Sunday, July 31, 2011

New and Improved

All summer long I have been on a mission to totally rework my habits, clean the house, and establish a stay at home mama/allergen-free cooking routine.  I am pleased to say that Mike and I have officially combed through and organized every shelf, drawer, closet, and cabinet in the air-conditioned portion of our house.  The garage has just a small section left with boxes of stuff that needs to be gone through, but I am hopeful that with one week left before Mike returns to work we will be able to fit that in the schedule as well.  My plan is to take my precious hour in the evening, when the girls are sleeping, to go through one box a night until it is all finished.  Mike is super proud of his new and improved wife who is no longer a hoarder but thoroughly downsized and organized.

At Naomi’s 2 month appointment her pediatrician couldn’t believe this darling, smiling, cooing baby was the same one that was covered in pimples and howling through her 1 month check up.  She noted how perfectly clear her skin is now, and when I explained that it began to clear up the 2nd day I started the MSPI diet she said that just shows what a very sensitive allergy she has and what a great job I am doing. (with Elvis accent: Thank you! Thank you very much! )

Naomi, it seems, does not only have milk/soy protein intolerance but a gluten one as well.  The newest food sensitivity was discovered when I took communion a couple Sundays ago (just the Host, not the communion wine) and she was miserable all day. I’ve purchased only gluten free flour and bread from that moment on and since then she’s been right as rain.

This whole experience has been a good thing because I have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and I wasn’t supposed to be indulging in milk products anyway-a habit that I had due to my love of Italian cheesy things and pizza. Allergen-free meal planning has forced me to cook everything nearly from scratch and super fresh. Mike is in his glory with home cooked meals 2-3 times a day with the exception of corn or rice cereal with rice milk, fruit, and rice or coconut yogurt for breakfast during the weekdays. (I only have the energy to cook hot breakfasts on the weekends.)  

The cookbooks I ordered (The Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI) Guidebook/Cookbook by Tamara Field and Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal) have provided us with a way to enjoy some fantastic baked goods like Mike’s Vanilla birthday cake with vegan chocolate icing, pumpkin bread, and chocolate cupcakes.  The brown sugar cookies are Jenna’s favorites to make because she gets to play with the dough which she calls hot potato, but I can’t figure out why! J

Technology is an amazing and wondrous thing because I was able to find a support group for kids with allergies and they recommended some online grocery distributors.  I ordered gluten, soy & dairy free items from Navan Foods gluten free sample kit and bread sample kit from Ener-g  We also have a store about 40 minutes away that offers a lot of great products called Nature’s Market and we made a trip to Fresh Market after the airport drop off in Orlando to pick up some new products there too. As promised, I have documented the results of our taste testing:

Brand &  Type of food
1 to 10
Ener-g White Rice Bread
Tastes like stale cardboard or “Yucky-poopy bread” as Jenna puts it.
Udi’s Gluten Free Foods White Sandwich Bread

White Rice Bread
They can be found in the frozen foods section of Publix and actually tastes really delicious when toasted. If Jenna eats it you know it is yummy. J
Ener-g gingersnap cookies
Really yummy, you almost forget they are butter free.
Enjoy Life ginger spice soft baked cookies
Ok but not great.
Enjoy Life snickerdoodle soft baked cookies
Tolerable but not great according to Mike and I but Jenna ate two so I couldn’t give them a 1.
Enjoy Life caramel apple snack bars
Jenna: “This tastes like it has boogers in it. I no like it!” Mindy (the dog) finished it.
Enjoy Life very berry snack bars
Mike and I ate them because they were expensive. Jenna wouldn’t touch it.
Glutino Blueberry Breakfast Bar
These are Delicious! I was very impressed and actually ate a whole box (minus one for Mike).  They are pricey but worth it to have a snack to carry around.
Daiya: Deliciously Dairy Free cheddar style shreds Cheddar “cheese”
Gross eaten cold but not bad melted on a burger or mixed in scrambled eggs. 
Daiya: Deliciously Dairy Free Mozzarella
The product advertises that you can finally enjoy pizza but I thought it tasted horrid.  Mike ate the remaining slices.
So Delicious Coconut Water Mango Sorbet
Smooth and super yummy!
So Delicious Coconut Milk
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Everything this company makes has been a HUGE hit! You can really taste the coconut in this.
So Delicious Organic Mini Fudge Bar
By far Jenna and my favorite! They are amazingly chocolately and only 70 calories (30 from fat) a bar so people who want a treat without overindulging would love these.
So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt
We’ve tried blueberry, chocolate, and vanilla and they are all fabulous.  A great way to get those probiotics without having to take pills.
So Delicious Coconut Milk
I use this in baking but don’t really like the taste all that much as a milk alone. I describe it as soapy tasting water with coconut extract. Mike loves it though. 
Rice Dream Rice Milk
Best of the kinds of milk aside from almond milk to drink.  Great on cereal and I use it in baking all the time.
Silk Rice Milk
My second favorite brand for rice milk.
Whole Foods Rice Milk
This has a bit of a chalky burnt rice flavor to me. I could take it or leave it.
Blue Diamond
Almond Breeze
Almond Milk
If I could drink this I would but Naomi seemed to have a hard time after several attempts so I eliminated it from my diet.  Great tasting though! Nutty, slightly sweet, and delicious.  
Through all of our experimenting, we’ve made some very valuable discoveries about healthy foods.

1)      Ingredients are misleading. Just because it has caramel or chocolate doesn't mean it tastes good.

2)      Don’t let your child sample the items unattended. I found more gluten-free breakfast bars and cookies smashed in between the couch cushions or in the car seat than I care to document- and those are just the ones that Mindy didn’t get to before me.
            Just because it is healthier and fewer calories doesn’t mean you can eat double the amount-(YES, Michael I’m talking to YOU!)
            Most importantly, don’t buy products with labels that advertise the flavor has been enhanced. 
New and Improved Taste Translation: Our product used to be unfit for human consumption and most likely still is, but with FDA approval.
Now Even Tastier    Translation: Used to taste like sawdust, now we added fruit!
Great New Flavor     Translation:  Your dog will love it!

Other than that, everything seems to be going great. Mike has lost 16 pounds and Jenna cleans her plate most evenings without much of a struggle. When I had to add gluten to the list of no-no’s I really started to worry that I wasn’t going to find enough food to eat to continue to stay healthy, curb my hunger, and continue to breastfeed.  But I feel better now that I’m not having stomach pains after each meal (which was a former 2x + a week occurrence).  It’s amazing how you don’t realize you were feeling poorly until you feel better. The house is in order, our diet is running smoothly, and Naomi is glowing; things are all around super-de-duper.  As the summer comes to an end I realize that the new and improved me wasn’t as painful a transition as I thought it would be and life is pretty near close to perfect. Now, if only there was a non-dairy, no soy, no gluten pizza out there that actually tasted good too! Then we’d really be living the life J

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