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Simply Grillilng by Jennifer Chandler

This weekend I’ve been cooking from Jennifer Chandler’s new book, Simply Grilling, which I received a complimentary copy of from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinions and review. If I could write just one word about this book it would be WOW!

If you are a fan of cookbooks with pictures then this book delivers with full color photographs of every recipe. If you are a fan of international cooking, then this book will take your dinner table to new realms. If you are a fan of easy recipes, then this book is for you. The instructions are simple and most ingredients can be found in your local supermarket.

I decided to give myself a jump-start on the week by spending a couple of hours on Saturday turning my refrigerator into my own deli counter by preparing three of the grilled salads and sides from Chandler’s book.

Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Salad from page 133

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad from page 145

Grilled Lime Sweet Potatoes from page 185

I also prepped for Chicken Drumsticks with Mustard BBQ Sauce (page 67) to make later this week, as well as Grilled Filets with Gremolata (page 95) to make tonight. Since it is 41 degrees outside and raining in sheets, I used my indoor grill pan without any problems. Everything tastes delicious and looks really healthy.

If I had one comment for the editors of this book it would be that in future editions I think you should annotate the Gluten Free recipes. By my estimation, almost all of these recipes are GF and many of them could be modified to be GF/CF as well. To a GF eater like me, that is a strong selling point of Simply Grilling that could be highlighted.

Deliciously G-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s Chocolate Chip cookies on page 215 of her book Deliciously G-Free, are really good but they are a pain in the butt to make. They require 14 different ingredients (not counting cooking spray), and four different types of flour. I’ve made them twice now, and the first time turned out to be a disaster because my two year old daughter Jenna was helping me. But the second batch when I could really concentrate? Yum, yum! Even my husband really liked them, and he is a chocolate chip cookie purist.

Still, I like to bake with my kids all the time, and 14 different ingredients and a two year old just don’t mix well. Plus, one of the ingredients in this recipe is potato flour which is a really fine particle that floats up into the air, redounds everywhere, and coats everything in sight. Talk about messy!

In the Power Flour section of her book, Elisabeth suggests mixing up the four flours ahead of time, but that still leaves you with ten more ingredients left to measure out with significant preschool “help”. So I decided to make my own chocolate chip cookie mixes today using all of the ingredients except for the liquids; eggs, butter and vanilla, and the chocolate chips themselves. Once again, I had a lot of “help” from Jenna, so I hope the mixes turned out okay.

Half way through this twenty minute process Jenna lost interest in helping and started ripping tissues out of the Kleenex box.

As crazy as it sounds, that really was helpful because it let me finish things up, and get out the vacuum. Hopefully I’ve traded one morning of total kitchen disaster for five days of peaceful and easy chocolate chip cookie baking in the future. Now that ten of the ingredients are premeasured, I think my six year old son Bruce and Jenna could probably make these cookies by themselves, with me handling the oven part.

GF/CF Chocolate Chip Cookies, My Two Year Old, and Some Fine Motor Fun

Today Jenna(2.5) and I made some chocolate chip cookies. It started out as your ordinary cooking-with-your-two-year-old experience. There was some extra hand washing, a few near misses with the mixing bowl, and a lot of warnings not to eat butter. Bob’s Red Mill Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix only required three added ingredients: 1 egg, butter, and water. That kept things pretty easy for cooking with a little one.

But half way through I felt like the chocolate chip cookie ratio provided in the mix was pretty slim. In a failed attempt to make thumbprint cookies by adding some Enjoy Life chocolate chips, I inadvertently fell upon the best fine motor skill activity ever!

(Sorry for the ugly picture of my yucky looking baking sheet.)

I pressed thumbprint marks into each cookie, and Jenna slowly and carefully filled each center with chocolate chips. It took her about ten minutes, and about 400 calories of chocolate chip consumption, but she got a big fine motor skill work out. This activity strengthens the same muscles that will one day help her hold a pencil correctly.

So the next time you are making chocolate chip cookies with your kids, give it a try! Here’s hoping you are making nice, normal, gluten filled cookies that don’t have a weird garbanzo bean aftertaste.

Gluten Free Children?

My regular readers already know this, but we have a very strong family history of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Thankfully, neither Bruce nor Jenna has ASD, but that doesn’t stop me from constantly thinking about the families I know who are dealing with Autism in its many forms.  My husband calls Autism “the black hole of conversation”, because every single person in our extended family can perseverate on the topic for hours.

When Bruce and Jenna were little, we started them on Baby Signs at 9 months, in the hopes of hard-wiring language into their brains at an early age.  By 12 months, each of them knew about 2 dozen signs, and was beginning to talk.  I don’t know if this helped or not. 

The other unusual thing we did, and again, I don’t know if this helped either, was to keep them on a Gluten Free Cassin Free diet until they were one year old.  My MIL and mother both thought we were nuts, but I didn’t care.  My rationale was that if there was a higher percentage that our children would develop Autism, then I wanted to make sure they were on the so-called Autism diet while their language was still developing, on the off chance that it would help.

Fast forward to now.  I don’t have Autism, but in the past ten days have realized that I myself am extremely gluten sensitive.  To make a long story short, I’ve been in and out of the doctor’s office about a million times this past year, trying to figure out what was wrong with my health.  Finally, I got the big referral to the GI doctor to see about “scoping me” from one end or the other to see whether or not I had IBS.  In the meantime, I’ve been keeping a careful food journal; exercising, taking probiotics… you name it. 

A friend of mine who has Crohn’s disease suggested I try going gluten free.  I started a GF diet the day before Thanksgiving.  Within two days I was radically better, and almost pain free.  Now it’s been about ten days, and the farther away the gluten gets from my diet the better I am feeling.  I’ve been back to the doctor and tested for Celiac disease, which has come back as negative.  But that doesn’t counter the fact that as soon as I stopped eating gluten, my health improved.

All this leaves me thinking, What the heck???  How did I develop gluten sensitivity as an adult?  I’m uber-careful organic girl.  It’s not like I’ve been eating GMO Wonder Bread and Twinkies.  What has caused this?

And think about this… if gluten could make such a dramatic difference in me in just a few days, than think about the Autism diet.  No wonder people report it making a big difference. 

You know, if I had a toddler right now who wasn’t talking or who had delayed language, I’d go GFCF in a heartbeat.  In fact, I don’t think I would introduce gluten or casein in a child’s diet until they were stringing a couple of words together, just as a precaution.  It means eating a lot of veggies, chicken, rice, pears, and quinoa, but it is doable and can be healthful too.  Full disclaimer though, I’m not a doctor or nutritionist.  I’m just a major worry-wart!