Tag Archives: recipes

Bananas’ Best Bits

One of the nicest things about adding some new foods to M’s limited list, other than the obvious of…well, you know, the addition of new foods to a highly restricted diet…is that just 3 new ingredients have added a huge number of new recipes for him to enjoy. Each one has brought something different to the cookery table, but the best one in many ways, or so M would have you believe, is the mighty banana. I first started playing with recipes back in March for M’s birthday, when I adapted an old favourite to bake a banana bread birthday cake with reasonable success. M wasn’t impressed by what he felt was an overwhelming flavour of nutmeg, so the recipe has had a few more tweaks to reach what is, by M’s exacting standards, almost complete perfection. It’s no exaggeration to say that the introduction of a 3rd fruit has been a game-changer in our household and so I thought I’d share the best bits about bananas with you all:

Banana Bread – it’s never easy to find recipes that can be adapted, and adapted well, to suit M’s restricted diet and these days vegan recipes are almost always my automatic go-to starter for 10. I found a wonderful vegan banana bread recipe on the BBC Good Food website and it took just a few subtle tweaks to turn it into a tasty, gluten-free, M-friendly baked treat that has been a big teatime hit. The latest twist has been to add some dairy- and soya-free chocolate chips to the dough, which makes the cake taste even more indulgent and a welcome addition to his daily packed lunch for school.

Banana & Chocolate Chip cookies – so often my recipes are a response to an unexpected need and these cookies are no different. One of M’s English lessons recently revolved around a tale of children stealing cookies from the staff office and his tutor group were given the opportunity to re-enact the story during a lesson. M came home from school very upset that he hadn’t been chosen to be one of these wannabe thieves and felt excluded because he knew he wouldn’t be able to share eating the cookies once they had successfully been taken. Fortunately, a quick call to the Head of Year 7 and an even quicker Google search found this wonderful recipe, which again required just a few tweaks to make a batch of M-friendly cookies that could be smuggled out of the school office alongside the ones for the rest of his class.

Banana, Apple & Lime Smoothie – one of M’s most precious possessions at the moment is the Nutribullet and Smoothies recipe book that my Aunt has given him as a memory of my Uncle. M feels even closer to him as he peruses the different recipes, trying to work out which he can safely make and enjoy and smoothies have quickly become a staple of his everyday diet. It’s even given him a great vehicle to trial raspberries as a handful added to the fruit mix works a treat. Despite his regular reluctance to get up and get ready for school, M can frequently be found whipping up a smoothie as an alternative to a more normal breakfast and he happily drinks it as he and G walk to school each morning. For a child who has always struggled with what to eat first thing in the day, these smoothies have been a real success story and a welcome break from the stresses that have all too often been a constant part of our morning routine.

 

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Summer Bakes

tumblr_static_wendy2The first 3 weeks of the summer holidays were filled with clubs and camps and activities and I needed to create some M-friendly bakes that could be packed into a lunch-box or, in the case of
Over The Wall, included as a bedtime snack to share during the evening cabin chat session with the rest of his team. With M’s tally of safe foods still stuck at 5, I wanted to bake something new, something we hadn’t tried before, and where better to start than a quick search using my trusty internet search engine. There are not many recipes out there that incorporate those safe ingredients only, so I looked for some vegan and gluten-free suggestions and decided to do the rest of the tweaking myself where necessary.

The first recipe I found was for Pear blondies, a vanilla version of the ever-popular chocolate brownie without, rather obviously, the chocolate and I was intrigued to see if this could be made for M. Using apple purée as my egg replacer, I stirred my mix and then kept my fingers crossed as the small cakes went into the oven. The smell as they baked was amazing and, as always, a certain young gentleman appeared alongside me as I pulled the final product out, ready to cool. The quantity was enough to make a dozen bitesize blondies, which were perfect as a snack during his busy days. Both children enjoyed the blondies, with IMG_0762[1]M particularly keen on the small chunks of pear that had become melt-in-the-mouth and golden as they baked in the sponge mix.

