ASD Recovery Recipe: Anything Taquitos

It’s been a million years since my last recipe post. I vaguely remember that post being titled “Anything Pasta.” Its point was that, pretty much whatever is in my refrigerator, I can make (GFCF, lentil-based) pasta with those ingredients, and Martin eats. (Exception: mushrooms. The kid can sniff out a mushroom like a truffle hog.)

Today I reveal another secret, the taquito miracle. Martin can tolerate almond flour, and he does well with Siete brand almond-flour tortillas. Occasionally I make tacos at home, with spicy beans, tomato-walnut filling, spinach, tomatoes, onions, salsa. For me, I use corn hard shells. Adrian and Martin prefer gluten-free tortillas. One day I took leftover taco beans, added Miyoko’s cashew mozzarella, rolled them tightly into a Siete tortilla, and pan-fried the concoction, which sealed the tortilla shut and also made an externally crunchy finger food.

Martin acted like he’d found paradise. That first time, he ate four taquitos in a row.

I thought, why stop at leftover taco beans?

Since then I’ve realized I can roll a whole variety of ingredients into a taquito and watch Martin enjoy the creation. Last week, I made gallo pinto. Unfortunately, I rushed the job, and the beans didn’t end up as soft as Martin likes them. Although my brother Eddie, who is here with us in Costa Rica, enjoyed the meal, Martin refused to finish his portion.

Fast forward to the next day, lunchtime. I scooped leftover gallo pinto into a Siete tortilla, rolled, fried. Presto! Martin snarfed the first taquito and requested a second, no hint evident of the previous day’s fussiness. Other leftovers I’ve snuck into taquitos include rice pilaf, lentils, mixed vegetables. In a pinch I’ve combined organic pizza sauce and Miyoko’s mozzarella to blend two cuisines into the “pizza-quito,” a Martin favorite.

I also use the tortillas to make “quesadillas,” i.e., two tortillas like sandwich bread around filling, pan-fried into something resembling an edible frisbee. I make varieties of “breakfast quesadilla,” such as peanut butter and coconut, or cashew butter with banana. (Yes, I also make breakfast taquitos.) Martin currently dislikes leafy green vegetables. Usually I hide them in smoothies. One morning I happened upon another minor miracle. I finely chopped fresh spinach, then tucked it with Kite Hill almond cream cheese and Himalayan salt between two tortillas, and fried. If Martin was concerned about the spinach—which, by the way, was not hidden in the final product—he failed to mention the concern when he asked if he could eat the same quesadilla again later.

We’ve been in Costa Rica a couple weeks already, where (despite a remarkable variety of organic and GFCF products, compared to Nicaragua) items like Siete almond-flour tortillas aren’t so easy to find. The first week, Adrian was with us. He stepped onto the porch one afternoon to find Martin munching contentedly on a peanut-butter-and-strawberry taquito.

“Martin!” Adrian teased. “Did your mother travel to Central America with almond-flour tortillas in her luggage just so you can eat taquitos? Are you that spoiled?”

Yes, I did. Because yes, he is.

Chances

My approach to Martin’s food continues to evolve.

In the earliest days, I would say, Martin’s diet was one of restriction. No grains, dairy, soy, corn, refined sugar, starchy vegetables, or fruits other than pear and avocado. No colors or sweeteners, no packaged or prepared foods, nothing from a restaurant. My mindset was mired in what he could not eat, and I concocted elaborate replacements for “usual” foods. This was a time of homemade zucchini seed “French fries,” sunflour patties, and duck nuggets; as long as the dish didn’t have any no’s, and seemed vaguely like a familiar food, it was a yes.

As I learned more about Martin’s particular needs, we ventured into specialty diets: GAPS with its endless broths, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, low-salicylate, which brought us more potatoes and less coconut oil.

At some point, food became easier when I focused on simplicity: fewer replacements and complicated recipes, more limited-ingredient masterpieces.

This summer in Nicaragua, I was able to confirm that fruit doesn’t have to be our enemy anymore—after fruit had been relegated to that role for years by Martin’s tendency to yeast overgrowth. Also, through trial and error, I brought back in some of the higher-salicylate items formerly removed.

