Posts Tagged ‘gluten-free’

Review of My Food My Health Menu Plan Service

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Back when I thought that candida might be causing the eczema in my sons, I began looking into doing a candida diet. It seemed to overwhelming to me to try to revamp the menu on my own, so I decided to see if I could find and test drive a menu planning service that would deliver me menus, recipes, and shopping lists customized for the candida diet.

Enter My Food My Health. I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled on them, but somehow I did find the service, and it appeared to be exactly what I was looking for. However, I didn’t want to commit to 3 months of the service, especially since money was tight at the time, so I requested a short trial to see if I liked it, and offered to review it in exchange for the chance to try it out. They set me up with a free trial, and now I’m fulfilling my end of the deal.

All in all, I found the service quite impressive. They have a lot of recipes, and are apparently adding new ones from time to time. You can customize your diet with specific issues, such as candida, celiac, eczema, etc, and you can also exclude specific foods (because they cause allergies or you just don’t like them). You can add other family members and specify exclusions for them as well.

Making a menu is as easy as clicking on  “Create New Meal Plan”. This generates a menu all ready for you. I found that I wanted to customize the menu, which was a little tedious but not really difficult. It puts one recipe per meal, but you can add more to create a 2 or 3 dish meal (such as adding a salad to a casserole, or an omelet to hashbrowns). I really like the fact that this menu plan allows you to plan all 3 meals instead of just dinner like some do. I was told that they are working on making the menu planner easier to use, which should make it less tedious and more user friendly in the future.

The list of recipes is quite extensive. Our family is vegetarian and mostly gluten-free, and there are still so many recipes we can use! (I ended up decided not to do the candida diet, by the way.) I didn’t expect to find many that Manny could use, but I did find a few. And they are really tasty, too.  Most don’t use exotic ingredients–a real plus for most people. A few do, but that’s okay; it’s fun to try new things once in a while.

I must emphasize how tasty the recipes are. I have only tried a handful, but I am very impressed. The Chickpea Chilli was a hit with my husband–and he doesn’t even like garbanzos! When I made the Seared Tofu with Green Coconut Curry (minus the jalapenos, for my daughter’s sake), along with a simple veggie stir fry, my husband said that it was better than eating out at a restaurant! The Quinoa-Millet Banana Muffins were very simple and easily adaptable to my son’s very restricted diet. The Puree of Chickpea and Tomato Soup earned me several complements at church, and I can’t wait to try out the Quick and Simple Ratatouille tomorrow, to serve with our traditional Monday pasta.

It is easy to print out recipes; you can either print out the whole week’s worth at once, or just print individual recipes. I found the latter worked better, though for some reason they always had 2 pages, and page 2 was usually blank (except for the website info and page x/x and time stamp on the bottom). That might be an issue with my printer, though. I like having printed them out; I can file them in my menu binder and use them again and again, even if I don’t continue with the service.

Once you have made your menu, you can click on shopping list and see a list of all the ingredients needed for the week’s menu. You can print it as is or hide certain things (say you have rice already in your pantry, you can hide that item). You can also edit the list manually, which is good if you need to add items to it. Personally, though, I wouldn’t print the list. I put my shopping list on my iPod with the ShopShop app, so it’s easier for me just to copy from the list. I do like how it the MFMH list is categorized, though. Ingredients are listed under headings like Produce, Eggs & Dairy, Flour, Pasta, Nuts & Seeds, etc. This makes it easy to see which items you are buying, as well as keeps you from running around the in a slap-dash fashion, or missing things when you are in a section. Currently it lists items from individual recipes separately–as in, 3 eggs, 6 eggs, 2 eggs, etc. I have been told they are working on the shopping list to consolidate the repeated items, so in the future it would show 11 eggs, not 3, 6, & 2.

