Sunday, April 3, 2011

Homemade "Larabars"

There is some sorta saying that necessity is the mother my case...creation. We have embarked, fairly recently, on a new diet for the whole family. We are now all grain free and sugar free along with the oldies but goodies of gluten free, dairy free, soy free. We are loosely following the GAPS diet. I also have some fermentation projects coming up that brings us into the Body Ecology diet world as well, but that is all for another post. Today I just want to share with you-all the fantastic new treat we are enjoying in our house. We have been eating Larabars for quite a while now. I would pack them for any road trip. The boys love them in their lunch boxes too. I eat one on the way to the gym every day for breakfast. They are so delicious and very simple. So simple in fact, that when our military commissary ran out of them for the last three weeks (I did have a small stockpile but we went through those), I was forced to take matters, literally, in my own hands. So I made "Larabars".

I can't take all the credit. Well, I can take all the credit for OUR bars, but not the whole recipe. I took bits and pieces from here and here. I researched nuts and the digestibility, or lack thereof, of nuts. The key to nuts, is to soak them. I read many places that "soaking the nuts neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid blocks absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium; enzyme inhibitors make nuts hard to digest." Nourished and Nurtured

So I set off to make my own bars. I am not particularly crafty or creative, but I love food. So I just thought about what sounded good and what was plausible to make. My first bar was a peanut butter bar. That one turned out so well that I thought cinnamon apples sounded so fruity and good. The final bar was blueberry and lemon. Each one was better than the last. The blueberry one was surprisingly light and sweet. Here is what I did:

I took several cups (probably 4 cups total) of almonds and pecans and let them soak with good water and a tablespoon or so of salt. After about 24 hours I rinsed and drained the nuts. I put them on a cookie sheet in a low oven with the door slightly open for about 4 hours. You can increase or decrease the time in the oven depending on your time table I think. I then took blueberries (organic from the freezer section) and peeled, chopped apple bits, and put them on a silpat on a cookie sheet in the same temperature oven as before. I topped the apples with cinnamon. I let the fruit dry for several hours until the texture was that of dried fruit (eye it). I put all the now dried nuts into the food processor. Don't grind the nuts too much or you will have nut butter.

Peanut Butter "Larabar"

2 cups nuts (prepared as stated above)
1/2 cup dates
1 cup organic peanut butter
pinch of good sea salt
honey if needed
put it all in the food processor. It may take a bit of time to get a nice texture and consistency. Oil your hands and mold the mixture into an even, flat mound. I put it on wax paper. Cut into bars. Refrigerate.

Cinnamon Apple Bar

1 Cup nuts
1 cup dates
1 cup dried apples
pinch of sea salt
pinch of added cinnamon
honey if needed
Same process as above.

Blueberry Lemon Bar

1 cup nuts
1 cup dates
1/2 cup or more dried blueberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon alcohol free vanilla
Same process as above.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Struggling in a new place

We have been living in Italy for over 8 months now. It has been one of the hardest things we have ever done, moving. It has taken me far longer to get adjusted and settled here than I ever thought it would. I am still experiencing firsts. I drove my daughter to school today, off base for the first time, alone. It only took me 8 months to get my driver's license and feel secure enough to drive. In the states, that would be unheard of. Here, I am surrounded by things within walking distance, and I have great friends who have been wonderful about driving.

It has taken me eight months to get settled, but it has taken Connor even longer. He does not do well with big changes. He doesn't voice his concern, but he shows it in his behavior. After Christmas, he had a pretty significant regression. He was completely pulled from his normal class, and put into a one on one learning situation. It was a short term fix, but a scary one too. I knew that he needed to either get back into the classroom, or be pulled full time and homeschool. This is his first week back, and so far so good. I am on high alert though. At any moment I know it might be the time to pull him and try something else. I have to do what is best for my child of course. Knowing what the best thing is, isn't always the easiest thing. He is happy again. That is all I can ever ask.

