baking · children · dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gf bread · gf foods · gluten free · gluten free bread · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · kids

Gluten-free Sourdough Bread cont.

First GF Sourdough bread Well, there it is. The first gluten-free sourdough bread we made. After stirring the ever-funkier starter for several days complete with cabbage leaves and apple skin, my son was not feeling too confident about actually trying the bread. To be honest, neither was I. I really had no idea if the starter we’d made was going to work because it wasn’t ever as bubbly as I expected it to be, but we both were pleasantly surprised. The bread is pretty good!

First taste of GF SourdoughAs you can see from this picture, it did not rise much though. I am guessing as the starter sits for a few more days there will be more yeast activity, and we will try again on Wednesday to make another loaf.  My son thought the bread was more than “pretty good” incidentally, probably because he helped make it and felt ownership in it. That loaf is a blend of teff flour, millet, brown rice and tapioca and he pointed out that the hard crust tasted like cereal and he was right~ it really did. Next time I might do less teff and try gluten-free oat flour for a lighter loaf~ more trials to come!

children · ecology · Education · gardening · health · kids · parenting

Schools a Healthy Place?

I had a strange experience last week when I went to my youngest son’s music class presentation. It was beyond cute of course, with all the second graders sounding angelic although I know they are often quite a devilish group as I’ve seen them enough in other settings. But sitting in the metal folding chairs as they sat on the floor or walked around singing, something else struck me besides the sweetness of it all~ when I looked at them each individually, as in really looked at them, they mostly looked kind of…sickly. Granted it was the end of the day and also the end of the week so they had reason to be tired, and maybe the lighting is not the best in their brand new school, but it seemed odd to me that they could all look so sluggish and lacking vibrancy considering their youth. My own son’s cheeks were flared up with the pink that signifies something is bothering him allergy-wise, either the carpet or something he ate, or who knows what, but that is what made me start looking at the other kids. There was one girl who looked completely healthy, alert, and engaged and I happen to know that this girl always looks that way or at least she does at library time where I help out and also field trips and parties, before and after school. She is just that kind of girl who notices everything and is part of everything and probably questions her teachers and parents ad nauseam. She was seriously the only one. The other kids were a mixture of eyes with dark circles, half closed eyes, wandering eyes and hands, bad skin, rashes, confused and disengaged looks, and tired faces and bodies. It made me wonder about kids, schools, and health. Is the modern school a healthy place for our students? Do they get enough outdoor time? Are they eating good food? Are we doing our best to help them learn? I don’t know, it just bothered me to see a bunch of second graders that just didn’t look vibrant and vivacious. They are too young not to be! The edible schoolyard project is one place to look for answers though my kids’ school has put me off for two years now when I’ve brought up planting a garden there. The students would get so much out of it, not the least of which would be a bit more good health. One bright eyed bushy tailed student out of 21 is not enough.

baking · dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gf bread · gluten free · gluten free bread · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · kids

Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

My son needed a science project and I needed a reason to try to make the sourdough starter recipe I’ve been eyeing for months, so we decided to work together and see what happens. The recipe we are using is from Jennifer Katzinger’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Bread. I’ve wanted to make sourdough starter for a long time now, ever since I read about it being a more easily digested bread than other types with single strands of yeast, but the recipes I read always seemed too complex and involved too much planning. Once I read Katzinger’s version which was already gluten-free I started thinking I could do it. Except I didn’t. There was still that planning part that got in my way, until my son’s science fair came up and I thought, we could do this~ we have a week and a half, plenty of time to get the starter going and then to try to bake with it a couple of times, with enough time even for a failure or two. We will actually use the starter later today for the first time, but actually making the mother was easier than I expected, so in case you are feeling daunted by the idea yourself I thought I’d share the steps so far. First, get a gallon size glass jar and put in 1C teff flour and 1C water.

Making starterStir well.

Then add two purple cabbage leaves and the skin of half an apple.

Adding cabbage and apple skin

Mix well again and then let it sit in a warm spot for 12 hours before stirring and adding more teff and water. After 48 hours (with 12 hours in between stirrings and adding more flour and water) it should be bubbling with yeast activity.

