Monday, November 12, 2012

Cinnamon Muffins

The thing about whole food eating is that sometimes it is difficult to fit all the food we need into the budget. Lately, it has been an enormous challenge. With little one on a severely restricted diet, and trying to pay for chiropractor visits, I am at the end of the rope. We are out of budget, out of meat, out of fresh fruit, and nearly out of eggs. I do, however, have a huge stockpile of grains, beans, and homemade chicken broth. I also have a teenager that needs to pack a lunch today for classes he attends once a week. Why do I always forget about that until late Sunday evening, and then freak out? There's that organization and procrastination thing again. Thankfully, this time change thing has me waking up at 5am again. I was able to get up and make some fantastic muffins for him to put in his lunch. I also put a frozen banana and some frozen strawberries in there. That should thaw out and be sufficiently mushy by the time he eats it. Sorry sweetie, it's either that or cold mashed potatoes. I taste tested one of the muffins, and they are really delicious.

I really only have one muffin recipe, that I continually adapt to various ingredients I have on hand. Today, it was about using grains that are not as toxic for little one and trying to make them without eggs. Little one showed very sensitive to wheat, but not as much to spelt and barley (even though those are forms of wheat). I used chia seeds as an egg replacer. I am not vegan, but I do read a lot of fantastic vegan blogs because they have tons of great ideas and recipes on them. I've seen the idea many times, but just never got around to trying it. It's true, necessity really is the mother of invention. Here's your muffin recipe.

Step 1: Mix 3 Tbsp of ground chia seeds with 9 Tbsp of water. Mix well and let sit for about 10 minutes to form a goopy gel. (1 Tbsp chia/3 Tbsp water = one egg) If you do the math, you can use 3 eggs instead of chia seeds. I hear flax seed meal makes a good egg substitute as well. Same ratio as the chia.

Step 2: I had to melt the coconut oil this morning. It is 2/3 cup of liquid coconut oil.

Step 3: Mix the dry ingredients.
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup barley flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Step 4: Mix the dry ingredients with the coconut oil and the chia seed gel.

Step 5: Scoop into greased muffin pan (about 12 muffins). Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. I use a stone muffin pan, so I don't use paper liners, but that would work too. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What is Encopresis?

That is the question of the decade, at least in my house. I had never heard the term until about 3 months ago. I wish I'd heard it 3 years ago, or more. My youngest son has suffered from this for about the last 6 years. I could give you an official medical definition or dictionary definition, but I won't. I'm not a doctor, just a mom who wants the best for my kids. Encopresis is a fancy word for fecal incontinence. Still too technical? Basically it means you can't control when poop comes out.

As you can imagine, this has lead to some very embarrassing situations as well as some laundry nightmares. Some of you may ask, then why would you want to write about it all on the internet for the whole wide world to see? If I can help one mom, or one child from suffering it is worth it. The problem started...well, I'm not really sure when. It seems like it has just always been. We just dealt with it for a while thinking it was just normal and he would outgrow it. I remember at one point, going to the pediatrician for a well visit and mentioning the problem. She quickly wrote a prescription for a laxative, saying it was due to constipation. We gave him the prescribed dosage, and proceeded to try giving him more foods to help and less that would stop things up. The medicine ran out, and we were still at square one. We had many ups and downs. There were days when everything was fine, and then many days in a row when it seemed like endless trouble. Yet, we remained confident that he would just outgrow it.

Fast forward to August. I finally came to the realization that he is not going to outgrow this. I went in search of answers. That's when we were finally given a diagnosis of encopresis. Yes, it is related to constipation. Even though we've tried to adjust his diet, he was still constipated. Another related problem is bedwetting. I know they are related, because when we have a bad day with one, it is usually followed or preceded by a bad night of the other.

What are we doing now? We started chiropractic care, including some food sensitivity testing. That has lead us to make even more drastic dietary changes. We have cut out dairy, wheat, oats, corn, and peanuts. That is a difficult challenge for a kid who eats nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. I have actually enjoyed the challenge at home. I love coming up with new recipes and figuring out creative ways to make old favorites. Like, the other night we had gluten free/dairy free macaroni and cheese. I will share that sometime this week. We were finally starting to see some progress. It seemed like it had been about two weeks with no issues. Last Monday, we finally found a new pediatrician. He is very much on the same page as us and wanting to treat this as holistically as possible. He said we are on the right track with his diet, gave us a recommendation for some probiotics, vitamins, and peppermint oil. We have been using probiotics, but we are giving the ones he recommended a try. However, due to cost factor and the fact that the one we were using actually has more strains of bacteria, we probably won't stay with it. I also finally got some kefir grains to add in more probiotics. That leads us to today. All dairy, even fermented, is a definite no, no. It seemed ok with goat milk, but not cow. Unfortunately, I can only get goat milk on Saturdays, and not every Saturday. My next task is to locate some water kefir grains. Not only would it be cheaper, but no worries about running out of water. I like the idea of milk kefir, though, because of the added protein. I love how much easier kefir is than making yogurt too. I tried that project once.

