Friday, April 30, 2010

Fun Friday: Ping Pong Set

Franklin Table Tennis 2 Player Competition Set allows you to turn any rectangular surface into a mini ping pong table. "It's the best $14.00 I've ever spent," my 8 year old said after our first game on our kitchen table. Our house is filled with toys--and too many of them are plastic (mostly Legos and Playmobil)--so it was nice to stumble onto something that is not only fun, but made of wood, metal and nylon. The Franklin set has two clamps for each end of the net and I used a large clip to make the net smaller to fit our kitchen table. It's quite an impressive set up for such a small investment and it would also make a great gift for anyone over the age of 6. We bought ours at State News on 86th Street but it's also available on Amazon. For $20 you can buy the set a 4 Player Tournament Set with 4 paddles.

<--Clip the net to fit smaller table

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chemicals in Our Food: Old and New

There are 4,000 chemicals in our food. It is staggering. The crazy part is that chemicals are more dangerous and the thresh hold for safety often goes down when chemicals are in the presence of other chemicals. So, even if a chemical is tested and found safe, in the presence of other chemicals it might not be safe to consumer. And it's not just the newer chemicals that are ending up in our food supply. US Food Still Tainted with Old Chemicals in Scientific America is a recent article about how older, banned chemicals are also found in our food supply. When you look at labels of mainstream processed food there are so many chemicals that many people just are too overwhelmed to make better choices. But there are better choices, even when choosing mainstream food. Here are my favorite posts about processed food...

Dangers of Processed Food
Processed Food Versus Homemade Food
Goldfish, Allergies and Reading Labels

Monday, April 26, 2010

Evaluations: Developmental Pediatrician and Neuropsychological Evaluation

When you first discover your child might have a developmental or learning issue, it is hard to know where to turn. There are so many different people to turn to. One would think that the pediatrician or a teacher would be a good source of information. But actually, regular pediatricians seem to know very little about developmental and learning problems. They are excellent to consult if your child has strep throat or needs a vaccine, but they are not trained to diagnose developmental and learning problems. Often the pediatrician will assure worried parents that everything is fine and there is nothing to worry about. But, from the stories I have heard and my own experience, they are very likely to overlook developmental problems because they just don't have the expertise, training or time to discern whether a developmental or learning problem is serious or not. Teachers are also not the best sources of information about whether your child's behavioral or learning problems are cause for concern--they also seem to dismiss most parental concerns. From speaking with parents, parents seem to catch problems way before teachers and pediatricians.

If you see a problem with a younger child, who is under three years of age, you can call Early Intervention or your state's birth to 3 program and request an evaluation. Anyone can make a referral for an evaluation. It doesn't have to come from a doctor. Services for young children with developmental problems are excellent because the money spent toward early intervention services pays off--children get better faster the younger you intervene. Sometimes it is necessary to get a private evaluation through a developmental pediatrician to see if there is a problem, because sometimes early intervention will not give services to children because they are not delayed enough to receive state assistance. You need to be delayed by a certain amount for the state to pick up the tab for services and some kids who actually need help will not qualify for state assistance--even if they could benefit from help and intervention. If early intervention says that the delay is not a problem, ask them when it would be a problem. If your child is not meeting a certain milestone and the evaluator says "it's not a problem", ask "at what age would this be a problem" in order to get more specific information. You can also ask your regular pediatrician the same question if they say a delay is not a problem.

A developmental pediatrician is specially trained to do specific testing to diagnose a developmental or learning problem. They can give you an idea of why your child is not walking or talking and what might help get them back on track. An evaluation from a private developmental pediatrician can also assist you to get Early Intervention services that were denied if the developmental pediatrician thinks they are necessary and recommends the services. Seeking an evaluation from a developmental pediatrician is almost like getting a second opinion.

A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive evaluation done by psychologist to get a better understanding of a child's strenths and weaknesses and it is more focused on school-aged tasks that involve learning and intelligence. The report is given to the parent to assist with school placement and to pinpoint any learning problems that might be overlooked in a more casual testing setting. It helps to rule in or out serious learning problems, but it can also help to find out where in the learning process the child is having a hard time. The final result of the "neuropsych evaluation" is a report which includes test results, impressions and recommendations. In addition, it can summarize the reports of various people working with the child and past testing.