One feature I wish it had was the ability to start the week’s menu on any day of the week. It starts on Sunday, and it is given in real time. Once a day has passed, you can’t change the menu. I shop on Tuesdays and like to make the menu Wednesday through Tuesday. This means that I would have to do Sunday’s recipe on Wednesday and plan my menu before Sunday, then change the days on the print out. This is awkward for me, but not impossible. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue for someone who wanted to make the whole month’s menus at once. They could view the shopping list for each week and purchase the non-perishables for the whole month at once, and then just get the fresh produce as needed. This would mean less time in the store, which would definitely save money. You can plan your menu many weeks in advance with this service, so that would be very feasible. And from what I’ve been told, I’m the only one who has ever had an issue with this in the 4 years they have been operating, so I guess it’s not a big deal.

There is a way that you can add your own recipes, but it is a little hard to find. And the trouble is, it does not seem to add the ingredients to the shopping list. The box to add your own recipe is more just a box to add the name of a recipe you have, rather than being where you would write in the recipe. You can write in the ingredients, but you can’t add them to the shopping list automatically; you have to do it manually. At least it’s an option. I’ve been told this will also change in the future. Fortunately, your personal recipes have a special icon, so when making your shopping list you can simply collect the list of ingredients for those specific recipes and add it however you want–to their customizable shopping list, or to your paper or electronic one.

One neat feature I almost forgot to mention is that it tells you how many calories the recipes have, and gives you a total for the day on the menu. This is really handy if you are counting calories. I don’t count calories–never have and never will–but I know some people do.

The shortest subscription time is 3 months for $34.99. Other options are 6 months for $49.99 and 12 months for $89.99. This price is quite reasonable. I know a place that charges $5 a week for plans, which is reasonable, But My Food My Health’s plans are $11 a month for the 3-month plan, and the cost would go down if you subscribed for longer.

So do I like the service? Yes, to a point. It gets hard if you have too many diet restrictions (because it excludes recipes that could be easily modified, because the computer doesn’t know that, for instance, you could use a different milk or leave out the nuts), and recipes are not customizable by serving size, so if you are not doing this just for yourself, you would need to multiply certain recipes that are designed for 1 person and adjust the shopping list accordingly (omelet recipes are pretty much all one-serving recipes). I do love the variety of recipes and how tasty they are.

But will I subscribe? Probably not. I realize that what I need is just more recipes, not something that plans my menu for me. $35.99 is not bad for as many recipes as I can print out in 3 months–that would be a couple cookbooks worth of recipes, and as you know, most cookbooks are full of recipes you don’t use. This allows me to print the ones I like and put them in a binder, so it is definitely worth it in terms of just recipes. Some people will find it more useful than I would for the actual menu planning. And they add more recipes all the time, so an ongoing subscription will suit many people quite well.

Would I recommend it? Sure. I would say it’s definitely worth what they charge. You will not waste your money if you purchase a subscription. You can keep the printouts if you decide not to renew, and you’ve come out ahead. And you may like it better than I did and decide to keep the service.

What if you aren’t interested in a menu plan? They have a kid-friendly cookbook available that is gluten and dairy free  called Kids Delicious. The book would be especially suited for families whose children have autism, celiac, gluten intolerance, IBS or lactose intolerance. If my son were not so restricted in his diet, I think I would buy one myself! And who knows? Maybe I will get one sometime when Ralfie is older.


Disclaimer: I received a free 3-months subscription to this service in exchange for my review. However, the opinions expressed in this review are all mine.

Vegan, GF Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

This year I decided to not just go all out on our Thanksgiving feast, but to make it as allergy-friendly as possible. My husband recently was diagnosed with a sensitivity to wheat, and I’m nursing a gluten-intolerant baby, so that makes all but one person in the family that has to be gluten-free. I am, however, a traditionalist; I love stuffing and buns and gravy. In the past, I would have despaired of a gluten-free stuffing or gluten-free buns, but this year, I knew I had the recipes needed to make a very traditional Thanksgiving feast, gluten-free style.

So I thought I would share with you what I did. Let me start with what my son ate, since he wasn’t able to eat everything we did. He had a salad with green leaf lettuce, cauliflower, and homemade Italian Dressing (using lemon instead of vinegar). I only gave him a little bit, and he ate it all gone first. The rest of us enjoyed a raw kale salad, which was basically kale torn in pieces, massaged with olive oil and  Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and topped with lightly toasted sesame seeds. Our 6-year-old daughter ate her portion, too, without complaining. The massaging really helps the kale.

