Home Science: Make a colour changing magic potion!

These colour changing molecules can be changed from indigo to brilliant blue or bright pink with a few simple experiments!

Pigments are molecules that contain colour and the ones in red cabbage juice ( anthocyanin ) are pretty special. By adding a base or acid, we can both change their shape and their colour! The pigments are easy to collect and the basis for two easy home experiments: Colour Changing Magic Potions and Making Litmus Paper.

First, you will need to collect some magic molecules from a red cabbage: click here to find out how.

Materials

Change your purple cabbage juice to blue by adding a base and to red/pink by adding an acid.

Directions

  1. Pour your prepared red cabbage juice into two clear glasses or small bowls.
  2. Into one glass, stir 1 tsp of baking soda. Watch the solution turn blue – indicating that the pH has turned basic.
  3. Into the second glass, stir 3 Tbsp of white vinegar. Watch the solution turn red/pink – indicating that the pH has turned acidic.
  4. For fun, pour the glass containing vinegar into the glass containing baking soda and watch them foam! Tip: for less mess, pour both solutions into a big bowl!
Foaming magic potion fun!
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Home Science: Making Litmus Paper

Make your litmus paper to test acids and bases – it’s easy!

You don’t need expensive chemistry kits containing dangerous chemicals to have fun doing science at home. This simple (and colourful) experiment will help you make you own litmus paper so that you can test acids and bases using simple household ingredients. You can also test these by making a colour changing magic potion!

First, you will need to collect some magic molecules from a red cabbage: click here to find out how.

Materials

  • Red cabbage juice
  • Paper towels
  • Water
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • Lemon juice
  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Vinegar
Making home made litmus paper
Home-made Litmus Paper

Directions – Part 1

  1. You will need your red cabbage juice (cooled and strained) and some paper towels. I folded mine twice to make thick squares.
  2. Quickly dip / submerge the paper towels into the red cabbage juice. Don’t hold them under for too long as you want them to collect the colour pigments but not get so soggy that they fall apart. It’s a little like candle dipping – you may need to do a couple of dips to get a good colour.
  3. Place the purple paper towels on a clean tray (that won’t stain) and put them somewhere warm (like the hot water cupboard) to dry until the next day.
  4. You now have litmus paper! Cut them into strips for easy dipping.
Testing Acids and Bases

Directions – Part 2

  1. Using glasses or small bowls prepare the solutions that you want to test. Your litmus paper will stay purple in ph neutral solutions, turn red-pink in acidic solutions, and turn blue in basic solutions.
  2. Dip away!

We used:

Bases: soapy water, baking soda, baking powder.

Acids: vinegar, lemon juice.

Don’t worry if your experiment doesn’t go perfectly (ours didn’t!); simply use it as a talking point to discuss why things didn’t turn out as expected. In our case, the detergent and baking powder didn’t dissolve properly which meant that out litmus paper stayed purple (recognising the ph neutral water). For more ideas on common acids and bases: click here.

Home Science: Making Magic Molecules

These colour changing molecules can be changed from indigo to brilliant blue or bright pink with a few simple experiments!

Pigments are molecules that contain colour and the ones in red cabbage juice ( anthocyanin ) are pretty special. By adding a base or acid, we can both change their shape and their colour! The pigments are easy to collect and the basis for two easy home experiments: Colour Changing Magic Potions and Making Litmus Paper.

Materials

  • 1/2 red cabbage
  • Hot water
  • A food processor (or a big pot)
  • Bowl
  • Fine colander or flour sieve
Simply blending the red cabbage in boiling water produces amazing bubbles!

Directions

  1. Shred or coarsely chop the red cabbage.
  2. You can then choose whether to boil or blend. I chose blending and it’s meant to result in slightly better colour.
    • Boil: Pop in a pot with enough water to cover the cabbage and boil for 15 minutes.
    • Blend: Pop in a food processor with about 3 cups of boiling / hot water. Blend until the cabbage is finely processed and then leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  3. Allow the cabbage mixture to cool and then strain the juice into a bowl. Tip: The juice will stain so glass is great if you have it. I used a flour sieve to strain mine into a glass pyrex jug.

You now have the cabbage juice you need for your two science experiments!

Added Extras

You can also freeze leftover juice in ice cube trays to make all natural coloured icing for birthday cakes or cupcakes!

