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  • WELCOME!

    Southern roots have given my family a love of sitting down to eat good home cooked meals together. Flavor was never in short supply, although as a young child processed food was. I went to school with a hand packed lunch in my personalized lunchbox every day. As I moved into junior high, I began making poor food choices as the "SAD" diet (Standard American Diet) became convenient and ever present.

    At 20, I was diagnosed with Grave's Disease, an autoimmune thyroid disorder. I struggled through poor health, daily medications, and eventually through a high-risk pregnancy. My son was diagnosed with Autism and Tourette's Syndrome at 6-years-old. The new challenges we faced led us to the GAPS diet, and down a nutritional journey as a family.

    Realizing that what we eat is foundational to optimal health I began researching, studying and cooking real food. I was led to the Nutritional Therapy Association to become a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I followed that by becoming a certified Epidemic Answers Health Coach to learn more about the new childhood epidemics: Autism, ADD/ADHD, asthma and allergies.

    I am passionate about incorporating real food (that tastes good!) to achieve optimal wellbeing. Kids and families are my specialty. Focusing on growing families with preconception support, fertility enhancement, pregnancy, post-partum support and first foods for babies. Working with kids on the spectrum to improve digestion and blood sugar regulation so that they can feel their best. Nothing about my approach is a one-size-fits-all, each plan is tailor made for the individual and family. Long distance clients welcomed!

Grain-free Chicken Fried Steak

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Chicken Fried Steak

2-4 cube steaks, grass- fed. If you want a better cut of beef you can ask your butcher to tenderize any cut you prefer.

1/2 – 1 cup of Honeyville Almond Flour, this is the finest ground almond flour I have found and it makes a big difference.

Sea salt & black pepper

2-6 eggs, organic and free range

1-2 tablespoons bacon fat

DIRECTIONS:

1. I like to use pie tins but any two shallow baking dish will work. In one beat two eggs at a time and season with salt and pepper. In the other cover the bottom with almond flour and mix in salt and pepper to taste.

2. Dip each steak into egg wash and then into almond flour. Repeat egg wash and almond flour for thicker coating.

3. In a large skillet heat bacon fat to melt. Place steaks into pan and cook 5-6 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

I save my bacon fat drippings in a mason jar in the fridge, but if you would rather use another type of fat I recommend ghee, butter or coconut oil, although butter will burn easily and the other two may change the flavor.

October 2, 2012 - 1:14 pm

Gluten-Free Recipes for Better Nutrition - […] Grain-Free Chicken Fried Steak […]

Special Needs vs. Special Treatment

mrmrs

I hold what is probably an unpopular opinion that men and women have different strengths and weaknesses that logically lead to different skills and roles. When speaking in generalizations; however, there are always exceptions to the rule. In general though if I’m trapped in a burning building I want to see a 6’3″ burly man coming up the ladder to rescue me… not a 125-lbs woman. I do not subscribe to the notion that just because men can do something that women should too. Can she? Sure. But, be required to? No. Before you get all huffy, let me explain. I think most women are more suited to raise children, organize a household, and give a manicure to name a few. Can a man do all of these things? Of course. I think most men are better suited for ambitiously climbing corporate ladders, carrying out military missions, and farting. Can a woman do all of these things? Of course. Can some women do these things better than some men? Without question.

This idea is one of the supporting pillars for our successful marriage. For years I have been told by the media, tv, movies, teachers and other assorted women (read man-haters) around me that for me to be happy I needed to be a strong, independent woman who didn’t “need” a man. I should play games. I should play hard to get. I should be the boss. I should be a b-word. The women giving me this advice were not happy.. they were very often miserable so I could not see where following their advice would land me in any better position. I chose my husband carefully, I knew that above all I needed a man I could respect. He needed to share my values, my parenting style and also my view of gender roles. I did not want to feel guilty or inadequate for my desire to stay home with our kids. I am still currently working full-time, but our goal is for me to be able to stay home, run our business and homeschool our Aspie if needed. Does any of this mean I do not get to follow my dreams or do what I want? Unequivocally no.

