Tuesday, August 22, 2006

happy :)

After a week of crazy appointments and busy-ness I think that we are finally ready to get back into our bento lunches.

We officially started our homeschool "preschool" this week and we have a regular schedule for mine and Brennan's appointments so I hope to be more regular with the bentos now. We are still trying to work through appointments for Asher but the going is slow and the waiting lists are long.

On Saturday nights Curtis and I have a "date night" at home. We usually cook something we both like but don't normally have during the week since the kids are all casein free and Asher is gluten free too. So this weekend I made fettucini Alfredo. I had a little left on my plate and I left it out overnight by accident :(

Well Asher got into it on Sunday and both Sunday and Monday were rough. Sunday the tantrums escalated and stayed high through Monday. But Monday was harder because we saw him "shut down" a lot more, just being out of it and not wanting to connect. I am convinced there is a connection between casein and his behavior. I am not sure about the gluten yet. It is super hard to get rid of all gluten though, so that may be why we aren't noticing so much of a difference with that.

We had roast beef yesterday and I saved a few slices of it to make beef fried rice today. I got the recipe out of our bento book and it was quite yummy.

I sauteed the beef and green onions first, then I used the egg and fried the rice. I mixed the beef and onions back in and cooked that together. I set some aside for the kids and then added soy sauce in for Curtis and myself (still haven't gotten any more gluten free soy sauce). Cassidy and Brennan can have gluten too but I don't like to give it to them in front of Asher. I don't think he'd have noticed today though, because he was very pleased to have his bento. He really likes his bento at lunch.

Peaches and romaine lettuce rounded out this bento. One thing I am really missing with being mostly casein free is the "creamy" texture from dairy products. So I made a "creamy" salad dressing with a little bit of homemade mayo (for the creamy) and sesame oil for a good oriental flavor to compliment the rice. I was surprised that it turned out well.

I've been moving towards making condiments at home since noticing that most store-bought ones have distilled vinegar (and thus possibly gluten). Homemade mayo is quite easy and works well. I've also made a Creole mayo that I really like and tastes delicious with roast beef.

Last week the kids and I made a homemade ketchup (yep, store bought ketchup is a no no, sad for the kiddos). It's a fermented food and it came out suprisingly good! Curtis even approved :) I am going to try a homemade mustard this week, and probably homemade horseradish too.

Friday, August 11, 2006

mama out

Today Brennan and I went to the doctor's office for our accident follow up (I'm still really sore :( so we were referred to the chiropractor) Since I was gone Curtis made two little bentos for the kids.

They are made up of tasty chips (100% natural corn tortilla chips), steamed broccoli, and avocado slices. The meat is corned beef ground up.

The kiddos really enjoyed it and they were excited to have "Daddy-made" bento.

Curtis' mom makes a really tasty sandwich spread with the corned beef hash. I am going to have to get the recipe and convert it for a bento because it's so good ;)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

learning about condiments

This tasty bento was inspired by a bento at Cooking Cute. It came out very good and I was quite happy.

At the same time, though I learned some valuable things that made my job as a gf/cf mama a whole lot harder :(

The salmon recipe is for an apple-horseradish glaze (follow that Cooking Cute link!)

Well as we've moved on through our gf/cf steps (see the sidebar on this page)we're now to where basically all of our food is gf/cf.

That also means condiments must be gluten and casein free.

Well if you take the time to read the back of almost all condiments you will notice that vinegar is listed there. Vinegar that is not specified "rice" "apple cider" "white wine" or some other innocent substance probably comes from wheat :/ It can additionally get even trickier because you have to find a non-wheat vinegar that totally non-wheat. So the apple-cider vinegar must be distilled from apples and can't just be "apple cider flavored."

This intense condiment realization hit me as I read the back of our horseradish bottle and noticed the big bad word "vinegar."

So our apple-horseradish glaze ended up being an applejuice glaze thickened with just a little cornstarch. The kids liked it and I liked it. You'll also notice that our rice isn't fried because we didn't have any gluten free soy sauce. It still tasted nice though, and the grapes and steamed broccoli rounded it out nicely :)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

where we are

today Curtis' mom is visiting and brought us a (gf/cf) lunch so no bento. I'm not sure if we'll have one tomorrow either because we may be out of town for the day. But I'll make one on Thursday.

Today I thought I'd give an update on how our gf/cf is going. Since there have been a couple of weeks that I've felt really bad I got off track with our 10-week plan, so I'm going back to week 7. We have been totally gf/cf with all meals and snacks since we did week 6, but the last three weeks are making sure that all gf/cf products are out of the home.

