Monday, March 7, 2011

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic

My soon to be 5 year old is learning at light speed the last couple of weeks. I'm sure he probably learns that fast at other times but right now it's very evident to us.
Saturday we were at a WAHM tradeshow in our city. It had some incredibly cool and creative stuff. One of the booths was a math tutor using all sorts of objects from around the house to teach kids math. M gravitated to this booth like a bear to honey. He looked at the lady and she gave the nod that he could touch and that was it. He spent almost 1/2 hr at that booth. He kept running back. The tutor was incredibly impressed with his number recognition, spatial awareness and hand eye coordination. I was impressed with his focus. He is also learning his letters and phonetics at a rapid rate. He can recognize words and he can write almost all of his letters clearly.

Since I don't measure my kids against other kids (mostly because I'm not exposed to very many other kids) I don't often notice when they are advanced or delayed. I just rely on my instincts to tell me when I need to step in. A while back we looked at giftedness because a doctor told us M was very intelligent. I think he was about 3. I read all the characteristics and thought yes he just might be. I got very excited and thought what do I do now? After researching and reading I thought "I do nothing, I do exactly what I've been doing. Let him lead me where we need to go". I do not really believe in labeling my children. I am pretty sure I only looked into it because the doctor mentioned it. While he may be gifted in some areas this might just even out to above average. I do not want him to think that he's not meeting expectations because he's not 'gifted' anymore.

So now my dear boy is acting out. Violently! My first thought is always allergies or lack of nutrients somewhere or lack of physical activity. While that might still be part of it I don't feel that this is the crux of it this time. Part of it is emotions and social awareness that happens in a 4 year old. But still this doesn't seem to be the core of the issue. All the behavioural issues go away when he is stimulated and involved in something. He's telling us he needs us. Now it's up to me to figure out a way to meet those needs. I've tried workbooks but he gets frustrated. I've tried videos on phonetics. He loved those the first time around but seemed to absorb it all the first time through them. I've tried tag books. He likes these and they hold his attention for a while. But after he's mastered them he doesn't pick them up again. I need to find an ongoing project for us to do. Something we can work on in little bits when our day allows. Something challenging and interesting for him and I. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pantry List

So I thought I would take some time to put together a basics lists for those 'strange' items I have in my cupboard.

Sorghum is the main one I use. It tastes the best in my families opinion.
Millet - I usually use this in cakes or cupcakes as it makes a nice moist crumb and has a nice flavor
Brown Rice - This is an easy basic flour but I only use it in half amounts since like any rice flour it can provide a grainy texture.
Buckwheat - This is a high protien flour that I have been experimenting with lately and have had great success. It makes a denser product but tastes fabulous
Potato and tapioca starch - These are necessary to use for 1/3 of the total flour so it's not a gluten free brick. It adds lightness and air to the texture. Not really nutritionally satisfying in any way but necessary. Some recipes call for 1/2 the total flours to be starches but I prefer to keep it to a minimum.
Arrowroot flour or Cornstarch - I use these in things that need extra binding power or thickening like pudding or icing or pie crusts, gravies, soups, sauces.
Quinoa - I use this flour sparingly in things because of the strong flavor. It pairs well with chocolate. It is very high in protien. It has all the necessary amino acids.
Quinoa flakes - These work well as oat substitutes. They cook up quickly and make excellent brownies and crumble toppings.

Olive oil - This has a lower fat content than most but does have a strong fruity flavor
Grapeseed oil - I use this a lot mainly because it provides a very nice moist texture and isn't high in saturated fats
Earth Balance soy free margarine - This is pricey but works really well as a butter substitute for flavor and texture. It makes fabulous cookie. It's made of healthy oils. No trans fats here.
Lard - I use this for greasing and try not to use it for anything else. It is full of saturated fats.
Ghee - This is clarified butter and it is very easy to make your own. Please don't pay $10 for a small bottle. It takes the casein out of the butter. I've been using it sparingly because I haven't been sure if my daughter will react. So far so good.
Coconut oil - This is a whole post unto itself. I use this a lot in baking and in frostings and crumbles. It does have a coconutty flavor. It is a very nourishing fat.

