Autism Answer – Easy Lasagne (low texture)

Yummy and Healthy Lasagne

ASD friendly Lasagne

This new recipe  was a breakthrough moment for me. The last two years have largely (by necessity) revolved around food from the point of view of food allergies and nutrition. I’m now finding myself needing to go a step further and think about recipes from a sensory point of view. Getting Miss 3 to eat meat and protein is an ongoing challenge; her soy allergy alone (especially because it extends to emulsifiers and vegetable oil) mean that I can hardly take her to a McDonalds in desperation and order her a cheeseburger. The secret to this recipe is minimising textures (and a food processor!)

She has until now mostly refused to eat mince (of various flavours and in various forms) although sometimes I’ll get lucky. She quite liked the process of making the Chinese Pork Koftas and it helped that I’ve found a soy & preservative free plum dipping sauce. I was over the moon when she actually ate this and asked for more!

Oh, and to any Italians reading this – I apologise. This recipe is not so much lasagne as it is one of those movies ‘inspired’ by a true life story. I know it would make the judges on MasterChef squirm but the main thing for me is getting a whole pile of nutrition into us simply and easily.

Easy Lasagne

Ingredients

  • 500g beef mince
  • Rice bran oil (for cooking)
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Onion flakes
  • Tomato Passata (400ml)
  • 1 x carrot (grated)
  • Bunch of silverbeet (finely chopped)
  • 400g tin of brown lentils (washed and drained)
  • Dry sheets of lasagna (as many as needed)
  • Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Tasty or Colby cheese (grated)

Allergies: gluten free*, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Where’s the milk you say? I didn’t make a Bechamel sauce for this recipe for two reasons. One:  she had a sensory anxiety attack at the supermarket (damn those refridgeration unit motors!) so I had to abandon the shop and didn’t get the milk I needed. Two: sometimes when shooting for the stars, you need to aim for the moon first. I was concerned about having three different tastes / textures in a single dish.

Why not use fresh onion and garlic? Because she doesn’t like them (I do). If you’ve ever watched an adult with an aversion to onion try to remove each individual slippery sliver from their plate then you know it’s sometimes better to find a compromise and not sweat the small stuff.

How do I make this gluten free? There are gluten free lasagne sheets available (although they are pricey). For instance, Explore Cuisine do an Organic Green Lentil Lasagne.

Directions

  1. Brown the mince in a frying pan (or electric wok) with a little oil + garlic, salt, and onion.
  2. Add the tomato passata, carrot, silverbeet, and lentils. Simmer for 20-30 minutes on a low heat. Stir as needed.
  3. Grate in some parmesan cheese to taste.
  4. Let this very non-traditional beef ragu cool down for a bit and then blitz it in a food processor. It doesn’t need to be a smooth paste but it should become much more evenly textured (as seen in the photo).
  5. Layer the mince mix in your favourite lasagne dish (or dishes) alternating mince, the pasta sheets, grated cheese. Note: for the top layer of (dry) pasta you may want to add a few tablespoons of water every 10 minutes or so during cooking.
  6. Bake at 160’C for 3-40 minutes. Basically, you’re cooking the pasta and heating the mince. If you’re using a fresh pasta then it will probably cook quicker.

 

Tip: I liked the cheesy crunchy pasta topping and the textural difference on my plate of having both that and the soft pasta. Depending on the textural / sensory preferences of your ASD child, you may want to serve just one of those. I gave Miss 3 the soft pasta and the mince.

 

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Mushroom melt burgers

Mushroom melt burgers

Mushroom melt burgers

Grilled mushrooms with melted cheese make a quick and easy vegetarian meal.

Ingredients

  • Portobello mushrooms (or similar big fleshy mushrooms)
  • Piquant easy-melt cheese (like goat cheese or blue cheese)
  • Fresh salad ingredients (like sliced tomato, grated carrot, baby spinach, lettuce, sliced beetroot, watercress, mungbeans, sliced cucumber).
  • Hamburger bun, brioche bun, gluten-free wrap or bun.

Cheese

If goat cheese seems too…well, goaty, consider a goat-buffalo cheese blend. Similarly, if blue cheese seems too strong consider a creamy mild blue cheese. Alternatively, use a strong tasty or colby cheese + grated parmesan and mozzarella!