Black Forest Slice (GF, DF, SF, EF)

Black Forest Slice (GF, DF, SF, EF)

Black Forest Slice (GF, DF, SF, EF)

This delicious slice is full of goodness from almonds, brazil nuts, and cashew nuts. It can be served as a dessert or be frozen and added to school lunches. I wish I’d found such an easy way to make allergy free chocolate earlier!

As an autism and allergy mum, this is also a great way to add some important trace minerals to a restricted diet. It deliberately has quite a smooth texture (which is why I have opted for coconut flour over dessicated coconut).

NOTE: This is a small batch perfect for an 18x15cm pyrex dish; feel free to double the recipe for a larger quantity.

Ingredients

BASE

MIDDLE

TOP

  • 4 Tbsp dutch cocoa
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup

Allergies: gluten free, soy free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free. Contains tree nuts.

Directions

  1. Line a pyrex dish with baking paper with overhanging sides so that you can lift it out easily. (This works better than greasing for slicing and freezing).
  2. Place the base ingredients into a food processor. Blend until well combined and sticking together. Press into the prepared dish and place in the fridge.
  3. Wash the food processor and then use it to blend the middle ingredients until smooth.
  4. Pour the fruit mix over the base and then place in the freezer for 30 minutes to set.
  5. Place the ingredients for the top into a bowl and blend until smooth.
  6. Spread the chocolate mix over the frozen middle layer and return to the freezer for another 20 minutes to set.
  7. Remove the slice from the freezer. Lift out the baking paper and slice into small serves. Enjoy delicious goodness!

Tip: The chocolate will soften easily in summer temperatures so this is best stored in the fridge or freezer. For school lunch boxes, place it in frozen.

Autism Mum – Flour free fudgey chocolate brownies

Healthy Hearts Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Healthy Hearts Chocolate Fudge Brownie Free from dairy, gluten, and soy.

I spend a lot of time thinking about food. It’s a consequence of having an autistic daughter with multiple food allergies, intolerances, and self-restricted eating. At the moment beige and crunchy is popular; meat of any kind is not and calcium is also problematic. I decided that sardine cookies would probably not go down well and decided to turn my attention to lentils instead. Lentils contain a wide range of nutrients and are made up of over 25% protein.

I wanted to make something that tasted decadently chocolatey but without a lot of added sugar and minimizing ingredients that are common allergies. It can easily be adjusted to make it suitable for any food restrictions in the family, daycare, or school.

Healthy heart Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Ingredients

  • 2 x 400g tin lentils (approx. 2 cups of drained lentils)
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil
  • 1/2 cup almond meal + 1/2 cup fine rice flour
    • (or substitute 1 cup plain flour)
  • 1 cup dutch cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • Optional: 90g pureed green vegetables (spinach, peas, courgette)

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free, soy free, peanut free.

What type of lentils to use?

There are many types of lentils and many online recipes suggest using red lentils. This is probably because they are split, skinless, and can have a sweet nutty flavour. To be honest, I went with what what was affordable and convenient – tins of brown lentils!

How can I replace egg?

I used egg as I wanted the protein but for an egg free alternative, you could pre-soak the chia seeds in 6 Tbsp boiling water for 15-20 minutes or use something like Orgran’s Egg Replacer.

Directions

  1. Put oven on to pre-heat to 180’C / 375’F. Grease your brownie tray (I use rice bran oil).
  2. Rinse lentils thoroughly. The lentils will need to be cooked and their cooking time is going to depend on what form you’re using (i.e. dried lentils will need to be simmered for 15-20 minutes).
  3. Put the kettle on to boil while you chop up the dates (the measurement of 1 cup is after they’ve been cut up).
  4. The dates need to be soaked in boiling water until soft. Personally, I took a big pyrex dish, put in my (rinsed) soft brown tinned lentils + my roughly chopped dates + a small amount of water. I then put it in the microwave on High for 2 minutes, stirred, and then put back in the microwave for another 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the hot date / lentil mix into a food processor and blend till smooth.
    • A metal blade is ideal for smoothness but then you’ll need to change to a plastic blade (or wooden spoon) for combining the rest; if you’re not worried about a perfect puree then you can just use a plastic blade throughout.
  6. Mix in sugar and maple syrup. Taste test for sweetness.
    • Note: instead of sugar, you could just use 1/3 cup maple syrup. The dates will also add natural sweetness.
  7. Mix in egg and oil.
  8. Mix in almond meal, rice flour, dutch cocoa, salt, baking powder, chia seeds, and any optional ingredients. (I went for green veggies, someone else might go for chopped walnuts).
  9. Bake for 30-35 mins.