Perhaps being the mother of boys is also part of the reason. It has in any case made these feelings stronger. I fear the trend that demonizes manly gifts and virtues rather than valuing them. My boys should not have to apologize for being born male any more than a girl should have to feel bad for being born a woman. If we teach our children to follow their dreams, while at the same time setting realistic goals for what they can achieve I believe they will be happier in the long run. And this leads me to the main reason for this post.

I came across this article “Autism awareness: Leading others by example” several weeks ago, and it has been rolling around in my brain since then. The author is recounting an experience she had at a Target. Her autistic son was in full meltdown when another shopper “paused long enough to stare at him with disgust and roll her eyes at him, this ungodly little boy infiltrating her space, her day, her life with his shrill shrieks.” The mother, calmly and politely, asked the woman if she could help her with something. Followed by, “”This is autism. It can be really hard, so please keep your staring and eye rolling to yourself.” The story goes on through the meltdown to the calm down, and it ends with the woman coming back to find the mother to apologize for judging her! This story touched me. Not just because I have been in the mother’s shoes, but because I have been in the other woman’s shoes as well.

I admit that if I make it through a shopping excursion meltdown free that I get irritated when I hear a child screaming relentlessly about not getting some toy. I judge that parent. I judge them when I don’t hear them trying to stop the screaming. I judge them when they give in and buy the toy (thereby enforcing the idea if the kid screams long enough they get what they want). I shouldn’t judge. I should be thankful that even though parenting is a struggle for me, my children know that no means no. I shouldn’t assume that other parents have it easy. When I am on the other end, I try not to look around me or make eye contact with other shoppers. On the other hand I do not just let him scream. I do what this mother did, try to calm my child. If leaving the store is the means for achieving that, then I can always come back another time; or quickly beeline for the checkout. Thankfully, the public meltdowns are happening less frequently.

With our Aspie we have learned that successful learning happens in small steps. Repeated over and over and over again. Being out in public at a restaurant, in a store, at school is stressful and overwhelming for him. Many times it results in angry outbursts, rude behavior, hyperactivity or in the extreme case.. meltdowns. We try to minimize the stress as much as possible. Schedules, lists and clear expectations of behavior all help. When we go out to eat we will sometimes allow Cullen to bring his Kindle Fire and headphones, which he can use to listen to music or watch Netflix. He cannot use it when he is eating; only until the food arrives. Mike and I usually use this time to recap our day and have “grown-up” conversation. One day after a particularly exhausting week of work and fighting with Cullen, Mike took us out to breakfast at Corner Bakery. We were chatting at our table while Cullen was watching something on Netflix. A table full of women nearby started making snarky comments about what was happening at our table. I wanted to tell them why we chose to allow it, but I didn’t. Why bother telling them that allowing him an electronic device helped make their breakfast experience more enjoyable; or that it gave my husband and I much-needed together time. Cullen turned it off when the food arrived and happily ate his breakfast. I couldn’t help throwing a dirty look at the table when we left.

I think this is where my struggle with special needs vs. special treatment comes in. I have a really hard time with giving our Aspie special treatment. Yes, he does have special needs, but that doesn’t mean he gets off the hook for his behavior. It just means he has to work harder, and it means I have to work harder to teach him. We allow him special privileges (like electronics at a restaurant), but he doesn’t get to skip out on consequences or chores or responsibilities just because his brain is wired differently. I expect his teacher to find appropriate consequences for him in class, but I also expect him to be the most distracting kid in the class most days. I have a hard time with letting him slide on things that our other boys don’t get away with. I don’t expect him to grow up “normal,” but I hope he will be able to be on his own, make friends, start his own family and above all follow his dreams.

Lemon Squares – Grain-free & dairy-free

I have been experimenting with baked goods, and outside of the actual GAPS cookbook there are not a lot of recipes that are “legal” for our food plan. I’ve tried muffins and they are a little on the dry side, and don’t feel like a treat, although they are great snacks. I won’t even go in to the whole bread debacle (I have given up bread, it’s not gonna happen). Lemon squares were one of my favorite things growing up, and I hoped that without the need for baking soda I could tweak my recipe to be legal. After several attempts.. Mission accomplished.