I have intentions of writing about living gluten free in Italy. I hope when things calm down here, I will have the chance to do that. It really is an amazing place full of extremes. The good things are amazing. The not so good things, are really not so good. It is just easy to live here gluten free. It is far easier to live here on our diet than anywhere I have been in the states. Once you know how to say gluten free in Italian, you are set! I walk into any restaurant in Italy and say "Senza Glutine" and they know what I mean. Refreshing...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Busy, but...

I'm sorry I have been so busy with moving and a new school and new everything, are a few favorite websites to get ideas for dinner. We have gone grain free since moving to Italy and these sites have been a life saver.

Connor loves the waffles and bean cake from the Spunky Coconut. I made a coconut flour bread yesterday using a recipe from Grain Free Foodie. It was a simple recipe and it turned out great. Connor is excited to have bread for the first time in months. All four blogs have wonderful breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas and well as dessert and breads. You will thank me for hooking you up with these four are welcome!! :)

Friday, October 15, 2010


Moving to a new school means doing a new IEP, new programs, new everything. Connor's new school psychologist asked me to do a new GARS (Gilliam Autism Rating Scale) for him. For some reason, things like that get put aside and put off. I don't like looking at his skills and deficits on paper and numbered. It is a mental thing.

So I picked up the GARS and knew I needed to get it done for his upcoming IEP meeting. When I starting circling 0-3 for ratings of his behavior, I struggled. I didn't struggle because I don't know him well. I know Connor as well as he will let me. I know his behaviors better than anyone. I struggled because while circling 0 for so many things, I couldn't help but think how not long ago I would have circled 3. He use to make no eye contact. He use to only eat specific foods and refuse to eat what most people will usually eat. He use to rapidly flick hands at the side of his eyes for periods of time. It was hard to read those things and not be able to write next to each one, "use to do". I want the world to know how much better he is. I don't want them to forget how much they hurt him.

When Connor first regressed into autism, my husband and I use to say he wasn't that bad. We didn't know what "normal" was. We didn't know how far he needed to go. We held on to the fact that he still allowed us to hug him. Connor was non verbal. Connor was severly autistic. It is only looking back now that I can see that.

Connor is doing well now. He is high functioning. He still has obsessive compulsive, but he can function in the world. He still doesn't like singing, but he won't scream for hours if I sing.

I have to go fill out the GARS now, and hug Connor.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Still unpacking...

While I am still unpacking and getting settled in our new home in Italy, I thought I would post a few important links and clips.

Feds settle vaccine lawsuit and then seal the results:
Fantastic journalism! One of the biggest lawsuits questioning the safety of vaccines and they SEAL the results. What are they hiding?

Robert F Kennedy explains vaccines and the autism cover-up:
He is such a great advocate for the exposure of the hazards of vaccines and the autism/vaccine connection.

The Future of Food Video:
This is a great video talking about the genetically modified foods. Great video.

Aran's article in Finnair magazine. Love this article. I have sat at her parent's kitchen table and listened to her dad talk about mushrooms for hours. I didn't understand anything but I got a great appreciation for the complexity of mushroom hunting. The Basque Country really is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

"Temple Grandin" the movie, did amazingly well at the Emmy's. Here is Temple on the Red Carpet. She handles it amazingly well. LOVE HER!!

One of my favorite blogs, The Spunky Coconut, has some great recipes. We are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, grain free, vegetarian. Her recipes are perfect for us. I would love to do more raw also. I have a food dehydrator on my "wish list". Check out these veggie cakes...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sorry, been gone a while

Sorry I have been gone so long. So many things have happened and there hasn't been time to get online for sometime. We started Connor on a grain free diet, he is on Dr. Amy's new compounded supplements, and oh yeah, we moved to ITALY!!
I know, ITALY!! So it has been a busy summer moving to a new country and getting settled. We still don't have our stuff, but we are at least living in our new home. I will talk more about it in a bit. Here are a few pics to show you our busy summer.

Recipes to come...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Food Archaeology: Dairy (From The Spunky Coconut)

One of my favorite food blogs is a mom in Colorado who has put the fun and taste back into allergen free eating. I have been interested in the history of food consumption and this article on her blog was so fantastic. I asked The Spunky Coconut if I could repost her article. Please enjoy!