The gluten free version comes out as a soft, fudgey, chocolate slice; with normal flour it will probably be higher and a bit firmer. Blind taste testing by neighbour was successful both for approval rating and not guessing the lentils.

Recommended topping: a spoonful of Nature’s Charm Coconut Chocolate Fudge Sauce. It tastes amazing while also being vegan, dairy free, and soy free.

How do I make my bread light and fluffy?

Musings on baking bread

Musings on baking bread

I’ve written previously about ‘Everything you wanted to know about baking bread‘ and it occurred to me today that it’s a little more process driven than ingredient focused. My journey making bread began because my daughter’s allergies precluded me buying bread (unless I wanted to pay $10 a loaf!). For a long time, I was making all our bread by hand which I found restrictive and time consuming (combined with the level of special needs care she required). I later moved, very happily so, to a Panasonic Bread Maker. That allowed me a little more time to experiment with ingredients and research.

I gave serious contemplation to buying a sourdough starter (sourdough is much easier to digest than commercial bread) but my daughter doesn’t like the tangy taste. I researched ways to make the bread I was feeding my daughter more nutritious. I also made myself more aware of the chemistry involved and how different ingredients impact hydration ratios and rising.

Supermarket bread is essentially refined white flour (so basic starch) with a token amount of other ingredients potentially added; Julian Lee wrote an excellent article in 2018 revealing commercial bread-making processes in New Zealand. At home, you can start with high grade (or strong) white flour but add extra nutrition into the mix.

Whole Wheat

If you can afford to buy stone-ground whole wheat flour then you can make some pretty fine bread. If you’re shopping at the supermarket then it’s sufficient to be aware that the wheat kernel is made up of bran (fiber), the germ (protein and nutrition), and the endosperm (a starchy tissue). You can probably guess which part white flour is made from!

At the supermarket you can buy strong white flour and also buy bags of wheat bran and wheat germ. Not only do these have different nutritional profiles but these also have different impacts on the properties of your bread. Wheat bran has a drying quality and may require additional hydration. Wheat germ will naturally make your bread moister and fluffier.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to make a loaf entirely of white flour. When baking, I usually have 70-80% of my ‘flour’ made up of white flour and then use a range of dry ingredients to make up the weight. This equates to 350-400g of white flour and 50-100g of other flours and seeds.

Wholemeal Spelt Flour

Wholemeal spelt flour has a high nutritional profile and is easier to digest. It also has less gluten so will produce a denser loaf and may require guar gum to help it bind.

Wholegrain Kamut Flour

Like spelt, kamut flour is lower in gluten and easier to digest. It’s a brand name for khorasan wheat and is an older variety of wheat. There have been small studies performed which suggest that kamut flour has health benefits (over standard flour) and may help to reduce certain inflammation markers. It’s important to remember that one of it’s other benefits is that it is an organic wholegrain flour (as opposed to highly refined bleached white flour).

Ground Linseed – Sunflower – Almond (LSA)

Whole seeds can make a loaf dense and the texture doesn’t appeal to everyone. It’s not necessary to pour heaps of whole seeds into your bread dough. You can add plenty of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids just by adding 2 Tablespoons of ground seeds to your bread dough.

Popular powerhouses of nutrition include linseed (flaxseed), sunflower seeds, almonds, and chia seeds. Quinoa is another but I found even small amounts of quinoa flour to have a noticeable taste in the bread.

You might like to rotate different seeds in order to vary your nutritional profile. The cheapest and easiest option is to alternate between ground LSA and ground chia seeds.

Gluten Free Grains

One of my favourite ways of making multi-grain bread is to use Red Mill Gluten Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal. If you’re picturing a cereal box with some puzzlement, it’s actually a mix of freshly milled whole grain brown rice, corn, buckwheat and sorghum. It’s a handy way of adding a broader nutritional profile to the loaf and is so finely milled that it doesn’t overwhelm the loaf. It’s weight-dense so you only need a small amount; it still produces a fluffy loaf and is incorporated into the texture without being obtrusive.

 

 

 

Stories still to come

I was so thrilled to have two of my seasonal pieces published by Spinoff Parenting in the lead up to Christmas. They were about tips and strategies to help ease the pressure and navigate the challenges of Christmas  for kids with autism and kids in general. I’m aware the website has been fairly quiet since (although the Facebook page is still ticking along) and it’s not due to a lack of ideas when it comes to writing. If I could have some telepathic decoder capture the articles I write while driving the car that would be brilliant!

