Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Highlights from "The Art of Cooking Special Diets" at the Autism One Conference

There were several delicious recipes from this all day cooking class by some of the best chefs and nutritionist in the business.  Since we were able to take samples I've listed recipes from the ones that were my favorites.

Many of us have been doing special diets for our children for quite a while but if you're like me it can get very stale and you end up with too many nights of cut up Applegate hotdogs.  All of the chefs had books and products to sell but nevertheless they all agreed that it is most important to cook your own food, invest in tools like stainless steel pots and pans, bread makers, food processors, etc.  And don't forget in your quest to find a special diet that it is most important to have a healthy diet.  If I could do it over again instead of jumping into a GF/CF/SF or SCD I would have started by buying all organic produce, grass fed meat, pasture eggs, non-GMO, free range chicken, etc., etc.  The reason being is because many times the food "allergies or sensitives" we see in our kids are actually a result of toxic insult.  Remove the toxins first and then get a better idea of what foods are actually causing a problem.  Since, I can't turn back the clock now; I'm just starting today with a good clean diet that is free of gluten, lactose (most casein), soy, corn and limited sugar, yeast, rice and potato but that's just what we've found to work for us.  I am in no way an expert and when I first started trying these diets I barely knew how to cook (that's still kind of true).  I also know from first hand experience that it can be very expensive to change your diet but as my mother-in-law says "you can either pay the grocer or the doctor, you decide". 

Having said all that, I know we all get busy and it can feel so overwhelming but I am reinvigorated and ready to insert some new recipes into our repertoire.  And since I'm going to be making this big commitment I might as well throw in some RDI.  I could make it a family affair where my children are working with me on preparing the meals.  For example if I'm cutting up the tomatoes I could have Aydan put them in a cup and pour it into the bowl, help with stirring, setting the table, etc., etc.  It's really limitless the number of ways we can involve our kids, isn't it?  Alright, I'm ready to go...

By the way, I don't work for any of these people and they aren't paying me to advertise for them.  I just really liked their food.

Spinach and Bean Quesadillas by Chef Wendell Fowler

Snacks can be a great way to satisfy the appetite plus boost metabolism while receiving all the delicious vitamins and nutrients required to support and sustain health.  With a bit of grocery shopping strategy, health snacking is no longer an oxymoron.


1 pound fresh or frozen cooked spinach, drained
1 can ‘fibrous’ vegetarian refried beans (No lard)
2 cloves fresh, minced garlic
lime juice loaded with vitamin C
cumin powder
chili powder
sea salt and black pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups shredded Galaxy International Vegan Rice Cheese Slices


¼ cup pico de Gallo (see recipe)
cilantro leaves, chopped
green onion, chopped
lime wedges
organic corn tortillas or lettuce wraps (also see Deepa Deshmukh's recipe for Lentil Pancakes: Punjab Wrap & Roll)
cooking spray

1. Chop the spinach then coarsely blend it with the refried beans, jalapeno, cumin, chili, garlic, salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile heat a frying pan on medium high with the oil.
3. Evenly spread some mixture on one half of a tortilla then sprinkle cheese on top of mixture.  Fold tortilla in half and cook a few minutes on each side until golden brown.
4. Remove to a cutting board, cut into thirds then plate them and garnish with lime wedges, Pico de Gallo and leaves of cilantro. Ole' baby!

Pico De Gallo:

6 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 radishes, diced
1/2 diced cucumber
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
juice of (1) lime
1 jalapeno seeded and minced
minced fresh garlic
salt to taste
put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Let set a few minutes.

1. Cut everything in the same proportion; blend all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Let set a few minutes for the flavors to marry.

For more recipes or information on Chef Wendell you can check out his blog:

Lentil Pancakes: Punjab Wrap & Roll by Deepa Deshmukh, RD

Fill pancakes with stir fried veggies or use as a sandwich-type wrap.


