Thursday, January 31, 2008

Table for One

I wake up at 6 a.m. every day. Not by choice, but because I've got to get my family fed and Zoe and her dad out the door to board the schoolbus and deal with rush hour traffic. With lots going on that early I find that I don't normally sit down to a decent breakfast until around 8. This morning I decided to skip the brown rice cereal and I sat down to this: an egg, crispy breakfast potatoes with onions and bell peppers, and oranges wedges--and I should add that the oranges come from the tree in my back yard. Talk about eating locally! I capped it off with some chai tea; yup, I'm still keeping coffee to a minimum around here. The little guy went off to play with his trains in his room while I enjoyed a nice, quiet second start to my day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

She Did It!

Congratulations to Zoe on her graduation from speech and occupational therapy. When she first started therapy Zoe was unable to speak, made little to no eye contact, and had significant delays in her fine and gross motor skills. Eight years later my girl can talk up a storm, rides her bike, performs with a song and dance group, takes piano lessons, and is more present than she ever has been. Sure there are challenges; Zoe has her difficult days--but they are far outweighed by the good, great, and just plain wonderful ones.

This is her first post-therapy week, and Zoe's concerned about the fact that something that has been part of her routine for eight years is no longer there. She even asked for new goals, since the ones set by Miss Amy and Miss Lisa (her therapists) have already been met. That's our girl for you. To commemorate the beginning of a new chapter in her life we threw a party for her this weekend, and what's a party without cake?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How's It Going?

The new semester is in full swing here at the hacienda, which means yours truly, Flamenco Dad, and los bebes are getting adjusted to our new routines. FD is teaching two new classes this semester, so he is working hard to make sure all his work is prepped and ready. I'm back in class; one of my classes is taught online so I can still be in my jammies whilst I get my edumacation on. Sweet!

My candida diet is going pretty well, though I did cave to temptation and have coffee WITH SUGAR. Also I've been putting pomegranates on some of my salads. I hadn't realized just how sensitive I was to sugar until I ate some after going many days without it. I felt bloated, very tired...and later quite jittery. What's up with that? I've been much more conscientious about steering away from the sugar and am feeling better. Bonus: I've lost four pounds since I started making these changes! I've also made an effort to get more adequate sleep. I've been feeling much more refreshed and alert during the day. Though I must add that FD also just got me one of those yummy Tempur Pedic pillows, so may have something to do with it as well.

I haven't done much in the way of experimenting in the kitchen lately, which has to do with my dietary changes. Meals have been relatively simple fare here: a lean protein (usually chicken), rice (either brown or white), and tons of veggies. To be honest, that's pretty much how dinners were around here even before we went yeast free; though looking at how I was eating before, I know that I was going too heavy on the protein and starch and too light on the veggies. Sally over at Aprovechar has written some great posts about this topic, and on making healthy food choices in general. And she is gluten free!

Once I get into the groove of the whole yeast-free thing, I plan to do some more baking. Zoe and I went to the supermarket the other day, where my daughter made a beeline for the zucchini and asked if I could by some to make zucchini bread. It's in my kitchen right now waiting to be used. I told Miss Z that she'll be feasting on zucchini loaf by this time tomorrow. I'm going to try using brown rice syrup to sweeten it; I'll get back to you with a full report.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Candi Girl

Before the new year began, I scheduled an appointment with a new doctor. A holistic doctor, to be more specific. As one of the many millions of folks out there that has to shop for their own medical care, I got pretty tired of going to doctors who wanted to just treat symptoms and not look at the big picture when it comes to healthcare. Besides, it was beginning to look like my previous doctor was trying to set a land-speed record for getting patients out of the examining rooms. The new doctor's office actually devotes and entire hour--yes you read that correctly--for the initial visit, with follow-ups varying between 30 and 45 minutes in duration depending on your needs.

My first visit was this past Wednesday. I have been grappling with a variety of symptoms that the new doctor feels can be tied to one root cause: a thyroid that is out of whack. I'd grown to suspect that this might be the problem, but not once has any other physician even said, "Hey maybe we should have this checked out." Dr. Erika listened to all my concerns, asked lots of questions to get a clear picture of my medical history and lifestyle, and I left feeling like we were on track to getting me to better health.

The doctor also determined that I have a problem with candida. So I have been placed on a yeast elimination diet. When she laid out the diet for me I said, "I can do this!" This is easier said than done, because in addition to removing the foods that list yeast in the ingredients it also means NO SUGAR. And NO COFFEEEEEE!!! To be honest, I had already reduced my daily coffee consumption; but to eliminate it altogether is tough. Especially when your husband, coffee elitist supreme, roasts and grinds coffee beans right here in the house. Oh, and please don't even get me started on the fruit thing--NO FRUIT for at least the first two weeks! I love fruit; in fact, I've got platter of delicious fruit sitting on my dining table that is now off limits. I can add fruit back in to my diet slowly, but some fruits may have to remain off limits for the forseeable future. The good news is that I have seriously upped my consumption of veggies, which is definitely a good thing. Ever see those commercials that talk about how we need at least 25 grams of fiber a day, and you see that lady loading up her grocery cart with broccoli and stuff? Yeah, I'm a veggie eating machine now.