I left out the onions in Manny's stuffing.

Then he had stuffing and buns. I followed this recipe for stuffing, making my own broth (with things like broccoli stalks, bits of celery, cauliflower stem, some cabbage–basically anything Manny isn’t allergic to) and using a recipe for GF bread that I found on Etsy. This bread is really some of the most amazing bread I’ve ever seen, at least in terms of gluten-free bread. If you’ve ever made GF bread, you’ll know how it usually has more of a batter consistency than a dough consistency, but this bread is a dough and can be kneaded. It is also very high in fiber, which completely negates all the starch that is used (about 1/3 of the flour). The recipe is copyright, but it’s cheaper than a loaf of GF bread is anywhere, so I recommend you buy it and try it out. One loaf made a pan of stuffing.

Another batch got turned into what I call Trinity Buns. A loaf of bread takes 45 minutes to bake, so I thought these would probably take about 30 minutes. In hindsight, I should have done them only 25, but they were still good, just a little on the dry side. I also think I had a tad bit too much flour in them, but that’s okay. We still enjoyed them. Take a closer look. Can you believe they are 100% gluten-free?

When I was growing up, I asked my mom why we didn’t make our own cranberry sauce. She said it was too much work. But she was ignorant. It is as simple as buying a 12-oz bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen), adding 1 cup each of water and sugar (I cut the sugar in half and add a scant half-teaspoon of stevia), bringing to a boil, and simmering until they are thick. No pectin needed. Couldn’t be simpler.

Unless you are not paying attention. I was talking on the phone and added two cups of water, the full cup of sugar, and then threw in the stevia. Moments later, I realized my mistake, so I ended up going to the local store and paying $4 for an 8 oz bag of organic cranberries (the only ones they had, surprisingly). So the sauce wasn’t cheap, but it was good. Manny loved it. I think it is what made his meal extra special.

Because it was just the four of us, I decided to skip the sweet potatoes. I may cook some up tomorrow in lieu of the stuffing, which is almost all gone now, so we can eat them with the leftovers. I bought some real maple syrup to go with them.

We are vegetarians, except for Manny; his diet is so restricted that we do give him organic chicken or turkey now and then. If I had planned ahead, we could have given him a little turkey, but I didn’t have any. But I think I created a new tradition for the rest of us when I decided to make a Tofurkey. I’ve heard of making one before, but I never actually did it. I researched recipes, looking for simple, and found this recipe for a gluten-free tofu turkey. It was very simple to make–but it used 4 blocks of tofu. I picked it partly because the other recipes I looked at used more tofu and had more steps to them. Because I’m concerned about GMO’s, I used organic tofu, which cost me about $2 a block, so the Tofurkey was the most expensive food on the table, but at under $10, I’m sure it was cheaper than a real turkey, and definitely cheaper than a vegetarian turkey substitute! I used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce, because it is gluten and GMO free, and I left out the sesame oil because I didn’t have any. It was delicious. We ate just over a quarter of it. I also added cranberries to the stuffing (I didn’t put them in the regular stuffing because they have sunflower seed oil in them, and Manny is very sensitive to it).

My gravy recipe is quite delicious. I start with a half cup of cashews (or almonds, but this time I used cashews), 2 cups of water, and two heaped tablespoons of arrowroot. Then I added two teaspoons of onion powder, 2 tablespoons of oil, two tablespoons of Bragg’s Aminos. Then comes the “secret” ingredient: the miso. I used to use Hacho Miso, which is quite intense, and only required 1 tablespoon. However, it contains barley, so I switched to a miso with rice, but it is more mild (both in flavor and salt content), so I increased the amount to a heaped tablespoon. Blend until smooth, then thicken like normal. Delicious!

Manny can’t have potatoes anyway, so I just mashed them with Earth Balance butter and Pacific Ultra Soy (which has the highest fat content of any soy milk out there). Topped with gravy, they were so delicious!

