Tag Archives: sugarfree

Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten free)


Berrik was having his two best buddies over for a sleepover and I was going to be spending the day at dance dress rehearsal where one of my dance mom friends cannot eat gluten.  So before we headed off to the rehearsal hall, I whipped up a batch of these gluten-free and refined sugar-free cookies.  I adapted a recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers, Monique at AmbitiousKitchen.com.  You can find the original recipe here.   I haven’t made it as it is written, but based on all other recipes I’ve tried from this blog, I am positive it will be delicious as is.  img_8523

The only changes I made was to use Nut and Seed Butter from Costco in place of almond butter, Nuts4Nat_NutSeedButter_1-595x595raw local honey in place of the coconut sugar, and I used stevia sweetened chocolate chips.  Monique at Ambitious Kitchen made her cookies in a food processor, but I was too lazy and rushed to even grab mine out of the cupboard, so I hand stirred and it worked just fine.

I doubled this recipe, and used a bit less than half a cup of honey. Truth be told, I didn’t measure the chocolate chips.  I just dumped some in until it seemed like enough.  If you aren’t sure if it’s sweet enough, just give the batter a taste. If the batter tastes sweet enough, then the cookie will too.  If not, add a bit more

Berrik hasn’t had sweets/refined sugar for 14 months, so even a slightly sweet cookie tastes sweet to him.  But I handed them out to the dance moms at rehearsal and they liked them….and my girls really liked them too.  They are a bit cakey in texture. Next time I might add coconut and/or crushed nuts for some more crunch and texture, not to mention flavor, but it certainly isn’t necessary.  Dried fruits would also work well.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups Nut and Seed Butter
  • 1/2 cup raw local honey
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • 2/3 cup Stevia sweetened chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium sized bowl put in nut and seed butter, honey and coconut oil; hand mix until combined. Add in eggs and stir again.
  3. Next, add in coconut flour, baking soda and salt; stir again until a dough forms. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Use a cookie scoop to drop dough onto prepared cookie sheet. You can flatten dough with the palm of your hand or you can leave the dough as is and cookies will be a bit puffier.  I left them as is.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies turn slightly golden brown around the edges. Allow them to cool on cookie sheet for at least 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes around 36 cookies.

 

Holiday treats – Free of Dairy, Sugar, and Wheat!

 

At this time of year in particular, sugar and wheat filled treats are EVERYWHERE.  It makes everything a challenge for those of us who have kids who are sugar and wheat free.  A visit to Santa means a dye and sugar filled candy cane, or a sugar, wheat and dye filled iced cookie.  Any holiday event at school, with friends, with family, all involve treats of some kind.  Gluten-free is easy enough these days, as there are many commercial options for the gluten intolerant.  But not so much for the gluten AND sugar free.  At Halloween I made chocolate ‘bars’ for Berrik so that he wouldn’t feel left out.  He loved them!  However, they are very dark and bitter chocolates as I prefer to keep any sweetener to a minimum, regardless of what type I am using.  But I know that a lot of people, especially kids, prefer the milder, sweeter ‘milk chocolate’.  Because my kids were dairy free by necessity, they grew up eating very dark chocolate so have a taste for it.  Most kids, not so much.  I decided to experiment a little today, to see if I could create a dairy, sugar and wheat free chocolate treat, that would satisfy even the most diehard milk chocolate vs. dark chocolate fan.

These aren’t perfect but they are unbelievably delicious, and will do the trick in this house. Berrik won’t feel left out at all, as I think these might be better than most of the treats we will come across over the holidays.  Except my mom’s lemon tarts. Those are the best.  But I digress.  Our biggest issue will be keeping enough chocolate in the house to last, as my girls and even my dessert avoiding husband can’t keep their hands off this chocolate!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup cocoa

all the full fat cream from a can of coconut milk (discard the watery stuff, or save for another recipe… I just added it to a smoothie)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

sweetener of choice, to taste.

I use stevia and just add a couple drops at a time until it gets to the desired sweetness (5 drops or so seemed to work).  Other really good and tasty options are pure maple syrup, raw local honey, coconut sugar, xylitol derived from birch, or even just plain old sugar if you aren’t limiting sugar.  I would guess at about 1/8-1/4 cup of these sweeteners, but I would recommend to start low and add a bit at a time, tasting after each addition (best part of the process!!).