Susan Luger, who is an advocate for children, had a very good analogy for the complexity of learning and why testing might be necessary. She said "Mary can't drive a car. WHY CAN'T MARY DRIVE THE CAR? Is she blind? Is she afraid of driving the car? Has she never been taught to drive the car? Does she have no interest in driving the car?"

Well, you get the idea that if you are having problems talking or walking or learning, sometimes it is necessary to dig deeper to get specific answers as to WHY the problem is occurring in order to get a better idea of how to help the child. Often, casual evaluations do not get to the cause and more specific evaluations are necessary.

WHAT TO DO: Albert Einstein said "The only really valuable thing is intuition." Trust your gut. If you think your child has a problem then follow up and get answers. If they do have a developmental or learning problem the sooner you catch it, the better. Sometimes kids do change and problems do disappear without any intervention. But bigger kids can also mean bigger problems.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Harvest Home Farmer's Markets in NYC

I had the opportunity to meet with Harvest Home's founder, Maritza Owens a few weeks ago to hear about the 22 farmer's markets she has created in New York City inner-city neighborhoods. When debit cards replaced food stamps in 2000, farmer's markets found it impossible to survive in low income neighborhoods in NYC. The farmers couldn't process the debit cards and sell their produce. In 2006 scanners were introduced enabling customers to use their EBT debit cards at farmer's markets. Harvest Home Farmer's Markets enables customers to purchase token for the market with their EBT (electronic benefit transfer), allowing residents to purchase fruits and vegetables from the farmers.

Since the streets where the farmer's markets are located are often closed, Harvest Home Farmer's Markets have also become a way for the community to come together. In one market, which is affiliated with a hospital, a nutritionist and teacher does health screenings. This July and August, Harvest Home's 104th Street market will feature a playstreet allowing neighborhood children to play hopscotch and draw with chalk on the closed streets while their parents shop.

With more banks and drugstores in inner city neighborhoods than supermarkets, Maritza Owen's Harvest Home farmer's markets enable residents access to fresh fruits and vegetables that they otherwise wouldn't be able to find. In addition, she educates market customers how to take advantage of incentive programs like "Health Bucks", introduced in 2007, which gives the customer back 2 additional dollars when they spend 5 dollars at the farmers market beginning in May. Harvest Home markets can redeem Women, Infants, Children's (WIC) New York State Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons (FMNP) New York City Department of Health "Health Bucks", Senior Farmer's Market Nutrition (SFMNP) coupons. It also accepts NYS Green Checks and can process Electronic Benefit Transfer/Food Stamp (EBT) benefits making it an accessible market for many residents who might otherwise not be able to afford to shop at a farmer's market.

To locate a farmer's market in your area, go to

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rao's Famous Lemon Chicken from "Go Green East Harlem Cookbook"

I discovered Rao's Famous Lemon Chicken recipe after meeting with Maritza Owens, who run Harvest Homes Farmer's Market. It is featured in the "Go Green East Harlem Cookbook."
A wonderful picture of Maritza Owens graces the cover of "Go Green East Harlem Cookbook," which was edited by Scott Stringer, the Manhattan Borough President, as part of the "Go Green East Harlem" initiative. The cookbook features 68 recipes in both English and Spanish that were donated by restaurants, shops and organizations in the area. Recipes include Rao's lemon chicken which I have posted below. You can find all of Rao's recipes on

If you prefer to use breasts instead of half chickens, just purchase 3 pounds of chicken breasts with skin (about 6- 8 pieces) and broil them for 20 minutes/10 minutes each side. Then cut each breast into 3 pieces and continue from step 4. My kids don't really like the parsley so I serve them first and then add the parsley to the sauce for the adults.

  • Two 2.5-3 pound broiling chickens, halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
Lemon sauce:
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

In advance:
Whisk together all ingredients for lemon sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Whisk or shake vigorously before using.