Now, back in the States with access to an embarrassing range of organic options, my motto has become: “Every meal, a chance to heal.” Martin is still gluten-, dairy-, soy-, and refined-sugar free, and his food is mostly homemade and organic. But I’m focused less on how to replace what Martin can’t eat and more on how I can pack fat, protein, and nutrients onto his plate while still keeping the meals delicious.

For exemplar purposes, I photographed this morning’s breakfast preparations. These were the ingredients, as I prepared them—

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Fritter mixture (sweet potato, onion, garlic, carrot tops), pineapple, strawberries, orange, avocado, egg.

You see orange slices, strawberries, 1/4 avocado, one egg, and a bowl with shredded sweet potatoes and minced onion, garlic, and carrot greens. That’s a lot of vitamin content, plus the healthy fat of avocado and protein of egg. Tell me that you’re asking yourself what kind of lunatic arranges the prepared ingredients in a pattern on her cutting board? Only when I’m operating “for exemplar purposes.” Keep up. Next I whisked the egg in a glass with Himalayan pink salt and stirred it into the sweet potato bowl.

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Fritter mixture, now with egg. Ready to fry!

Then I juiced those orange slices in preparation for Martin’s smoothie. Because it so fibrous, orange is one of the few fruits I won’t add whole to a smoothie. I usually use coconut water as the base of Martin’s breakfast smoothie; this morning, I had oranges to use up and so substituted orange juice. I put the orange juice in the Vitamix with the avocado and strawberries. I add avocado to every smoothie, healthy fat that Martin doesn’t taste. (I’m also finding new ways to disguise spinach and kale.)

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Getting the pulp out of the oranges.

Finally I formed patties from the shredded-sweet-potato mixture and fried them in olive oil. Breakfast looked like this:

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Voilà! Crunchy sweet potato fritters with fruit smoothie. Breakfast is served.

That’s a common weekday breakfast. Here are some other examples:

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Berry smoothie with “egg muffin” (diced vegetables, spices, and egg baked in ramekin) and salted roast potatoes.

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Tropical smoothie with “egg muffin” (diced peppers, parsley, and spices with egg, baked in ramekin) and potatoes with carrot greens.

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Tropical smoothie and squash fritters, made with onions and red palm oil for rich color.

I still tend to put Martin’s meat serving—if he has one, on a given day—into his school lunch. Today, lunch was turkey meatballs, filled with peppers and leeks. For dessert, homemade meringues (egg whites, vanilla, arrowroot, maple sugar). For snack, a Lärabar.

Tonight was a slow-cooker dinner. Late morning, I diced whatever “autumn” vegetables were in my fridge, and added late-season tomatoes and herbs from my garden. That mixture went into the Instant Pot, together with red lentils, spices, and vegetable broth.

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The dinner ingredients. I had such fun laying out the breakfast ingredients for display that I figured I would continue the trend.

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Dinner into the Instant Pot to slow cook.

Of course, not every meal is a vegetable powerhouse. Convenience can play its role. Some mornings, breakfast is a smoothie plus “pizza,” i.e., peanut butter spread between Siete grain-free tortillas and fried in macadamia nut oil.

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Finally! A green smoothie. This one has spinach, cashew milk, coconut yogurt, peanut butter, and frozen banana.

Some evenings, dinner is brown-rice fusilli with “cheese” sauce, in this case served alongside Indian-spiced chickpea fries.

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This is like the ASD-recovery version of mac-‘n’-cheese with chicken fingers, I guess.

Adrian, who refuses to eat breakfast except on weekends, continues to get two Bento boxes of mostly raw food, and one container of lentils, to take to the office for lunch.

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A sample bento box for Adrian. In this one I packed salted avocado, grapes, peanuts, raw-milk cheddar, apple, hummus, and Mary’s Gone Crackers Thins.

Every meal is a chance to heal.

Now, if a child’s system is damaged and not properly absorbing nutrients, all the raw vegetables in the world won’t necessarily get the healing done; the trick is to find the proper food combinations. We are awaiting new test results to learn more about Martin’s gut today and whether we need to tweak his diet yet again.

And we press onward.

ASD Recovery Recipe: Anything Pasta

So I’ve discovered that I can make a decent pasta meal out of anything “vegetable” in my refrigerator. Like, virtually anything.