Food Archaeology: Dairy
Article by Andrew Brozyna

The casein and lactose intolerant among us are unable to comfortably consume cows' milk. This restriction makes some feel that their cow dairy-free diet is strange. Yet, until very recent historic times it was the milk drinkers who were odd.

Humans are the only mammals that continue to drink milk into adult life. After weaning, all other mammals cease to produce lactase, the enzyme in the intestines which digests milk's lactose. Although lactase-deficiency was originally the natural condition for humans, many people today do maintain sufficient levels of lactase. This is believed to have been an adaptation that occurred sometime in prehistory. "...when there was a shortage of food during winter months those individuals who were able to metabolize milk would be at an advantage."(Mercer, p. 218) So, those people survived and passed on their lactose-tolerant gene(s). People from north-west Europe, north and east Africa, and Asia (excluding China, and the south-east) have traditional raised cows and now have low incidences of lactose intolerance. People originating from outside of these regions can not easily digest lactose.(Mercer) As for intolerance to casein (the protein in cow's milk) I have not read a history of this problem unfortunately.

The Roman Period
The population in ancient Britain presumable had low incidences of lactose intolerance, yet: "It can be doubted whether liquid milk formed a regular part of the diet of many in Roman Britain. ...The modern levels of liquid milk consumption owe more to deliberate state-sponsored advertising campaigns to cope with over-production than to long-established drinking habits."(p. 129) In her book Eating and Drinking in Roman Britain, Hilary Cool shows that the modern levels of milk consumption were completely out of place in ancient life. Cow's milk seems to have been consumed in small quantities, and mostly as a fermented product.

Milk quickly spoiled (especially in warm climates) and could spread tuberculosis and undulant fever. "Raw milk is not necessarily either a pleasant or safe drink in societies without refrigeration. It is better to convert it to butter or cheese to ensure long-term storage. In both cases there is an initial ripening to allow bacteria to sour the milk." (Cool, p. 94) Cheese and butter have been fermented, which eases digestion. The bacteria in well-aged cheese completely digest the milk's lactose. In addition to their love of cheese, the Romans ate another fermented milk product. The Roman culinary writer, Apicius, wrote of melca, a curdled milk perhaps similar to yogurt. The refrigeration typical in our modern society easily preserves milk. However, I question the wisdom of breaking from the natural historic practice of limited milk consumption. Certainly, no Roman citizen drank the US Government's suggested 3 cups of cows' milk every day. And according to the writings of Roman authors, he did not want to.

Hilary Cook has an interesting indirect way of judging the level of milk consumption in Roman Britain. The author compared incidences of tuberculosis among skeletal remains of the Roman period and the 1600s. "Tuberculosis is a disease that is spread from cattle to humans largely by the drinking of infected milk. It is noticeable that in Britain it was a common disease by the 17th century, corresponding with the post-medieval rise of dairy herds... The disease causes changes in the bones, but these are only rarely seen in Roman skeletons." (Cook, p94)

Roman Discussion of Sheep and Goat's Milk
While the Romans did enjoy cow's milk cheese, they held sheep and goat's milk in much higher regard. Goats give more milk (a yield 5 times in proportion to body weight than a cow), and they do not need to be continuously with-calf to maintain production. In contrast to cows' milk, sheep and goats' milk are easily digested by humans. It contains much lower levels of casein when compared to cow's milk. In her book, Food in Roman Britain, Joan Alcock comments on the opinon of the 1st century AD Roman writer, Pliny: "He also praised goat's milk for being the sweetest form of milk and more suited to the stomach, which may imply the Romans had some knowledge of bovine lactic intolerance." (p. 57) She later adds, "Both sheep's and goat's milk have a greater concentration of short-chain fatty acids in their fat content, and cheese made from their milk is easier to digest because of it's smaller milk particles." (Alcock, p. 59)

In the 1st century BC the Roman author Varo published an agricultural book. Varo's De Re Rustica (On Agriculture) states, "Of all the liquids which we take for sustenance, milk is the most nourishing—first sheep's milk, and next goat's milk." While he does not encourage the drinking of cows' milk, he does say it makes a nutritious cheese. Yet, even here he comments on the digestive problems that could follow: "Of the cheeses which are made from this milk, those made of cow's milk have the most nutriment, but when eaten are discharged with most difficulty..." He goes on to say sheep and goat cheese are easily digested. (De Re Rustica 11, xi)