Yeast bubbles

It is then time to take out the cabbage leaves and apple skin and put it in the fridge. It is ready to be used.

Taking out the cabbage

Now it’s time to test if this has worked. There is starter resting on my kitchen counter right now warming up with fresh teff and water for 4 hours and hopefully creating some yeasty activity. Crossing my fingers that we will have fresh sourdough bread by tonight. We’ll see!


alternative medicine · children · health · Herbs · kids · parenting · supplements

Natural Anti-Anxiety

This was definitely one of those days where I needed some good news. Our refrigerator is on the fritz, the sky can’t decide whether rain or sleet is better for pelting, and my son made a huge deal about walking to school this morning~ not a fun way to start the day. It was sunny then, by the way, when we chose to walk, OK I chose to walk them, and that is one of the reasons I thought they should walk~ the forecast was not a happy one so all the more important to take advantage of the sun, right? Well, my oldest didn’t agree and he certainly knows how to make his feelings well-known. But, here’s the good news: I saw our family naturopath today to talk about my oldest son’s needle phobia which is causing him to dread turning 10 in a month b/c then he’ll turn 11 and have to get some shots. I know kids in general hate shots, but his fear goes well beyond the norm~ he has seriously talked about his fear of turning 11 due to shots at least once a week for about two years now. The last time they tried drawing blood to test something they literally could not do it b/c he was screaming and hitting and thrashing around so much. They actually gave up after one person tried to control him while the other tried to poke him and all the while I tried distraction techniques, not that he noticed. (I guess I don’t have a future in puppeteering.) So, that’s how badly he dreads needles, but our naturopath gave me some great suggestions and I have a sliver of hope they might actually help him. The biggest piece of advice is to use GABA which apparently is a neurotransmitter that helps keep the body calm, in other words a natural anti-anxiety supplement. After looking around the web a bit for side effect information, this article seemed to sum up what I found, and WebMD has similar information. There is actually a ‘listen’ option on WebMD which is nice if you are sick and tired of reading articles on your screen, and believe me, I can relate. I guess I got so excited about this because I know so many people with anxiety triggers and I’m always talking about kava and other herbal sedatives with them, but this is something that’s found in the brain already and is supposed to keep you calm but alert, something herbs don’t necessarily do as well. Everyone is different, so herbs might be one person’s answer and GABA another’s, or a combination of both. Of course, talk to your own doctor first, or better yet, your naturopath (who has actually studied these things.) And if you want a recommendation for a naturopath is Bellevue, I think ours is the best and I’d be happy to pass along her info.

children · cleansing · dairy free · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gf foods · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free lifestyle · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · health · kids


caterpillarI’ve heard a certain expression all my life and never realized the acronym was k.i.s.s. until I just recently put it together. It was one of those moments when I thought, “does everyone already know this?” Anyway, if you’re like me and a little late to the party I’m talking about the expression, “keep it simple, stupid”. That line goes through my head a lot because I have a natural aversion to complications, which is a bit of handicap in this quickly complicating world. That is probably my least favorite part about our family’s food intolerances~ it adds a layer of complexity to what seemingly should be a very simple, straight to the point thing~ eating. When you add in eating while out, or eating while on vacation, the complications add up and complications mean stressers and stress and sometimes I just feel like saying, “let’s just eat whatever we want, shall we?” Actually, I know quite a few families who operate like that~ their children stay away from wheat and/or dairy while at home, but if they are at school and there is trigger food, they can eat it, or if they go out and there is not an easy option to avoiding it, they will just eat it and deal with the consequences. I can see doing that with my own kids once they have been off their trigger foods for a good year so it is totally out of their system and then maybe the bits will help to desensitize them, but for now it just isn’t worth it. They are so much healthier now, with better skin, brighter eyes, more energy, and happier outlooks it’s hard to imagine just letting them slide back into the funkiness of food intolerance~ I should know because I was funky for decades before realizing my own intolerances. It makes a huge difference, and in a way, it has it’s own simplification aspects that I appreciate~ the more natural the ingredients and the fewer the ingredients, the better. This time of year we hear a lot about food and diet programs, Paleo this and cleanse that, and again the idea of ‘keep it simple, stupid’ comes to mind. If something feels drastic, and difficult, and not doable for the long haul, it’s probably not the best option. I’m all for a cleanse every once in a while, as long as it involves real foods and helps to reset healthy eating habits, but it’s far more important to eat real food, mindfully, every day. I’ve mentioned how picky my youngest is, and in an effort in reinforcing healthy food choices we’ve started a sticker chart for him~ if he tries a new food he gets one sticker, if he eats the whole serving he earns another sticker. Once he reaches 50 stickers then I give him $10. So far it’s helped him with the trying part, though less so with the whole serving part~ but it’s a start, and this is a good time of year for new starts. Good luck with your own New Year’s resolutions, and remember to check in regularly with yourself and make sure you are being ‘kissable’.