Last night I planned to make white bean skordalia. By the time I discovered that I forgot to advance-soak the cannellini beans, I had only minutes to devise another dinner. I surveyed the kitchen and assembled these ingredients:

->Carrots, with their green tops. I always cook the carrot greens. Once when I was checking out, the supermarket cashier casually snapped off the carrot greens and tossed them in a garbage bin. I promptly commenced a lengthy oration on the benefits of carrot greens.

->Red onions.

->Garlic.

->Celery.

->Toasted onion salt. With Martin’s current low-salicylate diet limiting spices so much, I’ve been trying to get creative with salt.

->Pine nuts. I avoid the pine nuts from China. I’m not anti-China, but I am concerned with shortcomings in China’s food-safety schema.

->Green lentil pasta.

I prepped the carrots (greens and all) and celery in a vinegar bath, then cut them into pieces and put them in my food processor. October 13, 2011, I wrote a post titled, “Kitchen News: An Update on the Hunt for a Food Processor With Glass Bowl,” which (based on total unique views) is the most popular post ever to grace this blog. Five-and-a-half years later, I am still without a glass food processor. I processed the carrots and celery almost to a paste. Then I chopped the onions and garlic roughly and added them to the food processor.

While the pasta was cooking, I heated a generous amount of oil and fried the finely minced vegetables. When they were almost done, I added onion salt and a scoop of pine nuts.

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Finally I drenched the cooked pasta in cold water to prevent mushiness and added it to the veggie pan.

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The resulting dinner was pasta coated in lovely crunchy-garlicky bits. Martin said, “Oh yes, this is delicious!” and Adrian ate every last bit from the pan.

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Must remember—“night in a pinch” will henceforth be known as “garlic pasta dinner.”

Food Porn, Mardi Gras Edition

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, so this must be Fat Tuesday, the culmination of Mardi Gras. Tuesday afternoons Martin attends the kids program at our church. Last week, our pastor announced that he planned to serve king cake today.

When Samara, who had taken Martin to the kids program, informed me of this king cake development, I was weirded out. This isn’t New Orleans, and my church isn’t Roman Catholic. We are stuffy Northeastern Protestants. The last time I ate a king cake, I was a 22-year-old graduate student dating a Louisianan whose mother FedExed us the delicacy. (I recall that a Jewish friend found the Baby Jesus trinket, which subsequently was stolen by PeeWee the cat, who batted poor Baby Jesus mercilessly about the parquet floor.) On the other hand, Samara—who is not only Roman Catholic and of Latin American origin, but unable to see Martin deprived of anything—jumped all over the king cake idea. By the time I returned home Wednesday evening, from a mediation I was attending in Los Angeles, Samara had downloaded a recipe for “Paleo” king cake, invented her own sweetened cashew cream filling, and spent four hours baking this:

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We popped that base in the freezer. Yesterday I moved it to the refrigerator to defrost. This afternoon I created a frosting/glaze. In the Vitamix, I blended 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, 1/4 cup coconut cream, 1/4 cup cashew butter, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 3 tablespoons raw honey. I spread that on the defrosted king cake:

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Next, I used an India Tree decorating set to color four bowls of organic shredded coconut:

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Finally, I sprinkled the dyed coconut onto the frosted king cake to replicate the traditional multi-colored appearance:

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Martin took the cake to church this afternoon and loved the treat. I’m not sure if I have Samara’s patience to make this every year, but a new tradition just might have been born.

Postscript: Apparently the pastor had trouble finding a local bakery in the business of assembling king cakes this year; by the weekend he had changed course and declared today’s kids program “pancake dinner”—the tradition much more associated with us uptight, Shrove Tuesday types. Of course, the pancakes were not Martin-approved, and the homemade king cake was already in my freezer. So while the rest of the kids had pancakes, Martin ate like a king.

At least he shared.

ASD Recovery Recipe: Smoothies

Alert: This isn’t really a recipe. But it is a food post that could be construed as instructional, and it includes a colorful photograph. That’s recipe enough, right?