To prepare:
1. Preheat broiler for 15 minutes before cooking.
2. Broil chicken halves, turning once, for about 30 minutes until skin is golden-brown and juices run clear when bird is pierced with a fork.
3. Remove chicken from broiler, leaving broiler on. Using a sharp knife, cut each half into about 6 pieces (leg, thigh, wing, 3 small breast pieces).
4. Place chicken on a baking sheet with sides or a baking pan that can fit in the broiler. Pour Lemon Sauce over the chicken and toss to coat well. If necessary, divide sauce in half to do this in two batches.
5. Return to broiler and broil for 3 minutes. Turn each piece and broil for an additional minute.
6. Remove from broiler and portion each chicken onto each of 6 warm serving plates.
7. Pour sauce into a heavy saucepan. Stir in parsley and place over high heat for 1 minute. Pour an equal amount of sauce over each chicken and serve with crusty bread. (Joan's is a good gluten free bread we like.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Earth Day began forty years ago today in 1970. It an opportunity for individuals to try to reduce consumption of our precious resources and to conserve where we can. It just takes some mindfulness and a willingness to slow down. Here are some easy things you can do to reduce your impact today.
  • Turn off lights/computers/routers etc. (Also, it is better for your computer if it shuts down.)
  • Eat less meat
  • Plant something...anything with your kids
  • Recycle paper, batteries, cell phones, glasses
  • Buy produce in season. What is in season in APRIL? Morel Mushrooms, Potatoes, Spring Greens, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Wild Garlic, Outdoor Rhubarb, Watercress, Spring Onions, Spinach and Radishes
  • Visit seafood WATCH or download the iPhone application to find out which seafood is best for you and the environment
  • Visit for more tips on living simply
Here are some fun earth day crafts I found online:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Beyond "Eat Your Peas, PLEASE!"--Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables

The owner of the camp my daughter is going to stopped by for a visit with us. During her visit we discussed diet, because it will be a big adjustment for my daughter to be navigating a gluten free diet without me. She asked my daughter if she like raw vegetables or cooked vegetables and what she liked. Then she told us that there were only four types of vegetables that they could get kids to eat: corn on the cob, lightly steamed broccoli and peas. I think she forgot to mention the fourth one. Anyway, I thought it was very nice to have the short list of cooked vegetables that kids would eat.

To prepare my DD for camp and to try out the "these are the cooked vegetables that kids eat" theory I decided to try to get everyone to eat some peas.

First, I cooked the frozen peas in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. It was super salty. I find, if you put salt on veggies and say "YUM, THESE ARE SO SALTY, THEY TASTE LIKE POTATO CHIPS!" without actually asking them to eat anything, they can't help but try them just to see if they indeed taste like potato chips. Of course, they don't taste like potato chips. But they do taste a little salty. And probably not as bad as they thought they would.

I served the cooked, salty peas in glass shotglasses with chicken noodle soup and after declaring that the peas tasted like potato chips I poured my peas into my bowl of soup and everyone else followed shortly after. My DH happened to have a friend over, and she was the first one who poured her peas into her soup. Then my son followed suit and finally my daughter. Not everyone liked the peas--but everyone tried them!

Chicken Stock Recipe inspired by Julia Child's

It is Friday afternoon. Everyone is tired--INCLUDING ME! So, when everyone got home from school (having not touched their lunch) I made them some chicken soup. I keep small glass containers full of chicken stock in the freezer which I defrost in the microwave until the edges of the soup are defrosted and the soup slides easily out. Then, I finish heating the soup in a pan and pour the chicken stock over cooked rice noodles to make chicken noodle soup.

Making soup from scratch might seem daunting to those who don't cook, but it is actually pretty easy if you get the hang of it--and practically free if you ever have whole chicken for dinner. You need the bones from two roast chickens. If you don't usually cook, just save the bones from two rotisserie chickens in the freezer. Then when you want to cook the stock soup you will have the bones on hand for stock. This recipe is based on Julia Child's stock recipe and the stock from Nourishing Traditions. Also, another thing we do at my house is to chop all the vegetables and put them in the freezer so everything is ready to go in the morning. That way it takes less than ten minutes in the morning to get the stock started. If you start it at 7 am it will be done by the end of school day! And you will have stock for soup for a month.

Chicken Stock Recipe (inspired by Julia Child's recipe)

  • bones from two roasted chickens

from the freezer and put them in a large pot. Add water so the bones are covered with an inch of water.

  • 2 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (which encourages the minerals to move out of the bone into the broth.) Leave the bones and water with the vinegar for one hour.

Bring to a boil and skim the white froth that comes to the top.

  • 3 carrots
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 sprig thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried thyme)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste (optional)

Add water so everything is covered by two inches of water. Bring just to a simmer. Cover and cook for 6-7 hours. Let cool. Strain through fine sieve. Discard bones and vegetables. Let cool. Freeze in small glass tumblers like these covered glass cylinder--make sure to leave an inch of space at the top as the liquid expands when frozen. Freeze until needed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Earth Day at GIFT HERO with Green Gifts for Kids

I wanted to share this newsletter I received from GIFT HERO, a great site to buy presents for kids. Order in April and you will get a free gift bag with each order. The gifts bags are as cute as the gifts and they can be used instead of wrapping paper--another bonus.