Lemon Squares

CRUST
2 cups blanched almond flour*
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon ghee OR virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil (melted)**
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (gluten-free, organic)
1 pastured egg

TOPPING
1/4 cup virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil (or pastured butter if tolerated)
1/4 cup raw honey
3 large eggs
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I like to use Meyer lemons) Usually about 3-4 lemons.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9×13″ baking dish with ghee or coconut oil.
  3. To make the crust, combine almond flour and salt in a Food processor and pulse briefly. Add ghee, egg and vanilla extract and pulse until mixture forms a ball. Press the dough into prepared baking dish. The crust will be only on the bottom, it will not extend up the sides.
  4. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until lightly golden.
  5. While crust bakes, make the topping. In a blender combine the coconut oil (or butter), honey, eggs and lemon juice. Blend on high until smooth. Remove crust from oven and pour topping over hot crust.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the topping is golden.
  7. Cool in baking dish for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 2 hours to set.
  8. Cut into bars and serve.

OPTIONAL
I have added a raspberry puree to these for a slightly more tart version and it was delicious. It’s a great option when raspberries are in season.

RASPBERRY PUREE

1 package of raspberries
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Puree raspberries in a blender until smooth.
  2. Pour through a medium-fine strainer to remove the seeds.
  3. Discard the seeds and place the raspberries into a saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Add honey and vanilla extract. Stir and raise heat to medium-high to bring mixture to a rolling boil stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the honey.
  5. Remove pan from heat and place in refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  6. After you have poured the lemon topping into hot crust, pour raspberry puree into the lemon mixture. It should keep mostly separate so drizzle all over. Continue steps above for baking.

*Honeyville has the best almond flour. Bob’s Red Mill is too coarse and leaves a grainy texture in baked goods. Honeyville is less expensive too, so order it online and store it in your fridge.
**Coconut Oil is solid at room temperature most of the time. My grandma brought back a jar from Arizona and it had completely melted. It has not solidified again, and I am using it for baking as it is so easy to pour into measuring cups and incorporate. It is the Spectrum brand, so I am not sure if it is always liquid or if this was just a fluke.

Survival Kit: Lists and Visual Instructions

One of the common denominators I’ve noticed in every book I have read is that Aspies like routine. Like isn’t a strong enough word… they need, crave, can’t function without routine. This is certainly true for our Aspie. Every now and then we can get away with verbal schedules when there is not a lot going on. For example, in the morning at breakfast I will tell him, “After school you are going to the YMCA, I will pick you up around 5:30 and we’re coming straight home.” When we get home he knows that he gets 5-15 minutes of “free choice time” before he has to start his homework and finish his chores. He then gets free choice time until dinner is ready. After dinner he has to take a shower and get ready for bed. If any one of those things gets mixed up without warning he can become angry, irritated, or start a full-blown meltdown (wailing and gnashing of teeth, etc.).

Aspies are not usually great organizers of their time. They get distracted or they get involved in a project, and when their time is up they have a hard time transitioning to another task. Can you see where this would be a problem, say, in a classroom? We have some stress-relieving techniques that have worked wonders for Cullen’s stress level, and by extension ours as well.

SCHEDULES AND LISTS

Cullen likes to be independent. He enjoys doing things for himself, especially doing what he is supposed to be without mom and dad telling him. In the mornings before school he would fight getting ready, he would fight me when I tried to wake him up even. He kept saying, “I know what to do mom. I’m a big kid. I don’t need you to tell me!” But we were constantly struggling to get ready in time for school. Then he asked me for an alarm clock. He said he would be able to get up and get ready easier if the clock woke him up and he could see the time. We went down, and bought a Lego alarm clock with a radio. This helped a great deal with him not getting angry at me for waking him up, but he would get distracted with toys and not actually be getting ready for school.