You can’t really see it in the picture, but we opened a bottle of sparkling cider as a drink. Manny is sensitive to apples, especially if they are not organic, so I gave him white grape juice, which he had never had before, so it was special.

So there it was. Our thanksgiving feast. Delicious, nutritious, and gluten-free. I really liked that “turkey.” I’m going to have to do that every year!

Gluten-free Waffles

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

My son has gotten tired of the same-’ol food every day, so I have had to get creative. The other day I thought, “Waffles are a very forgiving food; I’m going to try making GF waffles.”

The result?

The word is still out on how well they will freeze (since I just made them this morning), but here’s the basic recipe.

Gluten-free Waffles

2 cups water
1 cup teff flour
1 cup amaranth flour
1-2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp honey or sweetener of your choice
1/2 tsp salt

Mix well or blend in a blender. If you didn’t use a blender, put into a pitcher of some kind so you can pour it into a hot waffle iron. I use a medium-high setting. Check after 10 minutes–not before! Serve however you would serve regular waffles: fruit sauce, maple syrup, jam, etc. Could also be used instead of bread in sandwiches.

We served his with palm oil for butter and homemade blueberry sauce (just blueberries, water, honey, and arrowroot to thicken). He loved them! Ate two small squares. This batch made 9 small squares; the rest are in the freezer.

The amaranth flour I used was ground in my dedicated gluten-free grain grinder (a.k.a. coffee grinder that hasn’t seen coffee beans since it got dropped off at the Goodwill). This yields a flour a bit more coarse than a purchased flour would. However, waffle batter is very forgiving–it can be as thick or as thin as you want (though you’ll need to adjust the time to compensate, and possibly the heat, if you can). You could also experiment with different flours. I just used these two because he doesn’t get them as often, and I bought 25 lb of teff flour a while back, so I want to find a good way to use it.

Another nice thing about this recipe is that it is very flexible as far as proportions are concerned. Since you use a 1:1 ratio of flour to water, you can get away with doubling or tripling the recipe, or increasing or decreasing it by random percentages (say 3/4 cup of flour to 3/4 cup of water to make enough for one very hungry person or two not-so-hungry people), and estimate the other ingredients.

Have you got a favorite GF recipe that your family loves? Please share it or a link to it in the comments!

Two Allergy-Free Recipes and Links to More

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Eczema usually means allergies. Unless it’s contact dermatitis, which is simply a reaction to something that was touched, the allergies are usually to food. Food allergies mean diet restrictions.

Since my son was weaned at age 12 months, he has eaten beans and GF cereals every day. Until sometime around his 3rd birthday last month. He finally decided he was tired of beans and cereal. He became extremely picky, and it was very frustrating.

I finally realized that it was time for me to start cooking and baking, not just making a batch of cream of rice or whatever other grain in the morning and adding beans that I had precooked, blended, and frozen in ice cube trays. That worked when he was younger, but he is three years old now. He needs texture and variety. Not to mention that he is becoming more and more sensitive to beans. He tested in the medium range for black beans on the last IgE test. That means he should probably not eat beans every day.

But how to get protein? If he weren’t allergic to eggs, dairy, nuts, and most seeds, that wouldn’t be a problem. I would just give him an egg every day. Or some nuts. Or milk or cheese. But he can’t have any of that. Apart from quinoa and amaranth, most grains are missing certain essential amino acids (essential means the body cannot manufacture them, and therefore they must be consumed in the diet).

We have found a few solutions. First, the hemp milk he drinks daily is a complete protein (meaning it contains all the essential amino acids). He doesn’t get a lot of it–8-10 oz a day–but it’s something. Hemp protein can be used, but it has a strong flavor and is difficult to hide. I mean, I would drink it in a smoothie without a second thought, but he won’t. And I think it’s easier to make the horse led to water drink than to make a 3-year-old eat what he has decided he doesn’t like!

So although I am a 3rd generation vegetarian, and my husband has been almost exclusively vegetarian (with a few rare exceptions) for the past decade and a half, we decided to try giving Manny a little meat now and then. We tried turkey first. We wanted to get pre-cooked meat, so that we wouldn’t have to deal with raw meat in the home, but it turned out to be very expensive, not to mention that it actually had caramel color in it, which is probably not gluten free.