My second new baking venture were Pear and Ginger cookies, which seemed to me to be a perfect combination of sweet and spice, something I was sure M would love. This was another easy recipe to whip up, made from the staples stored in my kitchen cupboards. The dough made an impressive 18 cookies and within minutes of them hitting my cooling rack, my hopeful duo found something important to do in the kitchen in the hope they might be successful in picking up a stray biscuit as they passed. However, whilst they were tempted to taste one straight from the oven, the lure of the lemon icing to be drizzled when the cookies were finally cooled was enough to gain me around 20 minutes extra before my store started to be depleted. These were an amazingly good bake as the rice flour didn’t make the cookies taste granular at all and the ginger was subtle enough to give a little extra heat without overpowering the sweetness of the pear. The children were both big fans of this bake too and I was intrigued to see which one M would settle on as his final choice for taking to OTW camp. In the end, much as he loved both of these new treats, he decided the pear and ginger cookies would be his cabin chat snack of choice and the empty pot returning from camp was all the proof I needed that they had been a success.

Home-cooked Chinese takeaway

chineseOne of things that I know M has really missed since his diet became so restricted is the occasional Chinese takeaway shared with the rest of the family. For as long as I can remember our young foodie has loved eating Chinese food and insisted on mastering the chopsticks early on, so the loss of that treat really did hit him hard. Thanks to the amazing team at our local Wagamama, M has been able to enjoy safe Asian food once again and recently I took the plunge and tried my hand at making him a Chinese-inspired meal too. It was never going to be the same as those fabulous meals we enjoyed in London’s Chinatown when the children were little, but hopefully it was a tasty replacement for a much-missed treat.

Lemon chicken is one of Mike’s favourite Chinese dishes and given the base ingredients of, well, lemon and chicken, it seemed to be an achievable goal for my home-cooked takeaway. For once I didn’t turn to my trusty sidekick, Google, for some speedy research, but instead just used the knowledge I’ve stored up over the last few years to see if I could come up with my own recipe for a delicious lemon chicken. I originally considered using lemon juice, water and sugar thickened with some rice flour to create the sauce, but a quick perusal of the fridge brought the last remaining half-empty jar of dairy-free lemon curd to my attention and I instantly decided that that was exactly what this recipe needed.

Having prepped the diced chicken to make a batch of my M-friendly chicken nuggets and with the rice simmering on the hob, I turned to making the lemon sauce, feeling a little like I was concocting a magic potion as I stirred spoonfuls of this with a dash of that in the cauldron saucepan. IMG_0637[1]I’m certain that the authentic Chinese recipe includes soy sauce, but with soya definitely banned from our repertoire for the foreseeable, I tweaked the sharp flavour of the lemon curd by adding a little more sugar as well as some salt, pepper and rosemary until I had a savoury sauce I was confident the children would eat. As I finished cooking the rice, chicken and sauce in my trusty wok, G and M drifted to the table drawn by the delicious smell, eagerly asking what was for dinner. The portions I served soon disappeared as did the children once their plates were empty, which, without a doubt, signalled a new and successful addition to my ever-growing list of M-friendly recipes.

Meeting a knead

With so much of my time and energy focused on NEAW16 throughout May as well as coping with the aftermath of M’s broken leg, I unusually spent very little time in the kitchen for most of the month, other than to whip up the regular offerings for each meal. Having taken a much-needed short break to recover, it has been time to revisit some of the recipes I’ve spotted and saved over the last few weeks to see if they could be adapted to suit M’s current dietary needs. One of the foods he really misses having is bread and barely a month goes by without him requesting a sandwich made of “real bread”Kneading-dough-007 and not just rice cakes. A couple of years ago I took a Doves Farm recipe and adapted it to suit our then requirements, and it worked. It wasn’t brilliant, but M loved it despite its foibles because it met his needs. Over the last 18 months, I’ve mastered bread-like equivalents such as pancakes and flatbreads, but hadn’t ventured back into the world of bread-making…until now.