"We are celebrating Earth Day at GIFT HERO! We've got a great selection of eco-friendly gifts for kids ages 2 to10 -- made from recycled materials, natural wood or organic materials.

Shop our eco-friendly gifts today. We love the Buddha Board Laptop. Kids paint on the surface with water and their creation comes to life. As the water evaporates, the art changes until it magically disappears leaving them with a clean slate and a clear mind. Some of our other favorites are Eco Stars Recycled Crayons from Miss Brittany, the Creative Rainbow Curve Set from Educo, the Recycling Truck from Green Toys, and the Solar Car Book from Klutz. To see all of our eco-friendly products, visit our eco-friendly category.

Plus, for the month of April, when you purchase one of our eco-friendly gifts,**
we'll automatically include a reusable gift bag. Our bags are made from 100% recycled plastic milk jugs and are a great alternative to wrapping paper. It's an easy way to wrap your gift and bring it to a birthday party!

Here's to better gifting!

Lisa Fielding & Stefanie Katz Rothman
Co-Founders, GIFT HERO®"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It's probably not what you want to hear. But, it is very hard to get a picky eater to eat. You can't force someone to eat. In fact, it is kind of counter intuitive. The more pressure you put on the picky eater. The more you try to force them to eat. The more attention you give to the children who are NOT eating. The more they will resist eating.

Nothing is more difficult than letting a picky eater not eat. (Of course, you need to have dinner first and dessert second around here so often my picky eaters eat just to get whatever yummy dessert is beckoning.) I try not to bribe my kids--because I know it doesn't work in the long term. It's just "dinner first" and "dessert second"--you need to have a balanced diet to be healthy. But, I have been told to make eating less emotional. If you bundle up emotion with eating then it leads to eating disorders. So the more calm and relaxed you can be about your picky eater (or non eater!) the better. Obviously all this is easier said than done, but knowing about it is a first step to doing it.

These days, I try to make dinner more of a fun family event and less about eating. Focusing on the beautiful set table and all the yummy food in a bunch of little plates distracts everyone from how much they don't want to eat. Turn on some music and the forget about the food. If that doesn't work turn on the music louder or try playing a game.

Sometimes eating issues can be masking other health issues. Low vitamin levels can cause kids to be picky eaters so sometimes it is a good idea to visit an alternative doctor who has a knowledge of underlying health issues that cause eating issues if you are concerned about the nutrition or growth of your children. Undiagnosed celiac and low zinc levels can both cause a person to look like a picky eater even though their pickiness is just a symptom of an underlying medical condition. And intolerances to dairy and gluten can also cause picky eaters to only want to eat foods that contain gluten and dairy--these kids are getting a little high or stoned from dairy and gluten so it is all they want. Ear infections, constant sickness, red cheeks, or hyperactivity can all indicate problems with food.

But if your kids are growing and thriving and just picky, then the best you can do is to try to make eating together as a family a fun, social event that everyone wants to be a part of. And even if you need to intervene nutritionally you still should make mealtime a fun, social event. Below are some related posts about fun ways to get kids to eat healthy food and about the vitamins that can cause picky eating.

And by the way, I was the pickiest eater growing up. And at 19 years old I went to cooking school and worked in a restaurant, Le Bernardin, that only served fish even though I would run screaming as a child when my mom cooked fish. And guess what? I learned to love fish that was fresh and well prepared--although I still don't eat sushi--which disappoints my husband. Children grow up.

Which doesn't mean that you shouldn't intervene nutritionally for your kids when there are issues. It just means take the focus off of food at mealtime and serve them healthy, nutritious food and let them choose to be a part of the fun. Many kids who are picky eaters do need a nutritional make over but it doesn't happen at the dinner table or over breakfast. It happens behind the scenes and with no pressure.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Horseboy" Movie Screening this Wednesday in NYC

Below is an invitation to a private screening of "Horseboy", a movie about a family who travels to Mongolio with their autistic son so they can visit a shamanic healer. The movie screening is a benefit and all the proceeds benefit S.N.A.C.K.- The Special Needs Activity Center for Kids.

Private Movie Screening Event of
"The Horse Boy "

to be held at Marymount 1027 Fifth Avenue (at 84th St)
Wednesday, April 14th 6:30-8:30pm

If you haven't RSVP'd yet and would like to attend, please click here.

