by Talenti: Roman Raspberry.  Just a handful of ingredients and very yummy.

My last recent food find is probably the one I am the most excited about.   I think it has the potential to bring Asian food back into my menu.  I was looking around online at possible substitutions for soy sauce and came across Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos.  It had great reviews as a soy sauce stand in so I went hunting it down and found it at Whole Foods for around $6 a bottle  (It was $14 on Amazon so price shop this stuff!)  Coconut Aminos are made from the sap of a coconut tree and sea salt.  The website discusses the health benefits of the product but what I care more about is that it is a safe food item for us and tastes a lot like soy sauce.  I would say it is a bit sweeter than regular soy sauce and seems mildly carbonated.  Make sure to open it slowly!  I haven’t cooked with it yet but I will definitely be trying it next week in a recipe.

Antibiotics done, on to shots

Good news at the doctor’s office this week.  Colin’s ear infections and tonsilitis are gone.  Colin did pretty well with the antibiotics.  We definitely saw a flare up in his reflux.  He started arching his back a lot, choking while nursing and spitting up more.  A few days into the medicine,  I started him back on his probiotics.  I’d stopped for a while, no real reason why, but now we are back on the BioGaia wagon.  His diapers were a lot more um, explosive while on antibiotics but overall his GI system seemed to handle the antibiotic pretty well.

Since he was doing so well we went ahead and got his 6 month shots yesterday.  I was preparing for the usual days of terribleness but Colin seems to be handling this round better than the last one.   Last time he was just miserable and we had green scary diapers for at least two weeks.  We are on day 2 now and although he is not a happy camper, his GI system isn’t too worse for the wear.  Maybe his system is getting more mature or maybe it is because he spit out 90% of the rotovirus vaccine this time.  I’m no doctor but I think that specific one may be what really puts his belly through the wringer.  We are completely done with that series now so hopefully the next round of vaccines will be even easier.

I’m happy to write that I am feeling more excited about Colin starting solid foods in a week or two.  I think the shock of this phase approaching so rapidly has worn off and I have accepted that we will take it one day, or food, at a time.  Really, how did this baby get to be 6 months already?  Anyway, more of my trepidation is turning into anticipation now that I have a plan. We are going to bypass rice cereal and start with iron fortified oatmeal.  Although I could make my own oatmeal, it is the iron the pediatrician really wanted us to add to his diet.  I found a baby oatmeal cereal made by Happy Bellies that is a single grain, clearly marked dairy and soy free, contains probiotics and iron.  Hopefully the Happy Bellies will make for a happy Colin belly.

Quicky Meatloaves

We love meatloaf in our house.  Years ago we could pop a giant meatloaf in the oven and wait hours while it cooked, but these days time is too precious.  Instead of abandoning this comfort food, a while ago I started making meatloaf in muffin tins.  I make 12 mini-loaves which cook in a fraction of the time.   It makes portioning and freezing so much easier as well as the added benefit of more “top” per serving.   You know, that delicous top crust where the ketchup glaze carmelizes on the meatloaf.  I put the glaze on each meatloaf muffin so everyone gets a good bit of that sticky yumminess.

This recipe was inspired by a meatloaf I saw Alton Brown make on one of his shows.  He used finely chopped vegetables to add lots of flavor and keep the meatloaf moist.   A food processor is key for quickly chopping the vegetables down to the size where they won’t ruin the stabililty of your meatloaf.  Alton also mixed things up by adding cumin in the meatloaf and in the glaze, which we loved.  Give it a try at least once.  If you do find that you aren’t a cumin fan, try replacing the cumin in the glaze with some worcestershire sauce.

Quicky Meatloaves

Ingredients

1 large carrot broken into three or four pieces

1/2 medium onion cut into three or four large chunks

1/2 red or yellow bell pepper cut into three or four pieces

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 egg

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1.5 lb ground beef – I use 90% lean

Glaze Ingredients

1/3 cup ketchup

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade, add the carrot, onion. bell pepper and garlic.

Place the lid on the food processor and chop all the ingredients using 6 1-second pulses.  The goal here is to finely chop but not to make soup.  Open the lid to check it a few times to see if you need a few more pulses.  You want tiny pieces but not a puree.