The biggest challenge for my current bread-making attempt was the yeast. We haven’t trialled yeast with M as yet and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t imagine we’ll be doing so for quite some time as the nutritional benefit to be gained by adding it to his diet right now is negligible. We will, without a doubt, get there some day, probably round about the time M wants to start drinking beer – though obviously my baby will never be old enough for that milestone to pass! – but it doesn’t feel like a priority for the time being. Instead, I switched on my trusty laptop and started looking for yeast alternatives or, even better, recipes for yeast-free bread and found this fantastic one by FussyFoodie.co.uk, which I was able to tweak further for M. I am, as ever, extremely grateful to those other allergy-aware cooks IMG_0458[1]out there, who take their time to share their recipes via blogs and other websites as their hard work helps make my efforts a little easier as I strive to create appetising dishes for M.

I baked my final recipe twice to try out both my bread-maker and my free form bread-making skills, as well as adding different flavours to see how the end results compared. The machine mixed loaf looked great, but I found that the ingredients hadn’t really been combined enough in the pan and ended up having to remove a good centimetre or so of rice flour from the bottom of the loaf before it could be enjoyed. The centre of the loaf also failed to cook thoroughly, though toasting slices of the bread before serving did go some way to resolving that particular crisis. Both M and G were suitably impressed by my efforts, which encouraged me to give it a go a second time. This time round I hand-mixed the dough, added some herbs for a different flavour and formed small bread rolls instead of a single loaf. IMG_0491[1]These worked much better in my opinion and M certainly enjoyed the crusty outside, reminiscent of a “real” bread roll, almost as much as the warm centre that had been spread with some coconut oil to replace the butter. I will definitely be baking this bread recipe again and may even try to co-ordinate my cooking so that M can enjoy his chicken burgers in a bap!

The Croissants Adventures: Part Deux

One of my biggest challenges for last week was set by M’s teacher, when she let me know on the Tuesday that they would be engaging in a spot of French role-play and would be tasting hot chocolate, croissants and other traditional French breakfast foods during the lesson. She was anxious that M shouldn’t feel left out and asked whether there was any chance I could send in something “…M-friendly and close to a pastry…” for the activity. The thing is that there really isn’t anything readily available that is even vaguely similar to a French pastry that is based on M’s handful of safe foods and so I knew this was going to be a baking challenge I needed to tackle and quickly. break05My starting point was actually a conversation with M as there was no need to stress about how to create a French-inspired masterpiece for him, if he’d simply be satisfied with a rice krispie treat instead. We started on the matter of the hot chocolate and despite his desperate bids to start his cocoa trial weeks before Easter, rather than when planned, he quickly changed his tune – well who’d want to miss out on an Easter Egg if it’s up for offer?! – and settled on rice milk flavoured with banana nesquik for his drink. However, he was less open to be swayed on the matter of the croissants and I promised to at least investigate if there was anything I could do before the Friday deadline dawned. Fortunately, 2 years ago the school had hosted a MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) Day and whilst G’s needs were met by the purchase of some delicious Genius pain au chocolat, even then there was nothing I could buy that would suit M’s trickier requirements. I had researched and adapted a great vegan recipe for croissants and baked a batch that kept him happy, even if they were not quite up to my more exacting standards. I knew I had added that recipe to my blog and quickly had a skim-through the list of ingredients to see if a new and improved M-friendly version was even possible.

