Saturday, August 10, 2013

Different ways to same endpoint

You see this boy here?:

<--- How could anyone possibly say "no" to this adorable, larger-then-life face?

Well unfortunately we do a lot ....I know what you're thinking and no I don't mean in the usual 'a parent has to say no to set boundaries/ limits/ rules etc' kind of way;  I mean in the 'older sister can do it but you can't, gee isn't it tough' kind of way...because that adorable light-of-my-life little boy has issues and a lot of them :-(  Now granted his issues are far from unsurmountable and there are countless children who have far worse problems but still it's never fun to see your kid suffer to any extent.  His problems started from the day he was born & have just started to taper off, for awhile I was either calling our nurses' line/ pediatrician or driving down every single week (90 mins round trip!).  Our pharmacist came to know just about everything about us because we were there so often & of course Erin loves to talk.  Every conversation with my own mother & (retired nurse) Grandma revolved around him & whether or not I should push harder for answers; he seemed so miserable all the time, grew so slow & didn't communicate but all just "within normal limits" (I've come to hate that phrase) so our pediatrician was reluctant to do too much intervention.  But eventually we did wind up in the offices of an immunologist & pulmonologist & began to sort through his issues.  I have a feeling speech & developmental consults are still in our future but one day at a time :-P.  With daily allergy medication, regular nebulizer , limited time outdoors/ in direct sun & a severe dietary shift, we finally started to see results; he's happier, communicates, breathes normally/ doesn't get winded easily & started to put on weight.

So in the latter third of his short life we have started to have this great turnaround but did you key on why... hmm...? Allergy/ asthma are fairly easily to deal with, he came by those problems 'honestly' as they say (yours truly oh yay!) but oh the dietary...  Because he's not allergic to just one thing, oh no that would be too easy! ... or even a few obscure easy to avoid things..he's allergic to major groups:
---- all forms of dairy
---- all soy
----oats & barley
----shellfish & while not a true allergy he doesn't seem to process fish at all
------- in fact the only major allergy he doesn't have is to peanuts, oh but wait Erin has that one so yeah :-/

When the doctor was going through this list I began to think 'what in the world is this poor kid going to eat?!' & the doctor - obviously reading my mind - said "it's worse then you think, we don't commonly think about it but soy & dairy derivatives are cheap & easy additives to 75% of what's on store shelves.  You'll have to learn to read labels very carefully".  At that point I actually felt more comfortable because (a) hey I'm in the health field, I know how to read & decipher those confounded labels & (b) It's not like I buy a ton of packaged food in the first place.  But even still I was shocked at how correct the doctor was, even my organic major-health-food-name rice cereal had a soy derivative in it "to prevent caking" and the discoveries just got worseworseworse.

Until one day John & I were talking about something totally different (cloud server set-up) & it was like a lightening bolt hit me; we're both scientists with developed engineering, logical minds and both good cooks!; this food thing should not be so difficult.  So we started looking at what we make regularly and once we broke them down realized it was (usually) easy to substitute parts out to make it safe for our little man.  Some turned out flops (like Shepherd's Pie made w/ unsweetened almond milk) & some I have yet to crack the secret of (like buttermilk in pancakes & sugar cookies).  But others were rave successes & turned into whole family favorites like Sausage Risotto (doesn't the sideways turtle placemat just set it off perfectly? ;-) )

Now it may not look like much but try it - I can (almost) guarantee you'll love it as much as we do!

Sausage Risotto
1 lb natural Itl sausage (no fillers or added "flavor", preferably not ground)
1/4 c onions, diced
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 roasted red pepper, diced
2-3 T olive or canola oil
4-5 cups chicken stock (preferably made with Better the Bouillon for allergy free)
1 C arborio rice
1/2 t rubbed sage
1/2 t dried thyme
1/4 t dried crushed rosemary
1 T dried parsley (or about a handful chopped fresh)
salt & pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven with oil (approx 1 T) & heat over med - med high heat until it shimmers.  Cut the sausage into 1/2 in medallions, this works best if partially frozen, arrange them cut side down to sear.  After a few mins turn the medallions over, let the food 'talk" to you they'll release when done searing.  Once all the sausage is cooked transfer them to a holding vessel & add enough more oil to coat bottom of pan.  Lower heat to med low- med & add in the veggies with just a dash of salt (remember sausage is salty naturally), the aim here is to soften not saute the veggies.  When you can smell the garlic & the onions are translucent add 1 T more oil & the arborio rice.  Stir together for a few minutes & then pour in 1 cup of stock - depending on your stove you may want to raise temperature to achieve a boil.  Stir constantly and once all the stock is absorbed add another cup.  Repeat.  I've found the best time to add in herbs is after the 3rd cup, the rice is tender enough to accept the flavor & the herbs don't burn. After the 4th cup is mostly absorbed, add the sausage back in.  Depending on your stove, cooking vessel, brand of rice, humidity etc you may need to add up to another cup but taste it first; it should be creamy but firm not mushy.  Approx 40 mins start to finish

If you don't trust me how good this is just ask him!


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