The biggest challenge with the dietary restrictions is when we leave the house. We end up at places, like church, that have a grand buffet of food available. Of course, everyone's favorites are sugar-laden treats made from flour, or a more savory variety covered in cheese. I totally get it. It's tasty stuff. I have a hard time resisting at times. I can't imagine how hard it is for a 10 year old. I know what I need to do. I need to plan ahead and bring a tasty buffet just for him filled with foods he can eat. That, however, involves being organized and not procrastinating. That pretty much hits the nail on the head of my biggest challenge in life. I'm hoping, that by writing about our journey will help bring me some more focused intensity. Today was a very bad day at church, so we'll see how bad the consequences are from that. Tomorrow is a new day. We will start fresh again.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Laundry: A Thorn In My Side

It's not that I hate doing laundry. Laundry is actually one of those chores that I don't mind. I especially love being able to use my solar dryer (aka clothesline). The problem I have with laundry is smell. Growing up, my mom always used that one really expensive brand. You know the one I'm talking about, that starts with a "T". Of course, when I moved out, I just kept right on using that. That's what always worked, right? Why mess with a good thing? Along with that, we used the expensive fabric softener. The clothes and towels always came out smelling april fresh, whatever that smells like. However, we live in a very warm climate. My husband spends a lot of time outside for work. His work clothes are very sweaty and smelly.

Fast forward a couple of years to October 2009. I was introduced to making my own laundry soap through a homeschool product review. You can read about that here. I have been making my own laundry soap ever since. I love the cost savings over buying soap at the store. I also have been using white vinegar in place of fabric softener. No, my clothes do not smell like vinegar. They also don't smell like perfume that gives me a headache. In the last 3 years, I have experimented with many different formulas for my homemade soap. I've tried different base soaps. I've tried different combinations of washing soda and borax. I've tried adding baking soda, or oxygen bleach, or both. I still haven't found any combination that completely gets the smell out of the stinky work shirts. We've also added a new dimension to laundry with some seriously sweaty exercise clothes. If you've ever been to the gym with me, you've made fun of the sweat puddle that starts to form under me while doing push ups or burpees. I'm not kidding. I sweat way worse than my husband. Hanging them out on the line helps tremendously, but they still smell.

That brings me to today and my newest laundry experiment, soap nuts. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, there are berries that grow on some tree that you can throw in the washing machine and they act like soap. They are all the rage on all the natural health/food blogs. You can get a ton more information about them from the NaturOli website here. This is the brand I bought. They have no idea who I am and have not paid me or given me anything. I love the idea behind it. What could be more natural than something that grows on a tree? There is some debate as to whether or not borax should be considered natural or not. I don't think you can debate the naturalness of soap nuts. The question is: Do they work? You have a little bag. You toss in five little berries, tie it up, and toss it in the washer. I had my doubts, but considering the current state of my laundry, I was willing to try. I bought a little starter pack that included the little bag, an instruction book, and enough soap nuts for about 15-20 loads. It also says that there is no need for fabric softener. The first load, I wasn't thinking, so I tossed in my vinegar anyway. Still, I was very pleased with the results. The second load, I remembered to test without the vinegar. That load had the stinkiest, smelliest exercise shirt in the bunch. It was really bad. I couldn't wait for it to get done. When the washer finally shut off, I pulled out the shirt and immediately held it up to my nose, took a deep whiff, and survived. I was quite impressed. It was much closer to smelling like nothing that any formula I've tried before. Not perfect, but far better results than anything else I've tried. Then, I had my husband go do a smell check. He has been really complaining about the exercise shirt smell. He checked both his exercise shirts and his work shirts. He gave an A to the work shirts. He said the exercise shirts smelled better, but still retained that exercise smell a bit. I have to wonder if it has to do with the difference in that exercise shirt fabric. Maybe that's where I need to focus my experimenting next, testing different fabrics for exercise clothes.

The bottom line is that I think I shall be switching to soap nuts. They are very affordable, work very well, are completely natural, and require zero prep time.