1 cup whole yellow lentils or moong dal from Indian market
1 cup urid dal or black lentils from Indian market
1-2 inch piece fresh ginger root, sliced
1/2-1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Ghee (clarified butter that is free of casein, whey and lactose) or coconut oil or other allowable oil

1. Rinse lentils.
2. Soak lentils for 5-6 hours (or overnight, not refrigerated) with sliced ginger.  The lentils will swell to double their size.
3. Grind soaked lentils with some of the soaking liquid (and ginger if using) in batches in a blender to obtain smooth batter - consistency of pancake batter.  Add salt to taste.
4. Heat skillet over medium heat, melt small amount of ghee or coconut oil in skillet.  Spread a large spoon full of batter on the griddle/skillet like a crepe; use the back of the spoon to spread the batter as thin as possible.  May add additional ghee or coconut oil around the edges of pancake.  Cook for 2 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cover pan to allow pancake to cook/steam for about 30 seconds.

6. The finished pancakes may be used as sandwich or breakfast wrap, or to hold a variety of fillings such as stir fried veggies or non-vegetarian curries.

Makes 24-6" pancakes/wraps

Note: batter may be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days; pancakes may be made in advance and kept in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Mango Custard by Deepa Deshmukh, RD

This delicious custard is best made the day before, allowing the flavors to marry.


1/2 cup mango nectar
1 teaspoon agar (sometimes called agar-agar, a Japanese vegetarian gelatin, derived from seaweed; may substitute regular unflavored gelatin)
1 cup mango, fresh or frozen
1 cup coconut milk (not light) well stirred before measuring
Pinch of sea salt

To serve: fold in 2-3 tablespoons of blueberries or raspberries into finished custard
May sprinkle toasted walnuts or coconut (unsweetened)

1. In heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat mango nectar to just barely boiling.  Remove from heat and add agar and whisk until thickened, about 15 seconds.  Set aside.
2. In blender or food processor fitted with knife blade, add mango, coconut milk and salt and puree. Do not over mix!  Small bits of mango add to taste and appearance.
3. Add mango nectar/agar gelatin and puree quickly - 2-3 seconds to blend.  Over blending custard with agar with cause gelatin to break down.
4. Fold in additional fruit and top with choice of nut/seed or coconut as diet allows.

Makes 4-1/2 cup servings.

For more information on Deepa Deshmukh, Registered Dietitian check out:

IT'S A WRAP! - TORTILLAS by Anna Sobaski:


One package of Breads From Anna (TM) gluten and yeast free mix
3 whole eggs or equivalent egg replace
1 3/4 cup water or nondairy milk
1/3 cup olive, coconut, grapeseed oil or flavored olive oil
Optional: 1 heaping teaspoon dried parsley and 2 heaping tablespoons of dried onions flakes OR 1 tablespoon Sunny Paris spice blend ( or Herbs de Provence pluse dried shallots or chives.

1. In a large bowl mix together eggs, nondairy milk and oil to dry mix (add optional ingredients to dry mix if desired).
2. Blend well until all lumps are smooth.
3. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of dough and place onto center of preheated flatbread maker.
4. Close lid and let cook about 2 minutes.
5. Place handle down over lid and press down adding pressure to flatten out bread.  Repeat this 2-3 times in quick succession of added pressure. You need to do this downward pressure quickly to allow steam to escape.

One package of mix will make approximately 20 flatbread/wraps.  Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours and used as needed.

Egg replacer recipes:

Seed blend: 1 tablespoon whole flaxseed OR chia seed mixed with 3 tablespoons boiling water.  Place flax/chia seed in bottom of a blender, cover with water.  Let sit for 5 minutes and then blend on highest speed.  Mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.  3 tablespoons equal one egg.

Coconut Milk: 1/2 cup coconut milk (not light) mixed with 3 teaspoons baking powder equals 3 eggs.

Anna is a big believer in investing in cooking equipment.  You can check out her website to see some of the products she recommends and sells.  Most of these items at lower cost in your local stores.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding by Anna Sobaski

Enjoy this no bake pudding as a pie filling or as a pudding.  May make a thinner version as a smoothie for disguising supplements.