One day at Target, while treasure hunting in the dollar section, I came across Cars themed dry erase boards! I had an epiphany! They were affordable, easy to hang anywhere, AND they had his favorite movie characters on them. I bought 3, and that night he and I made a morning checklist. Once he completed everything on the list he was allowed free time until we had to leave for school. Mornings became a breeze! To the point that now, he no longer needs the checklist. I also hung one on the refrigerator that I would use for the daily schedule: school, YMCA, grocery store, errands etc. During the week our schedule is pretty static, but this board became a lifesaver on the weekends when we always have something different going on. He would check the board, memorize it and then keep the rest of the family on schedule the rest of the day. The third one I saved for his chore list. He loves being able to check off the items as he goes along.

He also really likes to make his own lists. I found this To Do notepad in the dollar section too, and for a week he was making up lists. He carried it around all day, asking what we were going to do that day and what chores needed to be done. These kind of lists work great for one time events or special schedules. Last year we drove from southern California to Phoenix to visit family with all 3 boys. Before we got in the car I wrote a list of “Car Rules” for Cullen and every time we got back in the car we would have him read them. He does so much better remembering what to do when he can see it and read it.

Visual Instructions

When I first heard about Carol Gray’s Social Stories I wondered a) Where was I going to find the time? b) Would it work? c) Where was I going to find the imagination and creative juice for it? But mostly where was I going to find the time? We have books that teach lessons, but they’ve never made much of an impact for Cullen. Social Stories work because they are personal and usually incorporate the subject’s obsession somehow. At the time I was researching one of the major struggles we were having was with Cullen’s showering methods. He would either not be in there long enough to clean himself, be in there for way too long, or he would start playing with the soap/shampoo and dump it down the drain. Daily showers were getting costly. Dad and I would have to yell up the stairs to remind him of the next step, or sit in the bathroom to keep him on track. I was trying to think of a social story using his obsession… Legos. Then I thought… we are photographers! I can make him Instructions for a shower using his Legos and take pictures of each step. So I built a bathroom that looks like his, (look there’s even a little toilet!) assembled a Lego Cullen and set up a mini studio to take the pictures. I used whipped cream for the soap and shampoo shots. I dropped the photos into Photoshop and created specific directions for him. We laminated it and taped it in the shower. Since then we hardly ever have to remind him what to do next or hurry him up to get out. Granted, we still do a smell check to make sure he’s actually washed his hair… but for the most part he is an Independent Shower Taker now. Our guests might think we’re crazy, but who doesn’t love a little Lego comic while they are showering?

Cullen loved this so much he asked me to make more for him. I haven’t had any other tasks that need this kind of instruction though. We have so many Legos that I think I could make instructions for almost anything. So if anyone wants a custom one for themselves contact me and I can see what I can do. Maybe I should start an Etsy shop for it! In hindsight I should have included a few other details, like hanging up your towel and not running through the house naked. I once told him that he shouldn’t be taking more than 5 minutes in the shower. That night I heard him counting and asked what he was doing. He told me he was counting to 60 five times, because he didn’t have a clock in the bathroom and wouldn’t know when five minutes was up. He was so busy counting that he forgot to wash his hair, which made a funny yet necessary conversation about what I meant about approximate time.

One of our dear friends, Bethany Barton, created a How To Brush Your Teeth comic with a dinosaur (another one of his favorite things) for us to put on the bathroom mirror. How awesome is this dinosaur? And his teeth are so white and clean! I love all the little details she included. She knows exactly how his mind works and she thought of everything.. like turning the water off and rinsing the brush?!?! Get out of here with your thoroughness Bethany!

One of our main goals for Cullen is for him to be independent. Even if it means making a list every morning of what he has to get done. Building that confidence so he can take care of himself and giving him the responsibility now, even at a young age is crucial.

So the moral of the story is that it takes trial and error, and lots of tools. Try some of these out and let me know the results! I’d love to hear what works for you.

Eggs. Where do I start?