For dairy free / soy free / vegan cheese consider: Daiya or Angel Food

Burger buns

If allergies aren’t an issue, there a range of burger buns to choose from, or go up-scale and use a brioche bun. For gluten-free (or soy free) then you may want to use a gluten free bun or wrap. You can also skip the bun (and substitute rice or beans) and tell your child (or yourself) that you’re simply having a super fancy ‘deconstructed’ burger.

Allergies: gluten free*, dairy free*, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Prepare your salad ingredients.
  2. Grill the mushrooms and cheese.
  3. Assemble your burger. Add dressings (like sauces and mustard) if desired.

Baked Chicken & Peaches

Baked Chicken and Peaches.jpg

Baked Chicken and Peaches

This is a great dish to make in summer when fresh peaches are cheap; I made it recently on a dark Autumn day with the skies full of rain – tinned peaches work just as well and bring a bright note to the day!

It takes very little time too mix up and put in the oven; combine it with some vegetables and instant mashed potatoes for a quick meal that is also toddler / child friendly!

(FYI I buy plain potato flakes from a bulk buy store rather than buying boxed instant mashed potato from the supermarket.)

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts (boned & skinned)
  • 1/3c brown sugar
  • 1 peach / 1/3 of a 400g tin of peaches
  • 2 pinches of ground ginger
  • 1 pinch allspice or ground cloves
  • 1/2T lemon juice

Optional

  • Superfine white rice flour or cornflour (corn starch) to make gravy.
  • Potato flakes + boiling water + rice bran oil + salt + almond milk to make mashed potatoes.
  • Broccoli.

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Note: The recipe will also work well for larger amounts just double or triple the ingredients based on the number of chicken breasts you are cooking.

Directions

  1. Take a pyrex baking dish and put in the brown sugar.
  2. Put in the chicken breasts (turning them to coat them in sugar).
  3. Lay slices of peaches over the chicken breasts.
  4. Sprinkle the ground ginger, allspice, and lemon juice over the chicken and peaches.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 180’C for approx. 30 minutes. Baste regularly with the chicken juices. Cover in tinfoil if needed.
  6. Optional: After removing the chicken and peaches, whisk in some superfine white rice flour (or cornflour) to make a sweet gravy.
  7. Optional: Serve with steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Chinese Pork Koftas (grilled meatballs)

Chinese Pork Koftas

Chinese Pork Koftas

I’m always looking for new ways to tempt Miss 3 to eat her protein.  She took great delight in helping me make these and enjoyed eating them too. I’ve made simmered soft meatballs in passata, grilled meatballs, and these pork koftas are a bit of a twist on something that would commonly use Middle Eastern spices. The great thing about these is that you can easily experiment with different spices and vegetables that you have to hand!

Ingredients

  • 500g pork mince
  • 2 Tbsp quinoa powder / rice flour / plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • generous pinch salt
  • 2 -3 tsp chopped Chinese chives
  • handful green runner beans (finely chopped)
  • 1 – 2 tsp Chinese five spice
  • Optional: vegetables to skewer.
    • I used Swiss Brown Mushrooms that I’d picked up cheaply at a farmer’s market but you could use eggplant cubes, juicy capsicum, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, peeled garlic etc.
  • Optional: sesame seeds to garnish
  • Neutral oil (I use rice bran oil)

Allergies: gluten free*, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Soak the bamboo skewers in water while preparing the mince. (A wide shallow bowl or the kitchen sink will both work). Soaking up the water helps keep the skewers from burning in the oven.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200’C these would also work well on the BBQ.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together.
  4. Form little meatballs. You can either push the skewer through these or wrap them around the skewer.
  5. Alternate meatballs and vegetables.
  6. Baste with oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes (turning halfway through) or until the pork is cooked through.
  8. Serve with a spiced plum dipping sauce and steamed rice.

Tip: Kids will love helping make these. If you don’t want your toddler having their hands in raw meat (I didn’t!), put them in charge of handing you the skewers and sprinkling the sesame seeds.