When we were vacationing in South America a few weeks ago, Martin and I paid several visits to the hippie-van-cum-juice-stand parked on a beach. Although the fruit and vegetables weren’t organic (organics are hard to find, in Adrian’s country of origin), they were fresh, and the lovely couple running the place created sugar-free (not counting the naturally occurring fructose) smoothies that Martin loved. I was inspired to try making smoothies at home.

Until now, I’ve been discouraged in smoothie endeavors because I can’t figure out when I would give one to Martin. He already has so many liquids in his day. Breakfast always includes 12 ounces of bone broth. For school I send a LifeFactory bottle filled with Fiji water and a splash of organic juice, which he drinks throughout the day. After school he takes eight ounces of camel milk with cinnamon. Then with dinner he gets another 12 ounces of bone broth. Whenever he wants it, I give him filtered water. Where would a smoothie fit in all that? As it is, half the day he’s got a straw in his mouth.

I’ve also wondered if the amount of sugar (fructose) is worthwhile, in comparison to a smoothie’s total nutritional profile. I thought about adding protein powder to boost that nutritional profile, but for Martin I shy away from protein powders, because even the best-quality organic ones seem fractured, or processed, or otherwise not complete foods. The South American beach folks, I noticed, were adding cashews or walnuts into smoothies without compromising the fruit flavor. Nuts! That’s like natural protein powder ground into the drink. Inspiration.

When we got home to New York, I decided to go for it. I found a time: Saturday morning breakfast. True, Martin has soup to drink. But we have a lot more time than a weekday before-school breakfast. Weekends I cook a big breakfast for Adrian and Martin: vegetables, eggs, fruit, avocado, nuts. It seemed like a fine time to add a smoothie. Here’s the concoction I devised:

kombucha, as liquid base

fresh berries

pineapple chunks

pre-sprouted cashews

fresh basil leaves, for the exotic touch.

Big success! Adrian loved it. Martin felt special. Henceforth, weekend mornings are smoothie mornings.

My first smoothie, with the ingredients listed in this post.

My first smoothie, with the ingredients listed in this post.

The second time I made a smoothie: Frozen organic berries, sprouted walnuts, basil, and water.

The second time I made a smoothie: Frozen organic berries, sprouted walnuts, basil, and water.

ASD Recovery Recipe: Egg Poppers

What to do for quick breakfast before school when a bowl of cereal or a frozen waffle is not an option? That’s a question I get from a lot of parents who are trying to manage a restricted diet.

For some time, Martin consumed only bone broth for weekday breakfast. He was okay with that, and so was I. Bone broth is filling and has protein. As long as I sent a substantive morning snack to school, he was fine until lunchtime.

The past few months, Martin has wanted solid food for breakfast. He will eat turkey bacon, but I’ve taken that off the breakfast list; I have Martin down to one meat meal per day, and right now the meat meal is school lunch. For breakfast, I look for non-meat items, preferably that I can prepare in advance.

Along come egg poppers, which my mother made Martin Thanksgiving week when I was sick. Martin doesn’t like to eat eggs scrambled, boiled, or fried. For whatever reason, when I cook the eggs into these “poppers,” he’s game. The poppers have other advantages, too. I can make them in advance in reheat them in the oven while he’s waking, and like meatballs, the poppers are a convenient place to pack vegetables.

Here’s the procedure:

Spray a stainless-steel muffin tray, liberally, with olive oil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Chop vegetables. Chop whatever you have that might work well with eggs. In my experience, including at least some onion makes the poppers more appealing. Mince everything well; tiny pieces help the poppers hold together.

Fill the muffin tray with a mix of vegetables. I have found that, if you don’t pack the vegetables, you can fill the cups almost full without the finished poppers falling apart. In this example, I started with red bell peppers and then added shiitake mushrooms.

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Next came carrot greens. My chef friend turned me onto cooking with the greens from fresh carrots. They’re delicious. On top of the greens I added red onion.

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Usually I would have stopped there. In this example, not yet. I have added limited portions of quinoa to Martin’s GAPS diet. That’s been a challenge, because Martin doesn’t like quinoa, much. It happened that, the night before I made these egg poppers, I had served quinoa with scallions, parsley, and white mulberries. I decided to pile some of the leftover quinoa on top of the veggies. My filled cups looked like this:

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Once your cups are ready, whisk ten eggs with a half-cup of camel milk (or whatever milk your family uses), add salt and pepper, and pour this mixture over the vegetables.