Dump the chopped veggies into a large bowl and add the egg, breadcrumbs, chili powder, cumin, thyme, salt and tomato paste.  Mix gently.

Add the ground beef and mix lightly with your fingers or a fork until combined.

In an ungreased 12 count muffin tin, portion out the meat evenly.  I use a medium sized disher to put the same size scoop in each muffin tin and then any leftovers in the mixing bowl I try to dole out evenly by hand.

For the glaze combine the ketchup and cumin in a small dish and stir.   Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze one each meatloaf.

Cook for 34-38 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.  We usually serve two mini-meatloaves to an adult and one per child.  They are great atop a bed of potatoes mashed with some chicken or vegetable stock and butter replacer like Earth Balance Soy Free Spread.

You can refridgerate leftovers for 3 or 4 days or better yet freeze what you don’t eat.  Freeze mini-meatloaves within two hours of cooking them.  I usually arrange them on a plate so they are not touching each other, freeze 2 hours and then throw them in a zip top bag. They will keep for up to four months.   Anytime you need a quick meal you can pull out however many you need and microwave a few minutes until hot.

6 months but hold the solids

Colin had his six-month checkup last week.  I was happy to hear he is growing well, a healthy happy guy.  He had dropped a bit in his weight percentile but still falling right around his growth curves so the pediatrician was happy.

Unfortunately two days after his appointment Colin came down with something and now has an ear infection, stuff going on in his lungs and tonsilitis.  He is so miserable.  The doctor prescribed an antibiotic which I had to run home and look up to make sure the inactive ingredients didn’t contain any allergens.  I think we are safe on that front but I really hope it doesn’t aggravate his reflux or intestinal issues.  He’s never had an antibiotic so we’ll see how this goes.  After we get through the ear infections etc. he will get rechecked to make sure everything is cleared up and then he can get his 6 month vaccinations.  Once he bounces back from those and his tummy settles again we are supposed to think starting him on solid foods.

Solids?  Really?  Yikes!  I can’t believe that day is almost here.  With Hannah we were so excited about starting rice cereal and couldn’t wait to watch her discover food.  With Colin, well, I really don’t want to go down that road yet.  To be honest, I am dreading it.  There has been a part of my brain just ignoring the fact that yes, someday Colin will have to eat like the rest of us.  No, I didn’t plan on breastfeeding him forever, but I hoped he would have grown out of his allergies before we had to try solids.  We see what happens when something offending comes through my breastmilk,  how long it takes him to recover, and can’t imagine what it will be like if he actually eats an offending food directly.  Since we haven’t figured all of his food triggers out (and I doubt we will really) it is hard to know what is safe to start with.

Colin can’t do the usual rice cereal and so many food categories are off the table.  I thought about a fruit or veggie but the pediatrician wants us to make sure he gets enough iron.  So, I’m thinking maybe a wheat or oatmeal cereal that is iron fortified but also not contaminated with soy.  I’ve read several big name baby food brands have soy in them.  I made most of Hannah’s baby foods so I’ll have to reread my baby food books and come up with some kind of game plan in the next few weeks.

Also, what about my diet?  If we introduce a new food to Colin every 7 days I will have to make sure I am eating the same thing day in and day out to ensure we can be sure any reactions are to the new solid foods and not something that came through my breastmilk.   Sometimes Colin only reacts after I’ve increased the amount of something I am eating so we will have to be wary of compounding reactions.

Too bad we didn’t win that big lottery.  Crazy expensive prescription formula is looking better and better.

Anyone who has been through this and has advice, I’d love your thoughts.

Sunflower Milk

Today I found another milk substitute coming onto the market:Sol Sunflower milk.  Seems like they are making more and more milk substitutes these days which is great news for the dairy/soy free crowd.  Now if only they can make it without carrageenan, which kills my stomach.  So I won’t be trying this one but would love to hear from anyone who has tried it!

Cheeseless Lasagna

Looks pretty good, huh?!  Looks like a lasagna?!  It is lasagna and it is delicious!  Even better- it is dairy and soy free!

(This is a dish I was really excited and made while I still was able to eat beans and milk substitutes.  I have been meaning to add it here for a long time.  With all the cooking I do and caring for my two little cuties, the time just flies.  So although I can’t currently eat it because of the beans, I highly recommend it if you are looking for a dairy free lasagna.)