That means checking toothpaste and cleaning products, among other things. We do a lot of cleaning with vinegar, but a lot of vinegars have wheat! It's mind boggling, to think of everything that *might* have gluten or casein in it.

The gluten free is the hardest and I just don't think I can keep the entire family gluten free. So we're striving to make all family meals gluten free, but I'm not getting stressed out about gluten away from home (except for Asher).

We haven't seen the dramatic changes with eliminating gluten that we did with casein, but I know that gluten can hang around for a lot longer inside little bodies and it's in common things so I'm committed to keeping Asher gluten free for several more months before I pass any judgment...

Monday, August 07, 2006

here we go!

I'm feeling better now and I'm ready to start making our bentos every day :D Today we had a friend over for lunch so I made six bentos! You'll also notice that Brennan's bentos have more food in them because he's really gotten into eating with the family :)

I've been meaning to try a recipe from Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go and I finally got everything together to try it today! I was super-pleased with how it turned out.

It's a recipe for nori-wrapped dumplings. The recipe called for ground chicken but I decided to use ground turkey. I mixed the turkey with several spices, a tiny bit of cornstarch and a little rice flour. Then I shaped them and wrapped a piece of nori around each dumpling.

They were sauteed in olive oil. I flipped them back and forth a few times and left a lid on them until they cooked through - it didn't take very long at all because they're pretty small.

They came out so nice and tasty! Next time I will experiment a little more with the seasonings to get some that is even better ;)

I made rice with fresh chicken stock. Normally I use brown rice but I'm trying to finish off white rice that we were given. I am trying to prepare all of our grains with homemade chicken stock because it's so full of nutrients and I really want to be sure the kids are getting nutrient-dense meals.

The salad is green leaf lettuce and I whipped up a dressing really quickly with olive oil, white wine vinegar (a few drops), a tiny amount of Dijon mustard, and a little sesame oil to give it a sesame flavor. Grape tomatoes and some orange slices rounded out the bentos. Very good and it felt good to get back to making them!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

taking a break

I'm just putting a message across my little blog network that I was in a car wreck (but I'm ok!) and that's putting my blogging/updates behind.

Brennan (my youngest son) was in the car with me. He was completely safe in his carseat and I encourage any of you with little ones to keep them in car seats! I hope to be back to blogging next week. Thanks for reading :D

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Japanese bento boxes often feature quail eggs. They are quite cute - so tiny! Unfortunately I haven't figured out where to get quail eggs from around here. So when I decided I wanted to use eggs today I was stuck with plain old free-range eggs.

Speaking of those, I have always tried to buy very healthy food and have done a lot of research into healthy eating. But I haven't always purchased organic foods because of the cost. Now that Asher is having such a hard time I am really trying to purchase organic or natural when possible.

Even if it means we can't have quite as much as before (like no huge steaks) and have to make meats more of a side dish, that's ok. We are saving in the cost of buying dairy products, which aren't cheap, if you've never noticed. But I am trying to only buy natural meats and eggs, and natural produce as much as possible.

So today's bento featured eggs (Curtis' eggs aren't shelled because he was at a business meeting when I prepared the bentos and I wasn't sure he'd be back for lunch), hardboiled.

Another big Japanese food is plums. The make many things from plums, including a plum paste called umeboshi. It is very salty and said to be good for settling upset stomachs. I really enjoy plums and was pleased when my mom brought some along with her tomatoes and peaches. I think they look nice alongside the eggs in this bento.

Asher was raiding again this morning and had a couple of bites out of an apple before I got to him, so I salvaged the rest of the apple to use in the bento. Another peach is featured because, like I said yesterday, we have a house full of them!

I put broccoli in this bento for some good green coloring and the calcium. I didn't steam it and wish that I had now. The kids didn't seem to like it as much raw.

On a whim I added grapes and our "grain" of the day is kasha. I made only 1/2 cup of kasha today instead of a full cup and that worked much better for bentos. I also made the kasha without egg since we were already having eggs in the bento and it tasted just fine that way.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

feeling better

I feel much better today, so back to making bentos! Asher also seems to be doing better again today. As I've mentioned before, he is intensely interested in food and he likes to stand on his chair and watch/help with food. Today I asked him to get down and go put his monkey slippers under his bed (they were on the kitchen floor). He said "ok" then climbed down and put the monkey slippers away. I was so shocked I went and told Curtis. It was purely wonderful.