ecology · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · kids

Food vs. Food-like Items and GMOs

FoodThis is something I’ve been thinking about a lot with this whole food intolerance thing. There are so many alternatives out there, but I only want things going in the bodies of my children and myself that are actual food, not fake food. This seems obvious, but if you read the packages of most supposed food items you are bound to read some things that are questionable. Most people assume those ingredients must be OK, I mean the FDA approves them so of course they are healthy, right? But of course no one should be relying on the FDA or even the government recommended food pyramid for their eating choices, but instead thinking about food in a way that makes sense to their life, their health, and their conscience. I just started reading a book that is able to articulate how I’ve always felt being mainly vegetarian (and at times completely vegetarian for years) and now with the food intolerances in our house~ that if you have to substitute the foods you are taking out with fake foods, then there is a problem. I had a friend in high school who suddenly became a vegetarian, not just personal choice of hers, but a vegetarian out to convert the world with stop eating animals stickers and graffiti, lecturing friends and family, and oozing self-satisfaction, and the girl ate soy hot dogs every night. Literally every night, and that wasn’t all, she also regularly ate fake sausages in the morning, veggie burgers all the time,  and faux deli meat with soy cheese sandwiches. Even then, when I too was a full-on vegetarian, I saw that she was not making healthy choices and wondered if her new skin and digestive problems had anything to do with the excess of soy in her life. She didn’t last as a vegetarian beyond the next boyfriend she had, by the way, who was a big meat-eater and she followed suit, laughing at her old ways with the wisdom of a jilted lover. Unfortunately we lost touch because it’d be interesting to track someone’s eating habits by their current love status, or vice versa I guess. Anyway, the point is, trying to keep it real in the kitchen is harder now with the multiple food intolerances in our house, but it is something I take seriously. A woman I know just went to Spain last summer with her son who cannot eat wheat here without getting a runny nose. In Spain he ate wheat every single meal with out one problem~ what is different? Not the kid so it must be the wheat. Europe arguably has more real food than the US for several reasons, but one is because they do not allow the same GMOs in their farming practices. We have the chance to try to curb some of that here by voting to have products labeled with GMO status. Apparently there has been a huge billion dollar marketing campaign to scare consumers from voting yes on this (the biggest giver of funds is Pepsi by the way, a company that I would assume has an audience that generally isn’t too worried about how natural their product is, but they must have something to lose…) but I sincerely hope most eaters out there are intuitive enough and intelligent enough to understand the difference between the engineered stuff that makes companies money, and the pure food that keeps people healthy. There is a difference between food like substances and GMOs because every thing that grows from the ground could be altered by GMOs, which means even the real food can become Frankenstein, (and to a surprisingly large degree, it already has) but to me the two things are connected in that we Americans eat more fake food and genetically modified food than anywhere else, and what do we have to show for it? Food related chronic illnesses and an obesity epidemic. Let’s try to change that by eating real foods, from the earth, that are not genetically modified. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?