So then we tried chicken. Organic chicken. I went into Whole Foods and for once actually paid attention to the meat section. I settled on about 1/2 pound of ground chicken (they ground it for me). At $8 something a pound, it was a bit pricy, but it will last at least a month for the little guy! I mean, he only needs a couple of ounces per meal, right? It was wrapped in butcher paper, and went straight into the freezer when I got home.

I told my husband he would have to cook it, since he knows how to cook meat (hey, he knows how to butcher a chicken!) and I don’t. Besides, I have a mental block about touching the stuff. No moral objections (especially since it’s organic and was probably more humanely butchered than most meat is), but I just can’t bring myself to touch it. Ew!

So he dumped the ground chicken into a pot, added some garlic, cilantro, salt, and I don’t know what else, and cooked it to death. He wasn’t sure how long it needed to cook (being ground, obviously not very long), but he wanted to be sure any possible bacteria were dead.

Then he took shredded yuca (also known as cassava) that we had purchased at a Filippino market. (This picture isn’t the same brand as we get, but it is similar.) The root would cost almost $3 a pound at the grocery store, and then we’d have to peel and shred it and hope we got a good one. On the other hand, the frozen cassava came from a good root, and there’s no peeling or shredding to deal with. And best of all, we pay $1.25 for a 1 lb package! Considering the fact that cassava is high in calcium and also anti-inflammatory, and as gluten free as potatoes, it’s the perfect thing for someone on a restricted diet to include once in a while.

Once the chicken was done, my husband took some of the meat and mixed it with some cassava and a little extra salt (we froze the leftover chicken for future meals), formed patties with it, and pan fried it in a tiny bit of palm oil (more stable than olive, not refined like canola, and not an allergen to my son like coconut is). Health food stores sell Spectrum shortening, which is 100% unrefined palm oil. It works great in any recipe calling for shortening, has a very neutral flavor, and is very stable, so it’s great for baking and sauteing. Other seasonings could be added to this recipe, and even veggies (like shredded carrots). A gravy would be nice with it, too, but my son’s not ready for that yet.

The other recipe we have created in an attempt to get him to eat what he is not allergic to is Teff Pancakes. I created this recipe on my own, since I couldn’t find any recipes that I really liked online–or that were free of allergens. Because my son has more allergies than most kids–he’s the worst case his pediatrician has ever seen.

So here’s the recipe for Teff Pancakes as it stands now:

1 cup teff flour (I use the dark teff, but ivory teff would probably work too)
1/3 cup tapioca flour (did you know tapioca and cassava are the same thing?)
1 heaping Tbsp. sugar or xylitol
1 Tbsp. hemp or other protein (optional)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. xanthum gum or 1 tbsp flax seeds (the xanthum gum works better)
cinnamon to taste (I give it 2 or 3 dashes)
scant 1 1/2 cups of water (I use exactly 11 oz measured in a liquid measuring cup)
2 Tbsp. oil (I use unrefined grapeseed)

Mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet.  You will probably need a wire whisk to get the lumps out. Allow to sit a few minutes while a skillet heats over medium or slightly lower. Make pancakes, turning them when most of the color has changed.

I personally make little tiny pancakes about 2″ across, using what we always called a big spoon (the one you eat with when you are bigger–not a soup spoon, just a big table spoon). This recipe makes about 30 pancakes that size. You could make bigger ones, of course. I don’t grease the skillet, either. There is enough oil in the batter to keep them from sticking.

Besides these two recipes, I have found several simple, gluten-free recipes around the Internet, from biscuits to millet tortillas, as well as a couple of decadent desserts. But rather than repeat them here, I’ll just refer you to my mom blog, Life of a Happy Mom, where I already posted those recipes and my comments on them.

Have you found a good gluten-free recipe that is toddler friendly? Please share it! Gluten-free cooking can be daunting, but with some good recipes that kids will eat, it really isn’t so hard. And if we all share with each other, it will make the burden just a little bit easier to bear.