For once, luck seemed to be on M’s side and, after a quick internet search for possible alternatives to the yeast I’d needed before, I was able to tell my excited child that I was willing to at very least give it a go. With plenty of warnings that there were no guarantees regarding taste or texture, I tentatively started the long and drawn-out process of making the pastry dough. I swapped coconut oil for the Trex and a bicarbonate of soda and xanthum gum mix for the yeast. The dough was prepped on the Tuesday night and I popped it into the fridge for a couple of days until I needed it: that was a big mistake. IMG_0207[1]The coconut oil solidifies at cold temperatures and by the time I was ready to make and bake the croissants on Thursday evening, my pastry was now filled with marble-sized lumps of coconut oil that I just had to remove. Whether this made much of a difference to my final product, I really don’t know, but given that a lot of the flavour in a French pastry comes from the fat added to it, I don’t think I did myself any favours.

I rolled and folded, and folded and rolled for a good 25 minutes on Thursday evening, until my dough was smooth and no longer a sticky mess that couldn’t be worked and I carefully cut triangles and rolled each one into the croissant shape, complete with slight curve. With the excess dough, I formed 2 pastry cases and attempted a couple of apple turnovers as an unexpected treat. Once all my pastries were ready, IMG_0209[1]I popped them into the oven, set the timer and attempted to forget all about them until the bell rang. The turnovers ended up being a little overdone and I wasn’t entirely convinced by the croissants either, though both children devoured them eagerly and with far more gusto than I was expecting!

This morning I was asked by a friend if I was planning to make a third attempt and I didn’t know what exact answer to give. The time and patience needed to make this pastry was tough to fit in alongside the everyday hustle and bustle of our household, but I reaped huge rewards. M and G were delighted with this different treat and I know that with a little more tweaking and a lot more practice, I might end up with a M-friendly pastry that would open up a lot more possibilities for meals for him. Not just croissants or apple turnovers, but chicken pot pies spring to mind too. So my honest answer probably should be:

Just watch this space!

Popcorn Chicken

You might not have realised it, but last week saw the celebration of “National Popcorn Day” in the USA – a day dedicated to “drawing awareness to popcorn and the never-ending amount of fun you can have with it!” Unfortunately, popcorn is currently yet another treat that M cannot enjoy due to a failed food challenge, but a revisit to my Kracklecorn post from last year reminded me of a popular chicken fast food chain and its popcorn chicken nuggets, This dish brings back fond memories of Mike’s grandmother, who loved this treat and of trips to the nearest KFC to pick up a portion or 2 for dinner whenever we were back in Canada and making a visit to see her.

kfc

January has been something of a grey month for M, who has struggled with giving up the foods unsuccessfully reintroduced during his GOSH admission. His health is infinitely better than it was 6 weeks ago, but my plucky 9-year old has found it tough to see eggs, potatoes and bananas disappear back out of his diet after such an intense period of eating them, no matter how ill they made him. Determined to develop a new recipe to cheer him up a little, and inspired by my Canadian recollections, I researched a number of popcorn chicken recipes to see if I could recreate this fast food treat. Despite a continuing absence of safe foods for M, we have been able to successfully expand his repertoire of herbs and spices and I wanted to introduce some quite bold new flavour combinations to tantalise his taste buds. Some of the recipes I found suggested using an Indian spices theme and, as India just happens to be M’s topic for the new school term, this seemed the perfect opportunity to prepare an Indian-style popcorn chicken for dinner.

Thanks to the ever-present box of Nature’s Path Crispy Rice Cereal, the only safe cereal M can eat and actually enjoys, my trusty deep fat fryer and a selection of Indian-esque spices from my kitchen cupboard, I blitzed up a crumb coating, added my chicken 20160106_180748and kept my fingers crossed. The first batch looked delicious and I couldn’t wait to take a sneaky bite or two to…ahem…”taste test” before serving them to my discerning public. The smell wafting through the house worked better than a dinner bell and first one child, and then the other, drifted to the table with washed hands, ready to try dinner. For that first meal, I prepared 2 chicken breasts worth of popcorn and left my youngest bitterly disappointed that there was absolutely not another morsel left for him to consume. Subsequent meals have seen bigger portions prepared and disappear in similarly quick fashion, and I’m delighted to have found another winning recipe for dinner. Mike has also declared my popcorn chicken a huge hit, even though all he’s been able to scrounge has been the sparse crumbs left once G and M have emptied the bowl. They really were “finger lickin’ good!”.