The author Virgil complements the goat's "abundant and nutritious yield of milk." (Alcock, p 57) Columella, wrote an influential agricultural manual in the 1st century AD. It shared the same title as Varo's book. In his De Re Rustica Columella "had much to say on plough oxen, the breeding of cattle, and the production of sheep's milk cheese, but he made no mention of fresh cows' milk."(Mercer, p. 219) Columella's omission makes sense if cow's milk did not feature highly in the Roman diet.

Celts, Germans, and Dairy
The Iron Age European people living outside the borders of the Roman empire did not keep written records. The Romans made some mention of "barbarian" agriculture, and archaeology can tell us something of their milk consumption. Pliny wrote that the butter most prized by the barbarians was made from sheep's milk, rather than cow's. Columella said many barbarian tribes in Europe kept no cow herds, but drank sheep's milk instead. In his Natural History, Pliny wrote that the Gauls (Celtic people of modern-day France) produced cheese (probably cow), which the Romans liked to import. He was especially keen on Gaulish goat cheese.

Britain was abundant with cattle, but it seems they were not raised primarily as dairy animals. Iron Age and Romano-British cows' main value was in their meat, hides, and traction (pulling carts, plows, etc.). The intensive effort required to keep these ancient breeds as dairy cattle would have been prohibitive. Compared to today's "improved" dairy cows, Iron Age cattle were smaller and gave milk for only a short time after giving birth. Milk cows need to drink a tremendous amount of water, limiting where they could be raised. While it seems some settlements in Iron Age Britain were indeed raising cows for milk, the evidence for this practice is not widespread. Cattle raising in Gaul seems to have been similar. Roman writer Tacitus and Caesar say the ancient Germans were great cattle herders, keeping them for milk, cheese, and meat. (Green)

The Roman writer Strabo says the Gauls kept enormous flocks of sheep. Sheep were also very widespread in Iron Age Britain. Most sheep skeletal remains are that of older adults, indicating that they were not raised primarily raised for their meat, but were instead valued for their wool production. In the spring they offered the side benefit of milk. Sheep aren't the best milk producers. Again, the skeletal remains show that newborn sheep were not being slaughtered, meaning most of the ewe's milk went to their own young. If newborn lambs did not survive, then the ewe's milk could be used for people. (Green)

Goats were not as common as sheep in the Iron Age Britain. Goats aren't comfortable in cold damp climates, while thriving in the warmer drier Mediterranean. Each Celtic farm probably kept a few goats to eat weeds and provide milk. There numbers increased with the coming of the Romans. In Anglo-Saxon period Britain it was acknowledged that goats gave more milk, and that it was thought to cure illnesses. Through Saxon times cows became more and more popular as dairy animals, making goat's milk less popular by the Medieval period. The Saxons did have dairy cow farms. The cow's milk appear to have been preferred more for cheese and butter making, rather than drinking. (Hagen, p102)

I would love to comment on the dairy practices in ancient North Africa and MiddleEast, but at this point I have only studied Europe. (I have read that the "milk" in the Bible's description of "the land of milk and honey" most likely refers to the milk of sheep and goats, not cows). Ancient Europeans did milk cows, but it seems liquid milk was consumed in very limited amounts and only by people on the farm. Cheese and butter—both fermented food products— were the main use for milk. While cow milk was certainly used, it was the more easily digested goat milk that was favored by the Romans and Celts. By the end of the Dark Ages dairy from cows was well on its way to becoming the most popular milk.

1. Alcock, Joan P. Food in Roman Britain
2. Cool, H.E.M. Eating and Drinking in Roman Britain.
3. Green, Miranda. Animals in Celtic Life and Myth.
4. Hagen, Ann. Anglo-Saxon Food & Drink.
5. Mercer, Roger. Farming Practice in British Prehistory. Edinburgh University Press.