"The Horse Boy" follows one Texas couple and their autistic son as they trek on horseback through Outer Mongolia in a desperate attempt to treat his condition with shamanic healing. The film delves into the world of autism, the relationship between humans and animals and between different cultures and different ways of being (autistic vs. normal, or "neuro-typical"), and the nature of healing. In honor of her birthday, one of our SNACK parents, Jennifer, generously offered to hold a private screening of "The Horse Boy" movie as a way to lend her support to SNACK! Last year this time, in lieu of birthday gifts and in honor of Autism Awareness Month, Jennifer was our top fundraiser in our first online campaign. We are extremely grateful to Jennifer for her dedication to helping SNACK, her generosity and her continued support! 6:00pm - Doors open 6:30pm - Movie begins Cocktails and Hors d'oeuvres will be served immediately following the movie We hope that you will be able to join us for the screening of this wonderful movie, to toast Jennifer in honor of her Birthday, and show your support for SNACK!

In support of SNACK and to help cover event expenses, we are suggesting a $50 tax-deductible donation to reserve a seat to attend,

Click on the blue text link below to...Make your donation and reserve as many seats as you like - bring guests!

OR If you are not able to attend but would like to lend your support go to Private Screening of "The Horse Boy." If you would prefer to RSVP by email to let us know if you are able to attend or have any questions - email us at or call 212-439-9996.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Garbanzo Bean and Fava Flour)

These are my new favorite gluten free chocolate chip cookies made with Bob's Red Mill Garbanzo & Fava Flour. It was incredibly satisfying to finally have some success with garbanzo bean and fava flour. Usually, the bean taste is too pronounced. But in this recipe, the brown sugar completely balances out the bean flour and they are wonderful cookies. I like to add finely ground cashews to add a buttery taste to these gluten and dairy free chocolate chip cookies. You don't even know that they have bean flour in them. They taste remarkably similar to Tate's chocolate chip cookies and have slightly more fiber and protein than the typical chocolate chip cookie. If you don't have bean flour on hand, use whatever gluten free flour or regular flour you want. (If you use regular flour you can omit the xanthum gum.) Also, here is my even more popular chocolate chip cookie recipe made with Authentic Foods flour.

1.5 cups Bob's Red Mill Garbanzo & Fava Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp xanthum gum
1 cup spectrum shortening
1.5 cups dark brown sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.)Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup finely ground cashews (optional)

Mix the garbanzo and fava bean flour, baking soda and salt together.
Cream the shortening and brown sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined well.
Add flour mixture to the butter/shortening egg mixture and mix well.
Add 1/2 cup of finely ground cashews. I grind this in a old coffee grinder. Shaking the coffee grinder while grinding seems to work best.
Stir in Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips.

Use a mini ice cream scoop to scoop 2 Tablespoons of batter into ball on sheet. Bake in 375º oven for 9-11 minutes until light brown. Careful if you are using nuts because they go from cooked to brown pretty easily. Less done cookies will be soft and chewy. More done cookies will be crunchy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The NYTimes Q&A on Gluten and Gluttony

The New York Times has a Q&A on Gluten Free Diets. Celiac Chicks has a post called Gluten-Free Diet Questioned in the New York Times that has gotten a lot of comments. I left this comment...

I have several problems with the New York Times Q&A. First, Celiac Disease is often difficult to diagnose. There are many false negatives. I have personally met and spoken to four people who tested negative on blood tests and then were diagnosed on biopsy. Three of them were people whose symptoms got so bad they insisted on the biopsy and were lucky enough to be seen by a doctor at the Celiac Center who knew that blood tests can be wrong. Perhaps the people who feel better on a gluten free diet are people who have Celiac at the early stages where the tests are negative and they miraculously they get better on a gluten free diet. I see a doctor at the Celiac Center and she has told me that in children the antibodies go positive and negative even on a gluten containing diet.

Of course, no one tells you that it is so difficult to diagnose and blood tests can be wrong! But, I love hearing people's stories and I am involved with the Celiac community so I end up hearing these crazy stories. One child tested negative THREE times and was in the intensive care unit when the test it finally turned positive and the doctors told her she had celiac.

In addition, there are many doctors and researchers investigating gluten being a factor in RA and neurological diseases:

Rodney Ford M.B.,B.S.,M.D.,F.R.A.C.P

Ron Hoggan who wrote Dangerous Grains has some info on Rheumatoid Arthritis.