Put all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally. When ingredients are mixed, smooth, and starting to bubble, continue to heat for about 2 minutes, stirring the entire time.  Pour into chocolate molds, or small muffin cups and freeze for a couple of hours.

OPTIONAL:

  • add a couple tbsp of nut or seed butter for a yummy nutty taste!  Chunky peanut butter is pretty amazing in this.
  • add gluten free pretzels, nuts, coconut, dried berries or red pepper flakes to each mold or muffin paper before pouring in the chocolate or sprinkle flakes of pink Himalayan sea salt on top

We added pretzels to ours as that is Berrik’s favorite.  These chocolates become soft quite quickly so should be served directly from the freezer.  They are creamy and fudge-like in texture and in flavor. Enjoy!!

 

Nothing is Black & White

Wouldn’t it be so much simpler if everything was black and white?  I have friends for whom some things are totally black and white.  In some ways I envy them their strong convictions and their ability to feel so confident in the perceived obviousness of their beliefs.  At the same time I wonder about whether they truly believe with 100% certainty that the issue is totally black and white, or do they, deep down, struggle like I do.

I know people….many people, in fact, who would say that getting all vaccinations on exactly Alberta’s vaccine schedule is critical and anyone who feels or does any differently is completely insane, and possibly even criminal for the potential harm to the community.  I’ve heard people say parents should lose their children if they choose not to vaccinate.  I also know several people who feel that all vaccines are evil and have no place in our children’s bodies.  I always hesitate to bring up this topic in a public forum as it is SO contentious for so many people.  The vitriol spewed online from both sides of the issue is so offensive and ridiculous that I refuse to read it anymore.  At the end of the day, I don’t care if you are pro vaccine or anti vaccine, or vaccinate on a delayed schedule, or pick and choose vaccines that you feel comfortable with.  I really don’t.  It’s none of my business what you choose to do for your children. (and yes, I know that from a herd immunity perspective many feel it IS their business…that’s ok.  I don’t agree.) I am not anti-vaccine.  But I’m also not pro-vaccine.  It’s not black and white for me.  It’s so grey that I have lost sleep over it.  Numerous times.  I am suspicious of the entire vaccine issue because it is BIG BUSINESS. On both sides of the issue.  I’m a naturally suspicious person, and I have a hard time believing that Big Pharma is totally benevolent.  That said, there is definitely plenty of research that overwhelmingly supports vaccination as a public health life saver.  I have also seen plenty of literature to support that vaccines can do plenty of harm.  Given that money talks, and both sides of the issue have much to gain financially by promoting their ‘side’, I often wonder what we should be believing.  Then you see articles like this: Harvard Sugar Conspiracy and Junk Science and you wonder if ANY of the literature on either side of the issue is valid at all.  And let’s not forget that the media is held even less accountable on how they spin ‘news’ stories, so even reading the above two articles has to be taken with a considerable ‘grain of salt.’  Websites are filled with propaganda and it is IMPOSSIBLE to feel confident that anything you are reading is real.  Or at least it’s impossible for me.

Now take a kid like Berrik.  Diagnosed with ADHD a couple years ago.  The kid is definitely fidgety, and needs help staying focused.  The psychologist who diagnosed him recommended medication.  His teacher recommended medication (is that a teacher role? at the time I didn’t think so). My family doctor felt he was too young and that we should try other interventions first.  If you look online, you can find information supporting all types of medication, as well as all types of alternative methods of supporting a kid with ADHD.  I have talked to many people about it.  Some have told me their experience with medication was life changing in a positive way.  “Wish we would have done it sooner.”  Others describe horrible side effects that were also life changing on the other end of the spectrum.  Some swear by homeopathy (I can literally see my pharmacist friend cringing here), and some speak highly of essential oils.  The amount of information available is OVERWHELMING.  And to be quite frank, there is so much judgement around this that sometimes I don’t even want to mention it.  Much like vaccines, I’m not pro or anti anything when it comes to ADHD.  Well, I suppose that’s not true.  I’m pro-doing what is best for your child and your family in the context of what is going on at any given time.  And I’m anti- judgement.  I’m not perfect.  And yes, I definitely judge other people.  Anyone who says they don’t is, in my judgement (see what I did there?), lying.  But if I have learned anything about parenting from my experience with Berrik, it’s that the vast majority of us are doing the best we can with the information and tools we have, and that it does no one any good to blame parents for what is happening with their child.  We have no idea what has happened, is happening, or will happen in the future for that child and family in the context of what their life looks like.  We can only fully understand our own experience – or maybe we can’t even do that!

Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding.  Another contentious one.  Ugh. I had a nursing student say to me one time that breastfeeding beyond 6 months is ‘not natural’.  I laughed out loud at that one.  Breastfeeding is natural.  Drinking milk from other animals, while socially acceptable, is considerably less ‘natural.’.  But I also always advised new moms when I was teaching breastfeeding, that breastfeeding is natural like learning to skateboard, not like breathing.  It’s hard.  And you may fall a lot.  And sometimes you scrape your knees and it takes a while to heal (this is a metaphor for blistered and bleeding nipples…hahaha…it’s actually not funny.  It hurts.  like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, but I digress)  And some of us really dislike skateboarding. And some of us have a skateboard that doesn’t work that well.  And some of us just need to use a different mode of transportation all together because skateboarding is not the way we choose to get around.  Perhaps breast milk vs. formula is proven to be better when comparing the two liquids from a nutrition or antibodies perspective.  Perhaps that is closer to black and white?  I put a ?, because I’m not sure if that even qualifies for black & white distinction.  However, formula unarguably also grows healthy infants into (usually obnoxious) 2 and 3 year olds just as breast milk does.  It’s not black and white.  Grey, grey, grey. And if formula works better for the family, for WHATEVER reason, then it is the better choice.  Period.  Ditto for breastfeeding.  To me, that is what is black & white.

Low carb, low fat, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten free, organic.  OMG.  Eat what makes you feel best.  I believe that eating real food is important.  But I know that some people feel better eating vegetarian – and others feel better with lots of protein.  If you truly pay attention to how you feel, you will be able to figure out which foods make you feel best.  I know there are people who think that I am a bit over the top with how I feed my family, and especially Berrik. But it works for us, so if you want to know more, then read on.

I’m going to tell you a little about what has worked for us, and I will ask you to remember that this is us doing what we felt/feel is best for our son and our family in the context of what was/is happening in our lives.  It may not work for you.  You may feel we are crackers. Or you may think you might want to try some of what we tried to see if it makes sense for your family.  Take what you want.  Leave the rest.