Yet another chicken recipe!

We might be nearly 9 months into life with a NG-tube and in theory should have long since said goodbye to its presence in our world, but the reality is very different. M hasn’t been able to progress beyond our 4 staple foods and it is becoming increasingly challenging to make rice, chicken, cucumber and apple into a tasty and interesting combination for 3 meals a day. 20150710_203444M’s steady consumption of new favourites tempura batter chicken nuggets and arancini di riso has resulted in the purchase of our first-ever deep fat fryer – a piece of kitchen equipment I never envisioned gracing my kitchen’s counter-tops – and I have been concerned about the amount of fried foods he’s now eating on a regular basis. Thanks to a recent post on The Recipe Resource’s Facebook forum, I converted the cornflake-covered chicken balls to a M-friendly version and found a healthier twist to chicken nuggets for him to enjoy.

They were really simple to prepare and it would be easy enough to adapt the recipe to suit your tastes and dietary needs. I’ve added both sage and thyme to the mix and both proved popular with M and G alike and I’m sure you could spice them up with chilli flakes for a more “grown-up” flavour.20150723_190656 The quantities would be easy to adapt too, so that you only make what you need for a meal-time, although M has enjoyed them cold for his packed lunches recently too. I also took the basic recipe and made some crispy fish balls for M’s white fish challenge, which I’m sure, with a little bit more time and effort, could be moulded into all sorts of interesting shapes. It ultimately turned out to be yet another food fail, but M definitely enjoyed the bite-size fish nuggets whilst he could.

Perfect pancakes

During our recent GOSH appointment, the conversation naturally turned to the food I’m cooking for M these days and how we could continue to vary the options available to him with such limited ingredients. The subject had turned to our plans to introduce white fish and whether there were any M-friendly free-from fishfingers on the market, which there aren’t. I was just saying that I had perfected a rice-flour tempura batter, which would be ideal for making fish bites, when M, without looking up from the handheld computer device he was engrossed by, piped up to inform them that “…Mummy cooks me chicken nuggets and deep-fried rice-balls and flatbreads and pancakes…” before carrying on with his game. The conversation paused briefly as the dietician took note and then carried on from there, but it made me realise that I had never shared my rice-flour pancake recipe and I vowed to change that as soon as I could.

20141007_173343Pancakes are one of those recipes that I attempted very early on in our free-from journey and are still a family favourite 4 years on. I make the big, fluffy ones most associated with North America and use the batter as a basis for other savoury treats such as corn or courgette fritters. The basic recipe contains very few ingredients and proved easy to convert to the updated M-friendly version that you can find here. I flavour them with a variety of green herbs and they form a tasty accompaniment to any meal, enjoyed by the whole family, not just M and I even cooked them recently when he had a friend round for tea, where they proved to be a hit.

One of the best things about these pancakes, other than how quickly you can whip up a batch, is just how versatile they can be. With a few careful choices about flavours, they can be either savoury or sweet and both have proved popular with M. They will also form the perfect platform for our mini-challenges on spices and flavourings over the coming weeks, which I know M can’t wait to try.

Feast or famine

There are times when recipes, just like buses and blog-posts, can be hard to find and then, just when you think you’re in for the long haul, a whole host of them appear from nowhere and flood your every waking moment.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been desperate to find some more alternatives to plain chicken and rice to tempt M’s taste buds and it is thanks to some canny suggestions from M’s dietitian, a lovely reader and even my hairdresser that this past fortnight has seen me trialling some new inventions of my own.

or-kitchen-gf1Today’s recipe is one that might not appeal to everyone, but it has certainly been a huge hit with M:  Chicken Liver pâté.  Both G and M love pâté and when they were little, I found a quick and easy recipe and regularly used to make my own.  I’m not quite sure why it didn’t cross my mind to revisit this recipe in recent months, but thanks to a throwaway comment from our lovely dietitian about the possibility of cooking lamb’s liver and kidneys when M trials lamb, Chicken liver pâté suddenly sprang to mind. I spent a productive hour or so flitting between my computer and my recipe books, searching out traditional recipes as well as some that are dairy-free and quickly came to the conclusion that, with a clever few tweaks and variations of my own, this was definitely something I could cook up for M.