I liked today's bento. I've been wanting to add sweet potato into our diet for awhile and I thought it would go well with today's bento. I steamed the sweet potatoes soft and then drizzled a little olive oil over them. Another good way to make them is to slice them and put them on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil (or another tasty oil) and bake lightly. They turn out very well!

We are being overrun with peaches in our house so I am using a lot of peaches. I put a few blueberries in there to add some color and a little tangy taste. My mom gave us some absolutely gorgeous tomatoes, so I sliced a small one and put tomato and avocado slices into the bentos. I sprinkled a little salt over them. I put a dab of homemade mayonnaise in between my tomato and avocado because I really like my mayo!

I put some carrots in for a crunch. For protein I used ham slices. These are Hillshire Farms honey ham slices and I called the company to verify that they were gf/cf. The rep told me that they are, and that all Sara Lee brand products clearly state if there is dairy or if the product has been produced in a facility where dairy is used. Nice to know.

I thought I'd share a gf/cf snack idea that worked really well -- I blended up some bananas and coconut milk, then a different fruit with each batch. I poured this mixture into popsicle molds and froze. They came out wonderful and the kids loved them! We had banana peach, banana strawberry, and banana orange (I used orange juice). Very good, and the coconut milk gave a good texture and light flavor!

Monday, July 17, 2006

reaction :(

We're having a brief bento break because I have been sick the past few days and feel really crummy. Thus not much going on in the kitchen for me. Hopefully I will feel better tomorrow and get back to the bento making.

We did have a bit of casein breech our dietary fortress however. I was going through the freezer Saturday night and found a box of ice cream getting freezer burn under several other things. I took the ice cream out and put it into the sink to melt overnight so I could wash it down and throw the box away.

Our Asher is 100% obsessed with food - as in, we could have just eaten a 15 course meal and he still hunts for food, and looks through cookbooks and food magazines for hours on end. So Sunday morning I had totally forgotten about the ice cream in the sink until I saw Asher covered in melted ice cream!

I immediately took him to the bathroom and washed him all over, and tried to rinse his mouth out, but he'd gotten some in. Curtis and I sat back and hoped that we wouldn't see a reaction. It seems our hopes were in vain.

Within just a little while of the ice cream (casein) ingestion, Asher was slamming his head into the wall. Hitting his head has been a problem we'd seen decrease greatly. His tantrums seemed up throughout the day.

Then last night I caught him up slapping Cassidy for no apparent reason. They share a room, which is right off of our den. All of a sudden I heard slapping and her crying and Asher screaming. I don't know what started him off. I'd checked on them only a few minutes before and Cassidy was asleep (Asher rolling around in his bed).

Then this morning he had gf/cf waffles for breakfast. I waited a little while to have my breakfast because my stomach has been really upset. When I sat down for mine Asher had a complete and total meltdown that involved throwing a wooden baby toy at me and then having a tantrum that lasted for about 30 minutes.

He's still been having tantrums and showing some aggression since we eliminated casein and starting working towards gluten elimination, but this has been totally unprecedented. I can only assume that getting that ice cream yesterday had something to do with it.

From what I've read, casein reactions tend to fade within a few days, and hopefully this will be true for Asher. Hopefully I will also feel better.

Friday, July 14, 2006

more beans

I've featured a lot of beans lately because they are pretty easy to get ready as long as they have been cooked. Even making beans from scratch is easy because most beans freeze well. So you can cook an entire batch and freeze the surplus. Beans are part of today's bento again =D

I got buy one, get one free fresh strawberries, so I was very generous with them today. They're so tasty and sweet! I added in seedless black grapes. I love the taste of grapes. They bring back summer memories from when I was a child. My mom had this nifty little grape container. It was two parts: one part was slotted so you could wash the grapes. The slotted part fit into a solid section and then you put the lid on them. I always liked it. I should find one for us ;)

I added in carrots for a veggie. I should have put some greens in there too, but I didn't think about it until I had them done. The green would have looked nice. I like adding carrots because they are tasty and sweet enough that they don't really need a sauce to go with them.

I fried the little corn tortillas in my butter substitute oil (1/3 cup sesame oil, 1/3 cup coconut oil, and 1/3 cup olive oil - yummy). I really like the way they taste when they are lightly fried. Honestly I don't like them plain, but heated in a little oil they become very good.

I put the black beans into the still-warm pot and cut some green onion shoots up over them. I added a little salt and lemon juice and let that mixture heat through, then used it to fill the tortillas. The black that you see over my bento is some of the juice from cooking the beans, because I really like it.

I also added a little kimchii to my bento and to Asher's bento. Nobody else in the family wanted kimchii today, so we had it all to ourselves!