When Dr. Greene spoke about gluten intolerance, he said "Doctors don't like things they can't test for." But all science begins with anecdote and the anecdotes are adding up...Unfortunately for many, because the "cure" is not a pill or an expensive medical procedure (like a biopsy) it is dismissed by many doctors without an understanding of the complexity of Celiac Disease or the damage caused by gluten intolerance.

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Quote of the Week on Indian Food

We went to an Indian Restaurant in Key Biscayne, Florida called Ayeesha. My parents had spoken to the owner and the owner assured them that most of the menu was gluten free and only the naan contained wheat flour. When we arrived at the restaurant my eight year old asked me what samosa's were. I replied "You can't have those--they are made with wheat." The owner said:

"NO, there is no wheat flour in the samosas--they are made with all purpose flour!"

It is relatively easy to find gluten free food in an Indian restaurant, but you have to make sure the restaurant understands that wheat free/gluten free encompasses more than just wheat flour. Probably, the best bet to avoid confusion would be to carry these gluten free dining cards. Gluten free restaurant cards are available FREE to print out through or you can purchase a laminated set through Triumph Dining Gluten Free Restaurant Cards. Here is a link to the Hindi card which might have been handy to have at our Indian dinner.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nurture Shock Giveaway Contest Winner: Bacebo

I used random generator to pick the winner from the Nurture Shock Giveaway.

BACEBO said "Yes please! I've heard so much about this book!" and she was picked from to be the winner. For those who didn't win the contest, thanks for entering and hope you get a chance to read Nurture Shock which is available at and your local public library.

(Bacebo, please contact me by April 7 at 10 am with your contact information so I can get your prize to you otherwise I will pick another winner.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Our Gluten Free Family Eats Out: Fogo de Chao Restaurant

It is quite ironic that while reading Animal Factory on vacation we also visited Fogo de Chao, "an authentic Brazilian steakhouse" and Five Guys Burgers and Fries TWICE each for gluten free food. My husband is an expert at finding fun gluten free food in every city, and these were both his discovery while we were on vacation in Miami.

Fogo de Chao is a chain of Brazilian restaurants that serve 15 types of meat (mostly beef) on skewers. It is an all you can eat affair. And there is a huge, mostly unappreciated, salad bar with various salads, asparagus, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and assorted vegetables. meats and cheese. Most people are too busy enjoying the tasty (and gluten free) breads, the sides and the meat to bother with the salad bar.

The truth is, we ended up at both Fogo de Chao and Five Guys Burger and Fries because most of the food is naturally gluten free. At Fogo de Chao, they even serve tapioca cheese bread and polenta that are gluten free. So, it was easy for everyone to find something to eat. I am not as big a fan, as others in my family are, of the all you can eat meat--but it certainly was easy for everyone to get a tasty gluten free meal.

It was humorous on our way to the restaurant when my eight year old woke my four year old up by telling him "It's time to wake up, we are almost at the restaurant where you can get MEAT on a STICK!" The truth is that my four year old is the least interested of any of us in meat of any kind. He reluctantly had a sausage but filled up on the polenta and a few pieces of lettuce. If I had known they also offer rice and beans, on request, I would have ordered him some. I just learned they had rice and beans available when looking at the side dishes on the online menu.

The manager, Paulo, helped us out when we arrived and gave us instructions on what was gluten free, what contained dairy and what we could enjoy. Unlike most restaurants, where most items contain gluten, at Fogo de Chao there were only a handful of foods served which contained gluten. Paulo walked me through the salad bar saying "Avoid the salad dressings--they contain a thousand ingredients and might contain gluten. Avoid the prepared salads (chicken salad, potato salad etc) if you can't have dairy since they contain heavy cream. Avoid the bread and croutons, of course. As well as the tabouli salad. As far as the meat items you need to avoid: chicken drumsticks (which are prepared with beer) and pork chops which are breaded with parmesan cheese as well as the parmesan cheese on the polenta." He told us he would have them bring us polenta without the parmesan cheese since they put gluten in the pre-grated parmesan cheese.

When you sit down, they give you little cards that look like coasters. One side is red and one side is green. The servers walk around carrying large skewered pieces of filet, top, bottom, sirlion, ribs and various other cuts of meat. You flip the card to green when you want them to serve you meat and you flip it to red when you want a break or are finished. It is actually a fun way to meat. Although, reading Animal Factory, took a little fun out of it for me, I also knew that being together as a family enjoying a meal together was more important at that moment than trying to avoid meat.