I'm already seeing results--I'm feeling less bloated, I'm less fatigued, and I weight 1.5 pounds less than I did last week. I won't lie--I'm suffering from some serious coffee and sugar withdrawals; but I have hope that I'll be better soon.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Product Review: Shabtai Gourmet

Several weeks ago, I received an email from Andrew Itzkowitz, Director of Sales for Shabtai Gourmet. Shabtai Gourmet produces gluten-free, lactose-free, casein-free, and soy-free cakes, cookies, and other treats. Their products are also certified Kosher for Passover. When Andrew offered me a chance to sample some of their products, I happily accepted. After all, I'm always looking for new gfcf products to try; and although the company is based in New York they do ship products out-of-state, both via mail order and to Publix (which is the grocery chain located all over the Sunshine State).

I was not expecting the MASSIVE box of baked goods that arrived at my home; I must say it was arrived just in the nick of time--I was about to start baking copious amounts of gfcf goodies to keep us stocked up for Zoe through the New Year (Did I mention we went to several parties between Christmas and New Year's Day?)! When I opened the packaged and explained to Miss Zoe that everything in the box was gfcf, and therefore all Zoe-friendly, she squealed with delight; and then proceeded to immediately tear into the goodies. Hooray!

We received the following items: Ring Tings, a vanilla creme-filled cake similar to the Ring Dings and Ho Hos of my youth; Rasberry Roll, a spongy jelly roll cake with raspberry and coconuts; Chocolate Brownies; Chocolate Chip Cookies; Lady Fingers, crisp and delicate with a lemony flavor, and Pread Crumbs, an all-purpose breading.

The results?

With the exception of the Raspberry Roll, Zoe thoroughly enjoyed everything we received--Miss Z is not a fan of coconut (but lucky for her father and me, we love it--so you know what I had first). I thought the Raspberry Roll was very tasty, though my husband and mother-in-law both contend that it was rather sweet. Okay, so I like the sweet stuff; can you blame me? I was particularly impressed by how moist the cake was. And, like I said earlier, I love coconut. And the combination of raspberry and coconut is magical to me.

The Lady Fingers were the next to go. Zoe made quick work of them. Some of the cookies did break in shipping, but the cookie crumbles were used as topping for other desserts. Andrew mentioned that the cookies could be used as sandwich cookies as well; frankly Zoe ate them before I could even try that. They were a hit!

The Ring Tings were Zoe's favorite. The waxy outer coating on the cakes and the creme-filling were especially appealing to her. When you're a kid and you see your friends eating foods like Ho-Hos, it's gotta be tough to not be able to try it. I could tell Zoe was thrilled to have a chance to eat something that looked like a treat her friends eat all the time. It wasn't exactly like the stuff I remember eating as a kid, but it came pretty close. Besides, I actually had a similar commercial cake (brand name witheld so I don't get a nasty-gram) recently, and they don't taste like what I used to eat as a kid.

Next we had the Chocolate Brownies. These appeared to be not as moist as I would have liked, but that may have been due to the trip from New York to Florida. I did warm these in the microwave for a few seconds (outside of the aluminum tray it came in, lest I torch my house), and that seemed to help them. And who doesn't like a warm brownie? Zoe and her brother liked these very much. Flamenco Dad also thought the brownies were yummy.

The Chocolate Chip Cookies were the last thing to go, and I think there are a few reasons for that. First, the cookies had nuts and cinnamon, neither of which are very popular with my children. Second, the cookies sustained some breakage in transit, which made the kids (visual creatures that they are) less receptive to them. Third, they were somewhat crisp for our taste. I prefer my cookies kind of chewy, and so do Zoe and Ayden. The flavor was rather good. I don't ordinarily put cinnamon in my cookies due to Zoe's disdain for cinnamon, but I think the cinnamon added a nice touch. I may have to sneak some cinnamon into my next batch of cookies.

I have used the Pread Crumbs, but I do have some left. A few nights ago I used the breading to make zucchini stix for a side dish. And guess what? The kids ate the zucchini and LIKED it; whatever works for getting my kids to eat more veggies is good enough for me. I might try to use some of the leftover crumbs to work on a tempura batter, but I've gotta do a little tinkering with that one for a bit.

Our overall experience with these products was a very positive one--even our gluten-eating family members enjoyed them. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am more of a from-scratch type of baker; but these were very well received by my kids, which makes these products a good go-to for a convenient baked treat.

Shabtai Gourmet recently launched their website, and also sells some of their products on Amazon. You can visit their website for more information.