Chinese Pork Koftas with spiced plum sauce and steamed coconut rice

Chinese Pork Koftas with spiced plum sauce and steamed coconut rice

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic served with bacon, brussel sprouts, and rice noodles.

I really love the simplicity of this dish and that it’s a one pot meal when cooked in the wok. Miss 2 even ate a brussel sprout after licking all the gravy off it!

Ingredients

  • 40 cloves of garlic (peeled; hard end cut off; cut in half any large cloves)
  • 3 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (cut in half)
    • You can use chicken tenderloins or thighs instead.
  • Neutral oil (i.e. Rice Bran Oil)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock + 1/2 cup in reserve
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1T dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2T fine white rice flour
  • Optional: 2 chopped rashers of bacon (middle or shoulder)
  • Optional: approx. 8 brussel sprouts (chopped in half)
  • Optional: Wild Mushroom Powder

Allergies: soy free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. In a large skillet / frying pan / electric wok, heat the oil.
  2. Put in the chicken and garlic. Once the chicken is partially cooked, put in the bacon and brussel sprouts to cook as well.
  3. Cook until the chicken is browned on both sides.
  4. Add 3 cups of the chicken stock, lemon juice, basil, and oregano. You may want to keep back some of the lemon juice and add after tasting (it can be quite a strong flavour).
  5. Bring mixture to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
    • Note: If you want to serve with rice noodles, you can rinse the noodles under hot water until you are able to separate them and then cook them in the simmering broth. Not only will this help to reduce the broth but the noodles taste amazing!
    • Taste the broth and add salt + pepper to liking. If you’d like slightly more umami flavour, consider adding  a dash of one of the following: coconut amino acids, wild mushroom powder, soy sauce, or hoisin sauce.* Food allergies will impact choice.
  6. In a small bowl or cup, whisk the rice flour and 1/c of reserved chicken stock. Add this slurry to the cooking mixture and cook until the sauce thickens (you may need to increase the heat).
  7. Serve with rice noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes.

Note: The secret to this recipe is to lightly sear the outside of the garlic cloves – you want them to go soft, sweet, and squishy inside (like when roasted (otherwise the garlic can be a bit overwhelming). In the traditional French recipe the cloves are left intact (skin on) and the dish is cooked in the oven (then you suck out the gooey inner and discard the skin).

 

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Easy Pizza Pie! Healthy, delicious, and packed with vegetables.

I was so excited to discover our corner dairy has started stocking locally made Middle Eastern flatbread. It’s baked and delivered fresh each day, soy free, additive free, and wonderfully cheap. I’m having fun experimenting with it to make pizza, pizza pie, and wraps. The latest experiment involved making a vegetarian pizza pie that contrasts a salty crispy top with the tangy sweetness of tomato and the rich flavour of melted cheese. Not only is it a great way to get vegetables into your kids but it’s also a useful idea to keep in mind for jazzing up leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 2 x large flatbread (dinner plate size)
  • Leftover tinned spaghetti or pasta sauce
  • Thinly sliced vegetables (I used mushrooms, fresh spinach, and zucchini).
  • Grated cheese (I used Colby and Parmesan)
  • Neutral oil (I use Rice Bran)
  • Rock salt + garlic granules / smoked garlic salt / dukkah
  • Optional: If you like meat then you it’s easy to add tinned tuna, cooked chicken, roast pork, leftover (cooked) mince, sliced boiled egg, etc…

Allergies: soy free, egg free, dairy free*, nut free.

Directions

  1. Place the first flatbread on a pizza tray or lined oven tray.
  2. Lightly spread on tinned spaghetti or pasta sauce.
  3. Layer on sliced vegetables (and meat, if using).
  4. Cover in grated cheese(s).
  5. Place the second flatbread on top.
  6. Brush with neutral oil or melted butter.
  7. Grind rock salt over the top and sprinkle on garlic granules. Alternatively, you could use a smoked garlic salt, or dukkah, etc.
  8. Cook in a preheated oven at 180’C for approx. 10 mins (until cheese has melted and the pizza pie is thoroughly heated through). Keep an eye on the top (you may want to move it lower in oven or lower temperature slightly if the top is browning and crisping too early).