For the purpose of this discussion I have to start with the chicken, no matter which came first, because how the hen is treated and fed affects the eggs. There are a ridiculous amount of egg options in the grocery store. Large, Extra Large, Jumbo, Organic, All Natural, Free-Range, Cage-Free, Omega-3 fortified, Soy-Free, Pastured, Vegetarian (huh? Ya.. I’m going to get to that). How do you know if you are getting a good egg? For those of us on a real food plan eggs are an essential protein, source of choline (a nutrient similar to B-Vitamins that works in tandem with folate, and keeps our livers from accumulating fat and has some links to developing brain function.) and vitamin D, among other benefits for your eyes, hair, brain and cardiovascular system. Good quality eggs are required. If you are not fortunate enough to be keep your own flock of chickens (or know someone who does) what kind should you buy? I’m going to break down the labels since it seems that consistency in labeling (or truth in labeling) is not in our immediate future.

Free Range vs. Cage Free

To almost any person with even a good dollop of common sense and elementary grasp of english language  you would think that these two terms are interchangeable. You would also probably imagine happy chickens on a wide open field or perhaps even in a quaint barnyard happily scratching away at the dirt. However, there is a slight difference in the terms and neither situation is what you would imagine. Cage-free generally means that the birds are not confined in a cage, but are confined in a barn or a warehouse with no access to the outside. Free-Range signifies that the birds do have “access” to an outdoor area adjacent to the barn or warehouse. Usually they are concrete or dirt pads, and the birds are fed inside so they rarely venture outside. The duration of time they are given access and quality of the outdoor area is not regulated. There is no oversight or audits to check either free-range or cage free conditions.

Organic vs. All Natural

Unless you know something I don’t I have yet to come across an unnatural egg. This in my opinion is a ridiculous label. Certified Organic eggs are uncaged and have access to the outdoors (again, the amount, duration and quality is not regulated).  The hens are fed an all organic, vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides. Organic eggs are usually the best quality eggs in a market. If you are buying from a local farmer however the eggs may be a better quality even if they are not “certified” organic. Certification takes money and many small farmers do not want the hassle. Farmers markets are usually the best place to find farm fresh eggs. You can get a good idea of how the hens are living by talking to the farmer.

Omega 3 & Vegetarian Fed & Soy-Free

Eggs are natural sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, but with the recent trend in consuming more Omega 3’s the industry has started supplementing the chicken feed with omega 3’s through the use of fish oil, alfalfa meal, algae, flax-seed and soy. I don’t see too many cartons that will tell you exactly what they are supplementing, but I believe that soy is used most often. Vegetarian fed means their feed does not contain any animal by-products, which eliminates things like chicken feathers and feces, but also takes away bugs! Last time I checked chickens were not vegetarians. They love to eat worms, grubs and the occasional reptile they come across. The basis for any quality meat or egg product is did the animal eat food that it would have in the wild? Chickens eat bugs.. stop forcing them to be vegetarians. Soy-Free eggs are from chickens that have not been fed any soy or soy derivatives. There have been studies showing that when a chicken is fed soy it is present in egg and the tissue of the bird and that is transferred to us when we eat them. The controversy surrounding the prevalent use of soy and the side effects are a post for another day. I avoid soy like the plague.

Pastured or Grass Fed

These are the best eggs to buy if you can find them, and they are hard to find! These birds do not live in crowded barns and fed an unnatural (for them) diet. They have truly free range of a grassy area where they are allowed to eat BUGS, and other natural behaviors. These may not be certified organic, but chances are that if the birds are in a pasture environment they are not being given any antibiotics or pesticides. There is quite of bit of research showing the nutritional benefits of pastured eggs being much higher than other types of eggs. Higher levels of vitamins A, B12, E, folic acid, beta-carotene and essential fatty acids were found in naturally pastured eggs.

Summary

From best to worst. Combinations of any are to be expected.

1. Pastured
2. Soy Free
3. Organic
4. Free-Range
5. Cage Free

My Egg Reviews

Since there is no reliable classification of store-bought eggs you have to do your own testing and reviews. I grew up eating eggs from my grandparents backyard, and my own when we once had a small flock of hens. The one thing you notice immediately is the color of the yolk. Farm fresh eggs have a rich golden orange color to the yolks. Many eggs you find in the store have a pale almost yellowish cast to them. The strength of the shell was another indicator that it came from a healthy chicken. Using these test factors I’ve tried every brand of eggs at my local Sprouts Farmers Market, Mother’s Market and Trader Joe’s.

 Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Organic Eggs.
These are by far the best eggs I have ever tasted. They even come with pictures of the hens in the pasture along with the company’s policies and a description of the treatment of their birds. I had been buying the Chino Valley Ranchers Soy Free Eggs at Mother’s Market, but they were out of stock and bought these instead. They were $6.99/dozen. A little pricey considering we can easily go through 4 dozen eggs per week at our house. I was surprised at the rich flavor, and it passed my two tests for yolk color and shell strength. I will be keeping these on hand for breakfast eggs, but I will use less expensive eggs for mixing in to baking recipes.

 Chino Valley Ranchers Organic Omega-3 Soy Free Eggs
These are my second choice for eggs, but I am having a difficult time finding them at the moment since Mother’s has stopped carrying them. The feed is soy free meaning that the eggs are also soy free. The yolk color on this is fair. I believe that these hens are in a cage-free environment (big barn/warehouse structure).

 Organic Valley Organic Cage Free Eggs “rich in flax seed”
When I can’t get to the Mother’s Market these are my eggs of choice. Because it says rich in flax I assume that they are giving flax instead of soy for omega-3 support. And since they are organic the hens do have some outdoor access. This company does have pretty strict rules for their products and they seem to care about what they are producing. These are the darkest yolks that I’ve gotten from the store in this category of eggs. This is the kind I buy most often, they are priced around $4.49-4.99/dozen.

The Sprouts and Trader Joe’s brand of organic, free-range eggs are just ok. The Trader Joe’s brand has very pale yolks and weak shells. The WORST eggs I have purchased so far have been the Archer Farms brand from Target. They didn’t taste very good at all, and when I used them in baking my finished goods had a strong sulphuric egg flavor. I would not buy those again.

I realize this has been an insanely long post about eggs. You’re welcome. All joking aside I hope some part of this was helpful.

February 22, 2013 - 10:28 am

Darah - This post was very informative and hepful . THanks! A word about Traget- I buy their organic eggs all the time and I have never found the shell to be weak. In fact, if i dont crack them with a fork, they don’t brake easily. They have a nice orange cast to them and I’ve never noticed a sulfuric smell. Perhaps you got a bad batch.

February 22, 2013 - 10:29 am

Darah - Sorry for the typos ;-( I hate this phone!!!

February 22, 2013 - 5:22 pm

Brynn - Thanks for the input Darah! I did try several dozen on different occasions from each store, but maybe I live further from their distribution center.

March 11, 2013 - 2:16 pm

jessie - This was very useful, thanks for doing all the research for us! Are there any WHITE eggs in your list? Trying to find something good for dyed Easter eggs.

March 13, 2013 - 9:16 pm

Brynn - I haven’t found any white organic eggs. That might be something you can find from a local farmer.

August 6, 2013 - 12:28 pm

Amber - I think you would be interested in checking out this informative article~
Is Your Favorite Organic Egg Brand a Factory Farm in Disguise?

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/09/eggs-salmonella-cage-free

I am mostly vegan, but my boyfriend is still eating eggs occasionally and, while he usually tries to buy organic free range recently this wasn’t an option at our local natural grocer so he bought chino valley cage free veg-a-fed eggs. After reading this article and sending it to him to read, I don’t think he will be purchasing them again. ~Amber~

August 6, 2013 - 12:36 pm

Aspieventures - Thank you Amber! The store bought eggs I prefer have a rating of 5 and I have been lucky in that I have 3 farmers markets now that have true pastured eggs that are soy and corn free! But for those that are stuck with the store as their only option this is a great link!

September 23, 2015 - 8:43 pm

Steve B - I used to buy Chino Farms eggs and/or Nest Fresh eggs UNTIL I saw this humane eggs scorecard by the Cornucopia Institute:

http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg-scorecard/

Very informative !

I am trying to combine that info with the taste evaluations given here.