The other day, I was in serious need of a break. Since it was a blustery day outside, I decided not to feel bad about keeping the kids inside. I handed them the iPad and rather than accomplish some work, as is my usual routine when they get the iPad, I sat down with a book I had just gotten, called Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid. The title makes it sound a little negative, but it is actually a really funny book. I kept laughing every few minutes at something I read. Herbie, being a lover of comedy, came over from playing the iPad and demanded that I tell him what was so funny. I read what I had just laughed at, and he gave me a quizzical look since of course it meant nothing to him. This happened a few times and then he gave up. But each time I laughed (believe me, it is a funny book), he would pop his head up to look at me and grin.

At bedtime, when we were praying and saying what we were thankful for, he piped up and said, "thanks for mama laughing at the book today!" He was so happy that I was laughing, bless his little heart. I need to go finish that book. More importantly, I want to remember the smile on his face when he saw me laughing, and reproduce that as often as I can.
So I have to continue the chocolate theme I started in the last post. I think it is currently the key to getting my youngest son to eat! We met with a developmental pediatrician last week and the subject of nutrition came up. I lamented that most of the "healthy" things the Wise Old Owl eats are hidden in chocolate and sugar. He gave me permission to feel OK about that. Phew! We do a lot of cereal bars with hemp protein and chocolate chips, and our modified chex puppy chow has Neocate Jr. mixed in it. One that I am really excited about lately, though, is chocolate pudding. It is a pretty big deal to get him to eat something "wet" like pudding. I started out making it REALLY thick and serving it warm, so that helped. He would lick a tiny bit off of a spoon, and progressed to eating a whole bite, to finally a bowl of pudding! Gradually (like over the last 8 months) I have been thinning it out and making it more like the consistency of a nice creamy pudding.

I love avocados and wish my kids would eat them, too. This recipe uses one and a half avocados because whenever I make it, I like to have a turkey sandwich first and put the other half on my sandwich. :) It's good for me to eat something healthy with the avocado before the chocolate version. The Wise Old Owl will not eat the sandwich, so he ends up with chocolate avocado pudding for lunch. But according to the doctor, that's better than nothing, so I am not letting that stress me out at the moment.

I have to give credit to Jessica Seinfeld for the inspiration from her cookbook "Deceptively Delicious." I made her avocado/chocolate pudding a few years back for Herbie. He loved it at the time, but he's moved on and no longer likes pudding. I pulled the recipe back out last year and substituted coconut oil for the margarine and it came out pretty much the same. She cooks it over the stove and adds corn starch at the end to thicken it. I've gotten to the point where I can leave out the corn starch and he will still eat it. I like to thin it down with coconut milk, that is the only milk I've tried in this recipe. I just really love So Delicious coconut milk, because, well, it is SO delicious! And the DariFree is my way of adding a little calcium, but it's not needed for taste. As a bonus, there is no need to wait for this to set up in the fridge!

Chocolate Pudding with Avocado

1/4 c. coconut oil (melted)
1-1/2 ripe avocados
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c. chocolate flavored DariFree powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. (or more) So Delicious vanilla coconut milk

Puree the avocados and coconut oil in a food processor. Add the dry ingredients, then vanilla, and add coconut milk to achieve the desired consistency.

Note: Depending on the ripeness of the avocados, it may taste somewhat avocado-y. Warming it up seems to take care of that.
I have officially given up on feeding therapy for the Wise Old Owl. It is a long story, but basically after 2 years, I have decided that our time and money could be better spent. So we are adding more speech therapy and letting him eat more fries and cookies. I am trying to reduce the stress in our home around mealtime, it gets pretty intense. I have a feeling we may return to feeding therapy down the road. But for now, we really needed a break.

The administrative assistant at my kids' OT clinic gave me a recipe for black bean brownies that she feeds to her picky son. It wasn't allergy safe, but she figured I could doctor it up, and I did! I served them to the Owl, told them they were his "protein brownies," and watched him happily gobble them up. I actually had a hard time not eating them myself. Now I admit that regular brownies with no pretense of nutrition taste better. But these were still quite good. And with some protein, calcium, omega-3's, and plenty of chocolate. I can envision myself serving a dinner of all brownies. It might be something like a black-bean brownie for protein, a quinoa brownie for the grain, a spinach brownie for a vegetable, and maybe a blueberry brownie for fruit. And of course a real brownie for dessert. I'll have to work on the spinach and blueberry versions.

Here is my recipe for anyone with a picky eater with allergies who loves chocolate and baked goods. (My apologies to the folks with legume allergies!) I added DariFree and flaxseed meal because, well, I add those things to anything that can hide them. They are probably not crucial. The chia and sweet rice flour may seem a little random. I was worried that the egg replacer might not be enough since the original recipe called for 3 eggs. I like the gel that chia forms (and chia is really nutritious!).  I didn't really play around with the recipe since it worked on the first try. I have found that baking is more forgiving than people think, there is a pretty wide range of acceptable textures when it comes to brownies. (But bread is definitely more touchy.) When the Wise Old Owl "helps" me bake, he is not the most precise at measuring, and it always turns out OK. So I hope someone has fun with this and gets a little extra protein into their child.

Black Bean Brownies

Puree wet ingredients in food processor:
1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed & drained
3 T coconut oil
1 T vanilla
1 T Ener-G egg replacer whisked with 6 T warm coconut milk

Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl:
¾ c baker’s sugar
¼ c cocoa powder
1 T ground chia seeds
2 T sweet rice flour
2 T chocolate DariFree powder
¼ c flax meal

Mix the wet & dry together, fold in ½ c chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand is safe for us). Bake in a greased 8x8 pan for 40 minutes @ 350F.

Today was the Wise Old Owl's check-up at the allergist. He ends up going every 6 months because they can never fit all of the things to be tested on his little back. If you have never had allergy testing done, the skin test (more sensitive than a blood test) involves pricking the skin with a dab of an allergen and looking for a red bump. In the past, the reactions have happened so fast that within a minute all of the pricked spots have raised welts a few inches in diameter. They start to merge together and make the testing unclear. So they can only test for about 15 things at a time.

This visit was specifically to look at nuts and seafood, things we have been avoiding but only knowing that he had a positive test to almonds, and that seafood was too risky for someone like him. I felt confident that he wasn't really allergic to seafood, we were just avoiding it to be safe. I even told him we might buy some Ian's gluten-free fish sticks on our way home. Well, it turns out that shellfish seem to be OK, fish are definitely not, and nuts are still out. I was emotionally drained. We came home and decided to skip the preschool art sale tonight.

Then he asked about his "star chart," the one where I put a star every time he tastes a new food. It has been up for a couple of months with little progress except for trying things like chocolate muffins or a new recipe of pancakes. We agreed that 12 stars would get him a new app on the iPad. He had 4 more to go. So on a whim, I told him if he'd drink a glass of rice milk, he could get 4 stars. He shouted in agreement, then changed his mind to flax milk. (A good choice in my opinion, the Good Karma flax milk tastes fabulous!) I poured 2 ounces and handed him the cup. He smelled it for awhile and told us to close our eyes. Herbie and I huddled together with our eyes closed, saying things like, "I hear swallowing sounds! I think he's going to do it!" And he did it! We ran around the house cheering like he had just been on the winning Super Bowl team. Now my boys are playing Stickman Golf and I'll probably let them stay up way too late. But I have a glimmer of hope tonight.