 

Tip: For other great pizza ideas – consider making a scone base pizza!

Butter beans (a baked beans alternative)

Butter beans with butter, leek, and garlic

Butter beans with butter, leek, and garlic. Grated parmesan. Choko noodles.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved baked beans as much as the next kiwi kid, but  the reality is that processed foods these days are often packed full of unnecessary sugar and salt. Hopefully Watties have changed their recipe since this damning article in 2009: “Wattie’s baked beans 420g: Although beans are good for you and packed with fibre, a can of baked beans has almost 30g of sugar. This is a low fat product and high in fibre, but does it require 1890mg of salt and 29g of sugar to make it taste good?”

Processed foods can also be a minefield for allergy families! Additionally, the reason for choosing vegetables like garlic, choko (chayote), leeks, and shallots for this recipe is because they’re low in naturally occuring food chemicals like salicylates, amines, and glutamates which is helpful for sensitive systems.

Don’t worry if you don’t have allergies – I’ve seen people post similar recipes simply because they don’t like baked beans or because butter + garlic can make anything awesome!

Tip: This recipe is also the basis of the easy to make Butter bean dip!

Ingredients

  • 400g tin of butter beans (rinse thoroughly)
    • You can substitute different beans according to taste. Like broad beans, these are quite large and hold up well in a wok without a sauce to simmer in.
  • Butter (or neutral oil, like Rice Bran Oil)
  • Garlic (crushed)
    • You can use garlic granules if you don’t have fresh.
  • Optional: leek (thinly sliced) or shallots (finely diced)
  • Optional: parmesan or grated cheese
  • Optional: cooked bacon (finely chopped)
  • Optional: choko (cheyote) as vegetable noodles.

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free*, soy free, egg free, noodle free.

Directions

  1.  Heat a frying pan (or wok) and melt butter. Lightly saute the garlic and any optional extras like leek or shallots.
    • Be careful not to over cook the garlic or you’ll get a distinctly smokey taste! (she says from experience…)
  2. Add the butter beans and cook until soft. You may need to add some extra butter while they are cooking.
  3. Serve topped with parmesan or tasty cheese if desired.

 

Choko noodles

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.
  2. Peel wide strips of the actual vegetable (the length of the choko).
  3. Add some more butter to the pan (after you’ve removed the butter beans) and fry the choko noodles until softened (they should still be slightly firm to the bite; not raw and not falling apart!). They will pick up the remaining garlic from the pan.

 

 

How to make Spicy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Spicy Pulled Pork

Spicy Pulled Pork – allergy free and easy to make!

Pulled pork is wonderful in everything from sliders, to hot dog buns, to freshly made bread. There are many versions of pulled pork, this is a spicy one that’s delicious with apple sauce and mayonnaise.

You can make pulled pork using many cuts of pork. If you have a rolled pork loin roast you can use the flat section to make Crispy Asian Pork Belly and trim the fat away from the loin to make lean pulled pork; you can use an entire pork shoulder roast (bone in, skin on) – the only real limitation is the size of your slow cooker!

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder (approx. 2kg / 4-5 pounds)
  • 1-2 brown onions (diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Dry Rub
    • 1/4c brown sugar
    • 1 tsp chilli powder
    • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1T paprika
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp ground pepper
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
    • pinch thyme
  • 170g tomato paste (or 2 cups BBQ sauce)

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. In the slowcooker, create a layer of onions and garlic. Gently pour in the chicken broth.
  2. Combine the dry rub ingredients. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and then rub the spice mixture all over it.
  3. Place the pork on top of the bed of onions. Slow cook for 6 – 8 hours on High or 8 – 10 hours on Low (until the pork is tender).
  4. Time to shred the pork!
    • If you are using lean pork, you will be able to pull it apart and shred it (using two forks) inside the slow cooker. You may want to mix in 1T of butter (or 1-2 Tablespoons of a neutral oil like Rice Bran Oil). You can either remove some of the excess broth or turn the slow cooker to High (lid off) to help the broth reduce down.
    • If you are using a bone-in roast, remove pork to a chopping board. Remove and discard the bone and any large chunks of fat. Shred the pork using two forks. Strain the liquid from the slow cooker into a bowl. Place the onion, garlic, and pork back into the slow cooker. Use a spoon to skim and remove the fat off the strained liquid; slowly add the strained broth back into the pork until is just moistened.
  5. Mix in the tomato paste (or BBQ sauce). Taste and season with salt as desired.