  1. Diet.  I cannot talk about this enough.  I really do believe that what we put into our bodies impacts pretty much every system.  I think most of us can anecdotally understand and agree with this.  Maybe not.  But I have seen enough evidence in my own body and the bodies of my children to feel like this is important.  For Berrik, this means a focus on whole foods.  Period.  It’s really as simple as that for him. Is the food in it’s whole form?  Then it’s probably good.  Fruit, vegetables, whole cuts of meat, nuts, seeds.  This forms the vast majority of his diet.  I make muffins with coconut flour as a treat.  He has the odd gluten free bun.  We aren’t perfect. But we strive to stick to this way of eating.  For all of us.  And we are all better for it.  Berrik is more focused, and is more able to self-regulate when he eats well and drinks lots of water.  For Berrik sugar and chemical food dyes etc., are like poison.  In his words, they make his brain feel crazy.  In my words, he becomes an unhappy, emotional, unfocused whirlwind of a boy. So we completely avoid those things.  Always.  No exceptions.  It’s what works for him, and he knows it.  When I put him on a very strict diet last January, after 2 weeks he told me his brain no longer feels crazy.  He sees other kids eating candy and he doesn’t even comment.  That’s all the evidence I need.
  2. Exercise.  This seems like a no brainer.  Of course all of us need exercise.  But Berrik functions exceptionally better when he has had time outside. Unstructured, run around, ride bikes, jump, throw balls, chase the dog, play with the neighbor boys time.  When he comes back in he is more able to focus.  He’s happier.  Aren’t we all?
  3. Supplements.  We work with our naturopath to ensure that if Berrik is lacking in any area, that we use supplements to support him until we can address it effectively through diet.  I won’t get into what he has taken, and takes now, as it is completely individual.
  4. Only recently have we started using essential oils. The more I talk about Berrik, through the blog and with other parents, the more anecdotal stories I hear about essential oils and how they have helped other children.  My daughters already use them to diffuse in their rooms (Grandma got them started with a diffuser and some oils).  I am currently trying a blend from Saje that is meant for focus.  It’s hard to tell how well it’s really working as we are always trying new things in terms of how we do school and even timing of the exercise and fresh air…  so nothing to report yet.  I have a few other oils on order based on the anecdotal feedback of several moms.  I’ll keep you posted on how this goes once they arrive.  I will say that he has been more focused at Sound Connections and school lately, but it could be a few different things contributing to that, so we shall see.
  5. Behavior modification.  I dislike this term because in my head it is harsh sounding. I don’t know why I have that perception.  But regardless, for us it means teaching Berrik appropriate ways to behave in specific situations.  It’s so interesting to me how some kids instinctively know this and how many do not.  Being home with Berrik has really helped in this regard as I find the best way to teach Berrik is ‘in the moment’ in the context of his real life.  Consistency is the key to this working well, and to be honest, we have never been really great at that.  Now that I’m home, it’s significantly better, so we are working on it as much as we can.  Berrik knows the basics – sharing, being polite, not interrupting (although he has some trouble with this one…all 3 of my kids do for some reason), playing and cooperating with other kids etc. etc.  It’s the nuances that can be challenging (and are equally challenging to teach), but we work on it through talking about how people are feeling based on what they look like, their body language or what they say.  It’s a work in progress, but we are making progress, so that’s what counts.  As an aside, I believe the unstructured time playing with other kids is the best teacher for some of these skills.  Kids are great at letting you know if you’ve said something inappropriate or aren’t following the ‘rules’ of human interaction.  And kids are more likely to express their feelings in a more obvious way, so it’s easy for Berrik to see that his action caused a specific reaction (whether positive or negative).

When I was thinking of a name for this blog, I wanted something that reflected our journey with Berrik, because that is what the blog is predominately about.  I liked the ‘gut feeling’ reference for 2 reasons.  1.  I believe that what we put into our bodies (and therefore our gut) has the most significant impact on our overall health when compared to any other thing we may do; and 2. Every decision we are making has been based mostly on instinct.  I tend to ‘go with my gut’ in most of my life decisions, but especially in parenting.  I have to give credit to Maritza for doing a bunch of research trying to find a domain name with the gut feeling reference, that wasn’t already owned by someone else.  She found it.  I bought it.  And the blog was born.

This brings me to my point.  Nothing is ever really black and white.  Do your homework.  Ask the experts.  Talk to people about what works for them.  Question everything.  And then just GO WITH YOUR GUT.

 

A day worth documenting…

I already posted early this morning, but we had such an amazing day that I wanted to document it here.  I am posting a second time today, as a reminder to myself, as a future reminder to Berrik, and mostly because I am so proud of my boy for how hard he works and how much success he achieves in spite of whatever life throws his way.

First thing this morning we did a quick review of sight words.  We typically do sight words by making a trail through the house and jumping over them as we read them, or lining them up in a row and bouncing a ball beside each one as we read them.  The extra movement/activity makes Berrik at least twice as fast at getting through his sight words.  There were a couple of newer words that were stumping Berrik this past week, as well as a couple BRAND new words.  He flew through the words and got them all!  He has many many sight words mastered now… well past 200. We don’t review them all each day.  I usually do all the newest ones, plus about 10 – 20 of the ‘old ones’ and over the course of a couple weeks he ends up reviewing them all.  The newer ones he does daily until they are totally mastered.  Because he is reading so much now, we add words from his books as well, so he is picking up new words at a pretty impressive pace.  Which of course makes his reading that much better.