Education · gardening · kids

Give a person a tomato and he eats for a day…

Boys walkingThe other day my two sons and I were on a walk and as usual, my older son was talking while the younger one and I quietly listened. The truth is, I don’t always listen as well as I should because one can only take in so much information about video games, YouTube, and unfamiliar book characters, but on that day he said something that caught my attention. He asked, “Have you ever heard that saying: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a…” “Lifetime” I filled in for him. Yes, I’d heard it of course, and was delighted we could have a real conversation talking about what that saying actually means. It got me thinking about school gardens, and how that’s exactly why they are so important~ not only do they teach kids about growing food. (Chances are they are not going to be in a situation that requires them to grow their own food or they’ll starve, but then again you never can be sure.) But more importantly, it teaches them where food comes from, what it should taste like, and to develop a positive relationship with food as it grows and helps them grow. Once you taste a homegrown tomato it’s really hard to eat something that tastes like what most grocery stores sell. So, I think we could actually modify the original saying a bit more to say: Give a person a tomato and he eats for a day, teach him to grow a tomato and he eats well for a lifetime. My favorite site on this subject is The Edible Schoolyard Project. Check it out when you are in the mood for a little inspiration. EdibleSchoolyard

gluten free · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten free symptoms · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerance symptoms · gluten intolerant · kids · picky kids

Early Afternoon Pick-Me-Up

Just had to share my latest favorite afternoon snack. Coffee and protein powder. I know, it sounds wrong but it tastes so right! I add ice to the above and blend it into something that tastes similar to a Frappuccino but has 17g of protein (I just use one scoop~ the directions call for 2!) and lots of other good things like micronutrients and super greens. I figure if I’m going to have coffee in the afternoon anyway, might as well make it extra healthy.


And consider this a public service announcement~ Have you had your iron checked lately? Did you know gluten sensitive people are almost always iron deficient? And vegetarians really need to work to get the recommended daily dose too, but I don’t know about anyone else but no doctor, ever, has checked my iron. Not even the naturopath I see! She recommended my boys take Floradix Iron (nasty liquid stuff which they hate) because of their gluten intolerance so I did a bit of research and decided I needed to take it myself. My goodness, what a difference it makes! I have more energy, consistent energy, and I don’t feel like fainting when I ‘get up too fast ‘~so I’m now a fan of the nasty liquid stuff. I have probably been deficient all my life considering most of it has been spent eating a vegetarian diet (more like a Pastafarian diet in my younger years, as my friend pointed out) and have the gluten issue. So anyway, if you think this might apply to you, ask your doctor! And if you go the Flora route, make sure to get the gluten-free one (if you need it) because there is one that is and one that is not. It is worth it.