 

I like to serve my spicy pulled pork on thick slices of freshly made Ancient Grains bread with apple sauce, grated cheese, and Butterhead lettuce. If you’re looking for inspiration on different ways to use your pulled pork – check out these 20 Delicious Dinners!

 

Tamale Pie

Tamale Pie.jpg

Tamale Pie (gluten free!)

Tamale Pie is delicious! I’d never heard of it until I discovered it in Elizabeth Gordon’s The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook. Apparently it’s a Depression-era dish that’s considered a comfort food in the Southwestern United States. It’s warm, filling, serves a bunch of hungry people (or can be used over several nights), and is conveniently gluten-free. It’s also an awesome and economical dish for those that do eat gluten and just want to try something different from a traditional Shepherd’s Pie.

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2c water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2c quick-cooking polenta (fine cornmeal)
  • 350-450g beef mince (ground beef)
    • Or: turkey,  chicken.
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle powder
  • 400g tin of black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 350-450g jar mild salsa
  • 1c grated cheese
    • Use Daiya vegan cheese if you need to be soy & dairy free.
  • Optional: 2nd jar of: salsa, or tomato passata, or basic tomato pasta sauce.
  • Optional: grated carrot, grated zucchini, finely sliced celery.
  • Optional: finely chopped ham or bacon.

Allergies: soy free, gluten free, dairy free*, egg free, nut free.

Note: You’ll see that there are a number of optional ingredients. Personally, I like to add in the extra vegetables so that I have a one dish meal. I also like to add in the extra tomato for flavour (you’ll need to spend more time simmering the mince in order to reduce the extra liquid). The cheese on top helps to flavour the polenta (and is just plain yum); Daiya is apparently affordable in the USA as an allergy-free vegan cheese but it very expensive in New Zealand. If you can’t use cheese, consider adding some light spices to the polenta that is going on top.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C.
  2. Bring the water and salt to the boil in a large pot. When the water is boiling, slowly stir the polenta in and keep stirring to prevent clumping. Stir until smooth and then turn heat to low; cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the polenta from pot and spread half over the bottom of your pie plate or casserole dish.
  4. Heat up your frying pan (or electric wok in my case) and brown your mince; break it up as it cooks. Stir in the cumin, chipotle, and a pinch of salt.
  5. Add the beans + salsa. Also add any additional salsa/pasta sauce and vegetables that you are choosing to use.
  6. Continue cooking over a medium heat.If you are using a minimum of ingredients, you only need to cook until the edges start to bubble.
    • If you have added extra liquid and vegetables then, once the mix has started to bubble, reduce to a low-medium heat until the liquid has reduced and vegetables have started to soften.
  7. Pour the meat mixture on top of the polenta.
  8. Spread the remaining polenta on top. Sprinkle with cheese (if using).
  9. Cook for 20-25 mins at 180’C.
  10. Remove the pie from oven and let it cool for 10-15 mins before serving.
  11. Store lefovers, covered and refridgerated, for up to 3 days.

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Pork Rice Rolls

Getting ready to make summer pork rice rolls

I haven’t made rice rolls in ages and had forgotten how easy they are (if a little time consuming wetting each rice paper wrap). I was excited recently to find a peanut satay sauce that was dairy, soy, and gluten free. It’s concentrated and just needs coconut milk mixed in (a very distinct shrimp & anchovy taste but the coconut milk makes it milder). I decided to use leftover roast pork, summer salad greens from the garden, celery, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and the rice wraps with the satay dipping sauce.

Pork rice wrap

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, gluten free, egg free, tree nut free.

I loved it. Miss 2 decided that it looked new and chewy and wouldn’t try it. In her world acceptable textures are generally crunchy or soft & fluffy. She decided she’d rather eat all the peas, lots of fresh sorrel, a tomato, and a large puffed rice cake with Marmite (her current gluten free favourite alternative to toast). Ah well!