After we found out we had food protein issues, I found the blog MSPI Mama, an amazing site for those who need to live dairy and soy free.  There are resources, recipes and a quick start guide for people new to the dairy/soy free life, which is very helpful.  (Although the author’s family can have soy oil/lecithin, we cannot, so I make sure to read recipes carefully and choose things that work for us.)

I was really excited to see a cheeseless lasagna in the list of recipes.  We used to eat a lot of Italian food before we went dairy/soy free and both my husband and I really missed lasagna.  Lasagna is one of my husband’s favorite foods and I love how lasagna makes a hearty dinner with plenty of leftovers.   I hadn’t attempted a cheese free lasagna myself because I hadn’t come up with a good cheese substitute (I really don’t care for Daiya cheese, the only fake cheese we could eat).  This recipe from MSPI Mama brilliantly uses cannellini beans with eggs and spices as a ricotta replacement and a white sauce made with rice milk to create that creamy goodness that cheese would bring to the party.

The recipe requires making the meat mixture, the ricotta-like bean mixture and the white sauce for the top. It does take a bit of time and quite a few dishes to prepare, but that is pretty standard for a lasagna.  In my mind lasagna makes so much food that is okay to have one really dish-heavy night.   It also calls for boiling the lasagna noodles but to cut down on prep time I used no-boil noodles and they worked just fine.  I used oat milk in place of the rice milk without a problem.  One other tip is to make sure to follow the directions to let it stand 15 minutes to set up.  Ours was a bit loose that first night, probably because I was so excited to eat it I was impatient and cut it early, but was picture perfect after being in the fridge overnight.

The end result was delicious.  It tasted like a lasagna and I REALLY didn’t miss cheese.  I think the white sauce on top, really made the dish.  My husband liked it to and ate it all week long with me as leftovers, which is a pretty good judge of a dairy free recipe in our house.  Remember this is the man who orders lasagna at every Italian restaurant so I’d say he’s pretty much a lasagna critic.  Also exciting was how nutritious this meal was to serve to my family.   Spinach, beans, no cheese!  I think even if I can go back to eating dairy world again sometime in my life I will bring some of the substitutions in this lasagna with me to make my old cheese filled dishes healthier.

Almost almonds

If you read my post about peanuts you know that early on we originally cut out all nuts from my diet over a hunch I had , but we really weren’t sure if all nuts were bad news.  Peanuts were a fail so I decided to try almonds.  If they were a pass I would try other nuts but if Colin had a reaction I would stop altogether with the nuts.

Although I was hoping for Colin’s sake that he could tolerate almonds, I had my own selfish reasons for choosing that nut to try next.  I really really wanted access to all the almond products on the market like almond milk, almond ice cream and almond butter.  I miss foods like ice cream and peanut butter soo much.  If I never had to look at peanut butter I probably wouldn’t miss it terribly, but Hannah enjoys it so it is out of the cupboard quite often.  Almond butter is a really close second to peanut butter and I would eat that in its place, no problem.  And ice cream.  Oh, ice cream.  I never ate that much of it before but I think it is the epitome of fatty delicious dairy so when I think about what dairy I’d like to eat, I long for ice cream. True, almond ice cream isn’t the same, but since I’m out of ideas for safe milk substitutes, I can’t even make my own right now.

For this food challenge I started with just a few raw almonds and upped the number I ate over several days before trying almond milk and a few days later,  almond butter.  At first I thought things were going well.  I didn’t see any major changes and Colin’s eczema was not too terrible.  I was able to make recipes needing milk substitute, like quiche, which was both exciting and delicious.  Late  last week though,  it dawned on my husband and I that Colin has been progressively spitting up more and more and his eczema starting looking a lot worse as the week went on.    I realized too that Colin was generally sleeping terribly and he hasn’t been smiling very much.  Poor little guy. Based on our history with other foods, I had been expecting a big obvious reaction if almonds were a problem.

About 3 or 4 days after removing all traces of almond from my diet Colin, reverted back to his happy talkative self and we all required much fewer wardrobe changes thanks to less spit-up.  So it is bye-bye nuts for probably a year or so.  I didn’t have time to get used to eating almonds so it is not terrible giving them up but oh, those few spoonfuls of almond butter were soooo good.