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After breakfast and getting dressed for the day, we headed off to Sound Connections.  Berrik was focused and worked so hard with Lucy.  He never ceases to amaze me with what he knows how to do, and how he can figure things out.  He impressed both Lucy and I today in several areas, which means he’s moving on to more complex things.  The line to learning for Berrik (and everyone else, I would imagine) is not linear.  He progresses so quickly, then plateaus, sometimes regresses a bit, and then leaps ahead again.  This post is a reminder to me that when he plateaus or regresses that I need to breathe and let him get through things at his pace.  I think those plateaus are when he’s really processing things in his head and by relaxing and staying with him where he’s at, he’s able to create a solid foundation, maintain his confidence, and leap ahead when he’s ready.

After Sound Connections we headed to Phoenix Foundation for Count Day celebrations.  September 30th is the final day for registering with the school board of your choice, and therefore after today, wherever a child is registered is where the government sends their funding, whether it be a homeschool board or public or independent or whatever.  At Phoenix this is a big day with lots of fun activities scheduled.  There was a huge bouncy castle which was a big hit with the boy… and I was so proud as he was extra careful around the littler ones, and even used his own body to shield a toddler from a very rambunctious bigger kid… I love that he is aware – it isn’t always the case, so when it happens, it’s exciting.  Self-regulation doesn’t always come easy to kids like Berrik.  They also had a school photographer there to do school pictures if we so desired.  We so desired.  Berrik sat up there and worked so hard to follow the photographer’s instructions.  It melted my heart to see him trying so hard and doing well.  I think it’ll be a fantastic photo.  At noon, there was a hot dog lunch that consisted of a hotdog, a bag of cheese puffs or Doritos, and either a pink or purple pop of some kind.  (GROSS).  As usual we had packed lunch so Berrik happily ate his veggies, fruit, cheese, crackers and a homemade banana coconut flour muffin.  He doesn’t even notice that the other kids are eating all that other stuff.  There was a bake sale going on as well, so many kids were walking around with candy apples, cupcakes and other sugary treats but again Berrik didn’t even comment.

When we were finished lunch, we rushed into the gym for the Karate demo.  Berrik loves Karate (and was pretty sure the two guys were real ninjas).  When the one guy broke through 2 pieces of wood at one time with his bare hand, Berrik just about lost his mind.  It was awesome.

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Next on the list of activities was Mad Science.  All the kids that had registered in that class were called into the classroom about 10 minutes before it was scheduled to start and asked to sit at tables.  I went in to observe, although most parents did not. Many of the kids (likely hopped up on sugar and chemicals) were bouncing out of their seats, banging on the table, scrapping with each other, and even melting down completely.  Berrik just sat there holding his stress puck (more on that later) and watching the chaos, but not participating in it. Not a very scientific study, but I’d say in the case of  Sugar Lunch v. Healthy Lunch, sugar lunch was the LOSER.

Finally Mad Science started and the teacher went over a few ground rules and then started her presentation.  She asked the kids what electricity was for.  Berrik’s hand shot up and she called on him.  He said, “Electricity is what powers everything we use like computers and electronics.  Electronics… electricity…see?” (emphasis on the ELECT) After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I almost cried.  Berrik didn’t have the opportunity to participate in class in this way when he was in school.  Twenty seven kids in a class, and being slower to process information due to expressive and receptive speech delays meant the chances of Berrik being able to answer a question in class were slim. I think he even surprised himself!  What a kid.

 

stress-pucks-box

At Count Day there was also an opportunity to buy resources from KidsSource (I think that’s who it was).  I bought Berrik a stress puck (one of those squeeze toys shown in the photo) as he focuses better in class if his hands are kept quietly busy.  The one he chose was black (it was the only color left).  He held it up to me and said, “Mom, what if this was red?”  And I was like, “Um, ya.  What if?”  And he persisted, “Mom, if this was red it would be just like those little things that float around in our blood.”  Again, jaw drop.  “Um, you mean red blood cells?”  “Ya, ya, red blood cells…  it totally looks like a red blood cell.”  Indeed it does my little smarty pants.  Indeed it does.

Berrik does amazing things every day. But today was one of those days where he just rocked it out the whole darned day.