Making Kids into Readers

Current library selection
Current library selection

First of all I must say there are people way more experienced in this than I am. Teachers, librarians, tutors and specialists for example all are eager and able to help kids become better readers, or help them learn to read at all. I happen to have tutored in AmeriCorps for a year in the America Reads program, taught ESL to both children and adults for several years, and have had measurable success with both my own sons, so I thought I’d write this in case these tips help anyone else out. When my oldest was a baby and toddler he did not have the usual interest in books that most young children show. His attitude was, if he couldn’t rip it apart, what good was it? This frustrated me and I would not let it go, (did I mention I was an English major?) so, I started getting every book on vehicles that our library had, and then ordered them online through our library system, KCLS, which totally rocks by the way. His biggest interest was vehicles, and those books were at least holding him captivated for a few minutes at a time. As the library ran out of vehicle book options, I widened the search to anything construction, tool related, or worker-man related. His attention and interests grew. I was then able to get animal books, silly stories of all sorts, and anything with a superhero theme and he loved them. Soon, he would look at books, without tearing them to pieces, for as long as I would let him. He never was able to sit through a library story time, but a love for books was good enough for me. After learning to read he really resisted chapter books, so I started getting easy chapter books on CD for the car. Their favorite series at that time was The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osbourne, and sure enough after listening to the books on CD they were the first chapter books my oldest picked out on his own to read at school, because they were familiar, and also because the books have some pictures in them which he found fascinating after hearing the CD versions and creating his own pictures in his head. From then on, he has been an avid reader and generally has several books going at once~ something I never could do myself but he seems to manage it fine. My younger son struggled a bit with learning to read in Kindergarten, much to my surprise because he started memorizing books at a very young age, which is the first sign of learning to read. Over the summer before first grade I dedicated time every day to teach him to read myself, and it worked. He started off first grade as a very good reader and has continued to improve. Here’s how I did it which is how we were taught to do it in AmeriCorps when I worked in a struggling school: First, let them read a short book that is easy for them. If they don’t know how to read at all, then this will be a book with one or two words per page with pictures to help. Next they read a slightly challenging book for them. This whole process should be around 20 minutes, and it should be fun. When they are finished you can give them a sticker or whatever motivates them. It is best to do this with a series that gets progressively more difficult, like BOB books or something like that. For example if they have already read books 1-5 of a series, and book 6 will be the ‘challenge’ book of the day, the student can pick any book, 1-5, to read as the ‘easy’ book for that day, then they read book 6 as the challenging book. This helps in memorizing words, which might sound funny b/c reading is often all about phonics when learning, but memorization is what makes fluent reading. You aren’t sounding out every s-i-n-g-l–e word of this, for example, I hope. Guessing is also a valid technique that one should not discourage. If the picture shows a dog going through a door and the child reads dog as door, that’s a good mistake, not something to freak out about (which I’ve seen a fair number of well-intentioned people do~ “Your just guessing! Don’t guess!”) because we have a lot of weird words in the English language and guessing is something that helps figure out some of those crazy words, like night, laugh, have and cough to name but a few. We continue to listen to books on CD in the car, and one reason is that it focuses the kids’ attention on something other than each other, which if you have more than one child you know exactly what I mean. (Poke, poke, he’s on my side! etc.) A friend got in the car the other day while we were listening to something and she remarked, “It’s so quiet!” and I promise you that is not a statement often heard around my kids. The books on CD do serve another purpose besides peace-keeping though, and that is to introduce harder books to the boys than they would normally pick out on their own. We have listened to the whole Harry Potter series (as my older son also read them) and also classics like the Narnia books and Treasure Island. This continues to be a good way for the boys to feel out a book or an author and decide if they want to then read the same book, the next in the series, or maybe not at all. That goes for the books I read at night to them also. Often my older son will continue to read the same author after I have finished a book, while my younger son still tends to pick short chapter books that can be read in one sitting. Lastly, I get them all kinds of books from the library that I think they might like, even if they aren’t exactly something that is great literature. It’s more important they like reading in my opinion, so I get them books to make them laugh or are interesting to them, and I get the good literature in them by reading aloud or books on CD. So, those are my reading tips~ what are yours?


Healthy kids still moving (whether I like it or not…)

on the way to school
on the way to school

For several years I’ve been advocating for my kids to walk to school more, as opposed to sitting on the bus for 20+ minutes to then sit for 6.5 hours at school and of course sit another 20+ minutes again for the ride home. They would occasionally humor me, but mostly they fought it b/c it was “too long” (1.3 miles) and it “exhausted” them. That is until this year. Now that they are in first grade and third grade they actually are the ones driving our morning walks. In fact I find myself having to fight the urge of whining, “but it looks like rain…” more and more as they want to either walk or ride their bikes most days now. (And it pretty much always looks like rain this time of year in the greater Seattle area.) I prefer them walking since when they are on bikes I have to run to keep up, and I don’t get to have a conversation with them, or practice spelling words or multiplication tables~ all things I like to do when walking. Although if they do ride bikes we get there in record time b/c neither one of them likes going slowly whatsoever, so it is a good option on days we are running late. Honestly I think wearing those pedometers from geopalz is what changed their attitudes, although now they only wear them about half the time. The pedometers got them walking more, and now they find they like the walk~ it’s pretty cool when things actually work out the way they are meant to. Goodness knows when raising kids that is a rare occurrence.

biking to school through a park
biking to school through a park