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You’re ready to bake. Put the whole tray in the oven. Keep an eye on the poppers. After fifteen minutes or so, they will “poof” into domes. Let them cook for another five minutes or so after poofing. That’s it.

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In these pictures, I made a dozen poppers, because I served them also to Martin’s cousins, who have been visiting. Martin eats only one per morning, along with two zucchini muffins or slices of banana bread (recipe coming), so when I’m cooking just for Martin, I make only a few poppers, which I store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to heart.

ASD Recovery Recipe: Holiday Cookies, or “Get Off the Freakin’ Goldfish Already”

Readers, are you sick to death of reading my goldfish creations? Are you bored of stories about GAPS almond-flour goldfish, or goldfish made with macadamias that are soaked, and dried, and pulverized?

I can imagine. I’m a tad sick of goldfish myself.

Here’s the thing: Martin will never get sick of goldfish. Like, never, ever. Our local supermarket has a Goldfish® holiday pop-up display right inside the front door. The kids at Martin’s school get Goldfish® as food rewards. The kids at our church share Goldfish® at coffee hour. One elementary-school parishioner has been spotted (by—you guessed it! —Martin) toting a giant carton of Goldfish® around the church gym, scooping out handfuls to cram into his mouth. It’s like my six-year-old is perpetually swimming in a sea of Goldfish® that only he can’t catch.

And so he fixates on goldfish crackers.

And so I spend whole afternoons in the kitchen, fulfilling his goldfish dreams.

Today brought an unintentional goldfish adventure. In a lovely little Facebook group called “Fun Food on a Special Diet,” someone posted a recipe for “holiday roll-out cookies” that turned out to be GAPS-compatible. With memories of mixing and refrigerating sugar-cookie dough from my Grandma Gennie’s recipe, then rolling it out, cutting, baking, decorating, I decided to attempt sugar(-like) Christmas cookies for Martin.

Here is the recipe I used:

½ cup ghee

1 egg

¼ cup raw honey

¾ cup coconut flour (more as necessary)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Combine the ghee and honey and beat until smooth. Beat in egg. Combine the coconut flour, baking soda, and lemon zest, then beat ¼ cup at a time into the batter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes. Or use my lazy method: Pop the dough into a Ziploc®, smooth out air, and seal the bag before refrigerating.

After 30 minutes or more, place the dough on a parchment paper dusted with more coconut flour, add another layer of parchment paper on top, and roll out to about 3/16” thickness. (The original recipe called for ¼”; I went thinner, though not as thin as 1/8”.) Use cookie cutters to create festive holiday shapes. If you want, brush the top with egg white to create a shine. Transfer to a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

I suppose you’re wondering how this turned into a goldfish adventure? I got too ambitious with my cookie cutters, that’s how. Instead of traditional shapes like the Christmas tree and snowman I had as a kid, I picked up a set that involve cutting a circle and then stamping a design into the circle with a separate disk. The GAPS dough did cut conveniently into circles that I could transfer to the cookie sheet. On the other hand, the circles were too sticky to release the molded disk, even when I dusted it with coconut flour. That left me with boring circle cookies. How Christmassy are boring circles? I suppose I could have decorated them as ornaments, but as far as decorating goes, I didn’t have many ideas beyond softening up some coconut manna and trying to color it naturally to create icing.

When in doubt, goldfish the recipe. (That’s correct. I made “goldfish” into a verb. Deal with it.) I whipped out my tiny, copper goldfish cookie cutter and went to town. Then I dredged each goldfish in egg white, which I had sitting on the counter because I’d just used the yolks for homemade mayonnaise so that I can devil some eggs for Christmas Day because my son’s autism has magically transformed me into Martha Stewart. Once the goldfish were shiny from their egg-white baths, I sprinkled them liberally with cinnamon and baked.

The result? Cinnamon holiday goldfish cookies. At least that’s the story I’m going with.

The bonus? These goldfish don’t contain nuts, so I’m allowed to send them to school with Martin for a snack.

Autism Recovery Martha parties onward.

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