Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Gluten Free Molasses Cookies...
Comfort Food For Happy Kids
(and their anxious parents)
They say that fear is a great motivator... and if so, then today's parents must be the most motivated group of individuals who ever lived. Because frankly, there is so much out there to be afraid of if you love your kids. (And I'm just talking about food!)
I woke up this morning to an email from my GP explaining his thoughts about the currently proposed United States national health care legislation. He had a lot to say, in his own very articulate way. One of the key points that caught my attention early on in his message revolved around the risk of getting cancer in your lifetime. According to my GP, an average person in the year 1940 had about a 1 in 65 risk of getting some kind of cancer during the course of their lifetime. Apparently today that risk stands at 1 in 1.5 people (can this really be true!?!) and current projections indicate that within the next decade, every single person on the planet will develop some kind of cancer during their lifetime if they don't die from some form of accident or infection.
Now I haven't reviewed the fine print to his statistics. I assume that he must be including all forms of cancer in this number - so I'm guessing he is lumping benign skin cancers or other easily treatable forms of cancer in with the more serious stuff. Still... chills ran up my spine as I read his words. Two of my three small children were busy playing Legos by my feet and I couldn't help looking at them and wondering with a little despair, "Are both of you really going to get cancer some day no matter what I do?"
What a terrible notion. If you are like me, you would probably do anything and everything that you could think of to protect the people you love -- your spouse, kids, parents, siblings, friends -- from such a fate.
My doctor believes, as I do, that you are what you eat. Health begins and ends in the gut, and so as a mother I take feeding my children very seriously. I answered my doctor's call to arms today by worrying once again about the meals I am feeding my children.
Lately my second child, aged two, has been undergoing tests for a suspected food allergy. His diapers have been just awful for months. Our pediatrician and I went immediately for the celiac tests, given my own history. The bloodwork came back negative for an inflamation or immune response to wheat, so they are now running stool tests. We have begun the process of beginning an elimination diet for him... and will be eliminating all of the major allergens from his diet one by one for two weeks at a time. Two weeks of no dairy. Two weeks of no soy. You get the picture. Mommy (that's me) keeps a detailed journal of what he eats and how it affects his bowel movements. For me it means a lot more of what most celiacs are already great at - reading labels, looking for hidden ingredients, finding creative alternatives and watching to see how what you eat affects how you feel. Except in this case, I worry so much more about the results because the person feeling badly is a tiny, fragile child that I gave life to only two years ago.
The pressure that comes along with trying to keep little children eating a specialized, limited diet is intense - especially if you are working with a limited budget, which we are. The obstacles to success are also great. First of all, how do you convince the child to abstain from favorite foods that are bad for him or her? What small child doesn't want to live 24/7 on pizza, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese? How does a well-meaning parent explain to their child why they are the only kid who can't eat the cake at birthday parties? How can a parent be sure that teachers along the way won't "forget" and give their child 'forbidden' gluten, dairy, soy, etc. in the form of a little treat here and there? How can you be sure that well meaning people like grandparents, family friends and babysitters won't slip your kid something with an allergen?
Even if your kid doesn't have dietary restrictions or food allergies, it's still tough to keep them thriving on a healthy and balanced diet. Buying organic is tough on a shoestring. These days I usually resort to getting non-organic vegetables and fruits and then washing them really well with the special soaps that are supposed to get rid of pesticide residue. I feel guilty every time I feed the non-organic stuff to my family, but I would feel just as guilty and stressed if I broke the family budget during these tough economic times just to buy "fancy" groceries.
Then you have all of the conflicting advice given to parents from various experts. Celebrities and doctors on the television tells me that milk does a body good, but the blood type books of Dr. Peter D'Adamo tell me that milk is toxic for blood type As. Who do I believe?
Speaking of which... as I've mentioned in past blogs, my children have different blood types which necessitates that I follow different dietary guidelines for each of them. Doggone it, even though I keep a thorough list of what they can and can't eat in my purse, I keep messing up. Today I picked up three packages of unsulfured sweet mangoes for my little guy to eat since he can't have dairy for the next two weeks (which rules out most of his favorite desserts) and then found when checking his blood type list in the car that Type As should avoid mangoes. Doh! I've been feeding them to him for days now.
My last example relates to food processing... today I bought white rice flour to bake these cookies and I felt really great about baking gluten free... until I read that I should be avoiding processed grains altogether. Ack!
It's almost enough to drive a well meaning parent to drink... In my case, I found comfort in creating these delicious Molasses Crackle Cookies for my family from Elizabeth Barbone's lovely Easy Gluten-Free Baking.
Despite the fact that I used processed grains and granulated sugar, at least I can take pride in the fact that they are (a) gluten free, (b) dairy free, (c) delicious and (d) homemade with love for my children. I know it isn't everything, but at least it's a start, right?
I am so excited to sit with them on our back porch tomorrow, eating cookies while telling them stories from my own childhood... which seems so carefree in retrospect.
"When I was a little girl, my mother used to make me Bisquick pancakes with apples and cinnamon on weekend mornings. I loved to eat huge stacks of them while watching cartoons for hours. This was of course before anyone knew that wheat, sugar and dairy are slowly killing us and that apples are actually not approved for people with my blood type. No-one had yet informed my parents that television would rot my brain, lower my IQ and reduce my chances of going to college. Yep, those were the good old days..."