20150602_182343The base ingredients are easy to source: chicken livers, oil, rice flour, rice milk and herbs and seasonings; and I think that the recipe is easy to follow.  In my latest batch, I also added the last remaining drops of the “Rice whip” rice cream I had managed to buy months ago, which gave the pâté a creamier texture, but isn’t necessary to make a spread that everyone can enjoy. The pâté has given M another fab alternative to the monotony of his daily meals and he’s currently loving his pâté “sandwiches” (rice cakes with pâté) for lunch, instead of the dry alternative.

20150610_175428Pâté perfected, it was now time to put my second plan into action and create a M-friendly version of Beef Wellington.  Sadly at the moment for us there can be no pastry, mustard, mushrooms, crepe or indeed beef, but there is chicken, chicken liver pâté, cucumber and rice and that, I decided, was more than enough.  I carefully cut into a chicken breast and created a pocket, which I filled with thin slices of cucumber and lashings of the pâté.  I coated the filled breast with a rice crumb and then oven-baked.  M tucked into it heartily last night and devoured the lot, which was just amazing to see.  So that’s another dish to add to my repertoire, though perhaps the end result was more “Chicken Kiev“, than “Beef Wellington”, a “Chicken Wellington” you might say!

 

Flatbreads and Fajitas

It’s been quite a while since I last had a new recipe to share, but this one has become a definite favourite at home and M asked me to share photos of his “most delicious meal ever!” on my blog.  Chichen_Itza_El_CastilloWe are still stuck at 3 safe ingredients plus oils for cooking at the moment and it’s becoming more and more difficult to make rice, chicken and cucumber even remotely interesting to eat at every meal-time.  The inspiration for this new recipe came from G and her current post-SATs topic about the Mayans.  They had been looking at food in current day Mexico and she came home raving about wanting to try fajitas:

Once M can have some more foods, then you could make him spicy chicken and find some safe wraps and then we could both try chicken fajitas.

Her enthusiasm was catching and, as G is so often reluctant to try new flavours and ingredients, I started to wonder whether I could jump on this Mayan bandwagon and transform our staples into a version of this popular dish.  My first challenge was to find a recipe that could provide the wraps needed and stumbled across this great one for rice flour flatbread.  Deciding to not run before I could walk, I started by trying my hand at making flatbread and seeing what response it got from my discerning duo.  The recipe was easy to follow and simple enough to accommodate M’s new food needs as it just requires rice flour, water, oil and salt.  Flatbread made, I nervously served them and watched the entire plateful disappear before my eyes – an instant hit.

The original ingredients- I failed to get a photo of the finished fajita!

The original ingredients- I failed to get a photo of the finished fajita!

With the flatbread puzzle solved, it was now time to construct some M-friendly chicken fajitas for dinner.  I finely sliced some strips of cucumber, pan-fried some chicken with lots of black pepper and thyme (he’s not yet allowed to trial chilli flakes or anything spicier than green herbs) and used some of the home-made chicken liver pate I’d perfected at the weekend to add a little something extra.  He wasn’t quite sure how to put them together, so we decided on a thin spread of pate on top of the flatbread, a sprinkling of cucumber and some small pieces of chicken, before rolling the lot into a shape vaguely reminiscent of a fajita.  G added some sliced carrot and mayonnaise to hers and they both quickly scoffed the lot.  This is the first “sandwich” M has been able to enjoy in a long time and I doubt it will be the last!