I was impressed that Paulo knew that both beer and the pre grated parmesan cheese contained gluten. This kind of knowledge indicates that the items he points out as being gluten free are in fact gluten free. So often, people think gluten is just in bread and pasta. They don't realize that it is hidden in pre-made salad dressings, soy sauce, beer and even parmesan cheese. But Paolo was fully aware of the gluten that was hidden.

Our favorite cuts of meat were the top and the bottom. My son and I had more of a polenta/salad bar feast than the others. But everyone enjoyed being able to eat a variety of dishes so easily. The mashed potatoes were gluten free, but they contained dairy, which some of us couldn't have. On our second visit, Paolo even went to the trouble of preparing a portion of mashed potatoes that were dairy free so everyone could enjoy them. I don't even like mashed potatoes but the specially prepared mashed potatoes were perfect. They also served cooked bananas as a side that were cooked in oil and gluten and dairy free.

Dessert was more of a challenge--the strawberry ice cream and crème brûlée were gluten free. There were no desserts that were gluten and dairy free. But we brought a gluten free brownie for my four year old who is dairy free and ordered a bowl of fruit the first night. The second night I brought some gluten free dairy free Easter candy--jelly beans and peeps and some sugar cookies.

Fogo de Chao is kid friendly, in the sense it is easy to go with kids and they were welcoming and accommodating. Although kids are half price, it is expensive, so it isn't a place where a lot of families go. We saw one other child there. For any gluten free family (who eats meat) it's a big treat.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gluten Free Passover Seder Dinner Recipes

I went overboard making everything from scratch for a Passover seder this year. It was only four of us for dinner because we were leaving the next day for vacation. I made Matzah ball soup using Julia Child's chicken stock, homemade gluten free matzah, brisket, roasted asparagus, potato kugel and Ina Garten's meringues for dessert. Of course, dessert was the big hit. Ina's recipe for meringues worked perfectly. I beat the egg whites well and then I added the sugar. Everyone was fighting over the meringue cookies and little bird's nest meringues I served with cherries and a mini scoop of ice cream. I was too busy cooking to take many pictures. I realized, after a too long day of cooking, I could have made it easier for myself by cooking the chicken stock, the brisket and the meringues the day before. Oh well, there is always next year and I often go overboard when I am cooking so it wasn't a huge surprise. And I could use my week long vacation in the sun to recover.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

World's Best Brisket

This is a brisket recipe that my mother makes for holidays. The great part about this recipe is that it is better the next day. You are supposed to make it a day ahead, leaving you more time the "day of" to do other things. Kids like it because it is, what my husband calls, "regular people's" brisket. Or what many people think of as "comfort food". You can order a half brisket (first cut) to serve 6-8 people or a whole brisket to serve 10-12. Always cook with the fat side up so that it keeps the brisket juicy and tender.

Make one day ahead.

1 brisket (first cut for 6-8 or whole for 10-12)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (olive or coconut oil or whatever you have)
Flour (brown rice flour mix for GF)
1 carrot
3 onions
2 garlic cloves
2 cups beef broth or vegetable broth (The original recipe calls for 1 can beef broth concentrate) or 2 teaspoons salt
Bouquet Garni (2 bay leaves plus sprig of thyme)


Preheat oven to 350º.

Slice large yellow onions. Heat 1/4 cup oil in your largest oven-proof saute pan and add two of the onions. Cook the onions until they are blackened. With a slotted spoon, remove the blackened onions but retain the flavored oil. While the onions are browning, insert slivers of garlic into the brisket. Place brisket on wax paper or parchment and season with lots of salt, paprika, pepper and flour. Rub the seasonings all over the meat. (I used 2 Tablespoons of flour, 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1 teaspoon on salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper for half brisket.) Save loose seasoned flour. Brown brisket on all sides at a very hot temperature until very brown. Once brisket is browned, top with sliced onion, sliced carrot, the retained flour seasoning and bouquet garni. Add beef broth and enough water to almost cover the brisket. Cover with foil and place in oven for 2 hours. Brisket should be tender, but not falling apart.

Remove from oven, cool slightly and remove from juices. Slice thinly on the bias and place in a 9x13 casserole. Pour reserved broth over sliced meat and add more water or broth if necessary.