Hemp milk - This is full of omega 3's but has a grassy flavor so I use it in baking so that the flavor is masked.
Almond milk - This has a very nutty flavor that pairs well with lots of spices. I use this one a lot since it seems to take on the flavor of whatever I am making. It's a bit thinner so it doesn't make a nice yogurt or anything
Coconut milk - We use this almost daily. For a while we could get the tetra paks of So Delicious at our local health food store but it seems they stopped stocking it. It hasn't been available for weeks. So we are limited to the cans. I use this in curries and in puddings, pie fillings, whipped toppings, yogurt. Anything that needs a rich and creamy texture.

This is a hard one. I haven't really found anything I like the flavor of. The daughter isn't particularly picky she likes her daiya cheese substitute (no soy, no gluten, no dairy). I can't stand the stuff.
I made a raw macadamia nut cheese that tastes like cream cheese but it's still gritty so no one likes the texture but it works in scones that call for cream cheese.

Eggs and binding agents
We don't have a sensitivity to eggs here but I try to add substitutes in where it works since we tend to overdo the eggs around here.

Chia seed - This is fabulous stuff high in protien and fiber and omega 3's. One tbsp ground with 1/4C water makes one egg and works better than flax. It doesn't leave that gummy texture to the baked goodies.
Flax - I use this when a recipe calls for it. 1tbsp ground with 1/4C water for one egg. I only use it if the recipe is tried and true with it.
Xantham gum and Guar Gum - I am trying to move away from xantham since it is a bacteria that produces mold and guar gum is a natural plant product. We get a lot of xantham in the prepackaged gluten free products we eat anyway.

I almost never use white sugar anymore. Unless I'm making something finicky for the first time and need it to turn out exactly right.
I try to use lower glycemic index sweeteners or at least less processed ones. There are so many pesticides in white sugar.
I substitute brown sugar in a lot of things. It still has a high glycemic index but not as high as refined white sugar.
Honey has a glycemic index of 70 compared to 95 of white sugar. It works well in breads and muffins. It is a humectant. When used as a food additive, the humectant has the effect of keeping the foodstuff moist. Maple syrup and agave are also humectants.
Maple syrup - the real stuff. Has all kinds of vitamins in it and has a glycemic index comparable to honey.
Molasses - This sweetener has vitamins in it as well but it has a very distinct taste so it only works in certain kinds of recipes. My kids love molasses cookies.
Agave Nectar - This is my sweetener of choice but tends to be a bit more pricey. It's the main ingredient for making tequila. It has a glycemic index of 30! It has a fabulous flavor that is very comparable to brown sugar. We love this stuff.
Coconut sugar and nectar - I've never tried the nectar. The sugar makes great powdered sugar with slight molasses undertones. It is difficult to find and I do not believe our local health food store carries it. I ordered online from I could do a whole post on coconut substitutes. Hmmmm maybe I will...
Stevia - We are not big fans around here. It has a strange aftertaste in my opinion. It has the lowest glycemic load of almost nothing and you only need a few drops to sweeten things.
Date sugar and Palm Sugar - I haven't tried these yet.
Sucanat - This is the most natural cane sugar. It has a lot of the vitamins left. It has very big granules and molasses undertones. I pulse mine in the coffee grinder before using it in the recipes.

My tip is that if you are looking to change your diet pick one section and find a substitution that works. Then once you get used to that change another section. I would personally start with substituting the sugars if you are a baker. Start with the fats if you aren't. The big thing is do not go out and buy everything on this list. Pick one from each section that sound interesting to you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Yet another giveaway

I just rearranged the house and we are making a playroom since we are all sleeping in the same room right now why not put the toys in one room. I have my living room back! So the next thing is to get the toys and the books down from M's old room. But..... I have nowhere to tidily store the books. So I want to win this BEAUTIFUL bookcase. It takes up hardly any space and they can organize their own books by title.
Here's the link to Sugar Pop Ribbons Giveaway