2 ripe avocados
3 tablespoons 100 percent pure maple syrup (preferably organic)
1/4 cup blue agave syrup (preferably organic)
1 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup dark cocoa powder
Pinch of salt

1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy.  Adjust flavor with more balsamic if necessary.

For more information, recipes and products from Anna Sobaski you can check out her website:

Chicken Broth by Sueson Vess


3-3 1/2 pounds free-range chicken pieces, mostly  backs and wings, rinsed (Do not use chicken liver but may use other giblets)
2-3 carrots, cut in large chunks
3-4 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
2 large white onions, quartered
1 leek
1 bay leaf
Handful of parsley and/or thyme sprigs (fresh)
May add additional vegetables: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, others to taste or dietary needs
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
Cold, purified water
2 tablespoons vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 kombu "stick" (sea vegetable)
Optional: 3-4 dried juniper berries (available at Penzeys Spices: and many grocery spice sections)

1. Place the chicken and vegetables in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Pour enough cold water to cover chicken.  Add vinegar or lemon juice.  Add bay, parsley/thyme, peppercorns, and cloves and slowly bring to a boil.
2. Lower the heat to low and gently simmer for 3-4 hours. As the broth cooks, skim any impurities that rise to the surface.
3. Remove the chicken pieces and discard.  Strain the broth through a fine sieve into another container and discard vegetable solids.  If not using the broth immediately, place the pot in a sink full of ice water and stir to cool.  When cool, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Makes approximately 2 quarts.

Sueson Vess just recently recovered from cancer and that in itself is a testimonial to the nutritional value of her foods.  I particularly liked the chicken broth recipe because by making your own not only do you save money and remove the impurities of store bought you also provide an opportunity to add tons of nutrients to your other foods.  For example, you can cook your vegetables or rice in the broth instead of water and you will be adding additional proteins and flavor.  Grandma was right the best remedy for a cold is still chicken soup.

GFCFSF NuLife Brown Gravy by Chef John Koutras


2 cups natural beef broth
3/4 Tbl. tomato paste
1 Tbl. potato starch
3 Tbl. coconut milk (creamy type)
to taste kosher/sea salt
to taste ground black pepper


1. In a pot over medium heat place 1 1/2 cups of beef broth and the tomato paste.  Heat on the stove while whisking together until combined and bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes.
2. While the broth is simmering, prepare a slurry by dissolving the potato starch in the remaining 1/2 cup of unheated beef broth.
3. Whisk the cold slurry into the heated broth and you will see the sauce start to thicken.
4. Add the coconut milk and season with the salt and pepper.
5. Adjust the consistency as you like.  Add additional beef broth for a thinner sauce and add more slurry if you prefer a thicker sauce.
6. Add the Beefy Veggy Meatballs to the sauce and heat for 5 minutes on very low so the sauce does not burn.

GFCFSF NuLife Swedish Style Sauce


1 cup NuLife brown gravy
6 Tbl. coconut Milk
4 Tbl. rice (hemp, almond or desired) milk
pinch Ground Nutmeg (nutmeg can be overwhelming so add to taste)
to taste Kosher sea salt
to taste ground black pepper


1. Heat the brown gravy in a pot over low heat and bring to a simmer.
2. Add the coconut and rice milks to the gravy and whisk all together.
3. Season with the nutmeg and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.
4. Add the beefy veggy meatballs to the sauce and heat for 5 minutes on very low so the sauce does not burn.

I have to say I absolutely love Swedish meatballs but I've never tried to make them myself.  The recipe above was provided by NuLife foods at the conference and I have to say thanks to those guys because if it weren't for all their delicious samples I would've had to spend a lot more money on food.  They sell fantastic pre-made food which is quite expensive so I would only recommend to families to purchase their products as a last resort but they did offer a recipe to one of their most popular items which I've listed above.  The veggy beefy meatballs referenced I do not have the full recipe for but it is a mixture of beef and butternut squash, so be creative and add your meatballs to the sauce for a delicious treat.

For more information on NuLife Foods check out:

SCD Legal: Squash and Chicken Pancakes by Julie Matthews

 For more information on Julie Matthews, her cookbooks and recipes check out: 

Eat well!