My Baby Has Eczema: The Cause Found and the Healing Begun

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

It has been 5 months since the last post, and a lot has happened. Before I fill you in on the results of the stool test, what we did as a result, and the results, let me briefly review our journey with my son’s eczema for those who don’t have time to read all the posts from the beginning.

He developed eczema at 1 month old. It was diagnosed around 3 months, and we tried to avoid all steroids, even hydrocortisone. But he was a really miserable little baby. We tried everything, even goat’s milk formula (turned out all dairy is off limits, not just cow), and I restricted my diet to the point of frustration until he was weaned at 12 months. We added Triamcinalon, a medium-level steroid around 18 months just to control the symptoms, and not long after that we started to see a naturopath who was recommended by his pediatrician. When I ended the last post, we were waiting on the results of a stool test.

Test Results

The results came late in February. For insurance reasons, they were sent to his pediatrician, and we received a copy in the mail as well, which we shared with the naturopath at the next visit. It just so happened that my son got a bad cold that turned into bronchitis just after the test results arrived, and before the scheduled naturopath’s visit–which I think got delayed for some reason, probably the cold. My husband took him (since I think I was also feeling under the weather at the time), and the pediatrician went over the results of the stool test.

In a nutshell, he had a gut full of pathogenic bacteria. Which confirmed his suspicion that the source of the eczema was in his gut.

Let me explain a little. You may have heard about beneficial bacteria in the gut. They help to digest food and do other things. They coat the surface of the intestines. If they are killed off and yeast (such as candida) is present, the yeast will multiply to fill in the gaps. On the other hand, they can be killed off by pathogenic bacteria–and they had certainly been doing that, because showed almost no beneficial bacteria in the test at all, in spite of all the probiotics he had taken for the past year. There were also neutral bacteria, neither beneficial nor harmful, but taking the place of the good bacteria.

The doctor, of course, prescribed antibiotics to treat the bronchitis. Normally I would have hesitated, but when I realized that some of the pathogenic bacteria was susceptible to the antibiotic, I figured this would be a way of killing two birds with one stone!

Not long after we met with the naturopath. He reviewed the test results and explained them to me. He asked us to up the Infaskin probiotics that had already proved to help him so much, to counteract the antibiotics. I think he also upped the Vitamin D from 1,000 IU to 2,000, because he felt Manny could be getting a little more of that.

On a side note, the results for the parasite test came in later, and they were negative. He also showed a little yeast, but it didn’t seem to be a significant problem. Especially since he eats mostly gluten-free grains and I sweeten his home-made rice or teff milk with stevia, so his sources of sugars are quite limited.

What Happened As a Result

Just around the time the antibiotic treatment finished, a tree fell on our house. It was quite a disaster, and we’re still not back in our home almost 5 months later. That was March 15th. We spent the next 10 days living with some friends in their house nearby, and during that time, we used the Triamcinalon for the last time. We haven’t used it since.

Over the months since then, I have watched my son’s skin steadily improve. He went from breaking out in small patches most everywhere to breaking out only on his tummy, face, neck, groin, and folds of elbows and knees. And in the last month I haven’t noticed anything on his tummy. I ran out of the prescription 2.5% hydrocortisone and bought some 1% at the drug store recently. I remember when we would go through a 2 oz. tube in a week, but now I think that tube will last us a couple of months–and I don’t use it every day, at least, not on the same spot two days in a row. He scratches less. He’s a happy little 2-year-old when he’s not having a melt-down. And he’s steadily improving. At the last visit with the naturopath–back in May, I think–he didn’t change anything about his treatment and scheduled his next appointment for September, saying to only call if he got worse or stopped improving. Which he hasn’t.

So that’s the latest. He’s not cured, but he’s on the way. It’s going to be a while before we start trying things we have eliminated from his diet, though we occasionally try new things (like parsnips–he likes them and they don’t cause a reaction, yay!).

So now it’s your turn. Share this story with others or share your story. What have you done that has worked? What didn’t work? Every case is unique, and what worked for Manny might not work for the next reader. But what worked for you might. If you would like to share your story here as a post instead of just in a comment, let me know!