During the school term I have 3-6 hours per week away from Miss 3 (who has a variety of special needs) and although that time is mainly spent running errands or undertaking domestic tasks that cause her sensory distress, sometimes I can squeeze in some writing as well. Those precious hours are also a much needed pressure valve to release some of the tension from being constantly with a little person who studies my every facial expression,  who is incredibly sensitive to emotional undercurrents and needs me to project happy calm 16 hours per day, and requires enormous amounts of support for everything from emotional self-regulation, to being comfortable in her body, OT work, communication, self-care, and play.

During the school holidays this turns into no hours per week and her anxiety being hugely escalated by the disruption to our routines. The summer holidays mean that not only is kindy on holiday but so are all of our other support staff (from occupational therapist to doctors). Events like severe summer storms can cause massive sensory distress and trigger several days of almost constant dysregulation that is exhausting for both of us. She sleeps in my bed because it gives her a sense of stability and security.  We use a lot of social stories and visual communication to talk about our plans for the day. There’s an increase in alternative communication: selective mutism, echolalia, and needing repetitive (and repeatable) scripted dialogue exchanges.

It all adds up to is me investing my energies into my daughter and storing story ideas (like nuts for the winter) for when I have more time. What I want to write about this year is the importance of embracing the new year with a growth mindset, how to encourage and develop character (rather than content) in our young children, how the Danish / Scandanavian parenting and schooling model compares to the NZ / UK / USA model and why we should consider adopting it. I also want to write more gardening and cooking pieces. I’m particularly interested this summer in the exploring the economies of a kitchen garden as well as taking a look at making use of vegetable parts that sometimes end up on the compost (like carrot greens, radish leaves, and squash blossoms).

Make your own doll clothes

Make your own doll clothes

Kimono inspired ‘Frozen’ look

How to inspire your child’s imagination

Miss 3 (ASD) used to hate her dolls wearing clothes; I simply wasn’t allowed to dress them. I think it’s because she has a sensory processing disorder and I guess she assumed the dolls would find clothing as uncomfortable as she does. Then we read This is my dollhouse by Giselle Potter; it’s a great picture book that values imagination and creativity over money. It’s also a good reminder to parents that children don’t inherently need store bought items to be happy in their play (and for those with special needs, commercially made dolls clothes may cause anxiety of failure due to being too fiddly).

How to make your own dolls clothes (cheaply and easily)!

Consider buying some short pieces of colourful ribbon from a local crafts emporium (and let your child help pick), some scraps of fabric (handkerchiefs will also work), and some colourful tape – Kmart is great for this.

You can also make your own necklaces and headpieces for the dolls using simple elastic and beads, again from somewhere like Kmart or a crafts store, like Davids Emporium.

Making clothes this way means that you can change outfits cheaply and easily each day! Having a doll fashion show is also a calming activity for filling a rainy afternoon.

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The Ultimate List of Gifts for Sensory Seekers

Check out the link for a beautifully put together list of toys and equipment that can be used at home for kids with sensory processing disorder; it has tons of photos and is conveniently sorted by sensory systems (vestibular, proprioceptive, oral, tactile, visual, auditory).

Source: The Ultimate List of Gifts for Sensory Seekers

Mass Consumerism and the Endless Quest for the New

Mass Consumerism: New and Shiny!

New and Shiny!

I’m drafting this at 3.30am in the morning. I’m sitting in pyjamas with my daughter curled up next to me, laptop on my knees, lamplight casting a low glow to contrast the light of the tv; ‘Magic School Bus‘ is teaching us about viral invaders. It sounds all warm and cosy; it is…. except it’s 3.30am in the morning!

Don’t get me wrong, Miss 3 is a crap sleeper but tonight (and the night before) isn’t because of her health concerns. We’re awake because yet another nappy company decided to get on the train of ‘New and Improved!’, ‘All New Look!’, ‘Amazing New Technology!’. I could give two shakes of a rat’s tail for their heavy use of the word ‘new’; what I want in nappies is a reliable steadfast product that works. I have enough sleep deprivation in my life without needing to spend time in the supermarket re-evaluating nappy brands.

It’s not that long since popular nappy company Treasures changed their design causing an uproar amongst parents that eventually moved from social media parenting platforms to the mainstream news. I watched with interest (and respect) as one determined mother took our concerns to the news outlets and with our permission shared our crappy experiences (pun intended).

Now another nappy company, Kiddicare, has decided to follow suit and change their design to a dramatically new look that is eerily similar in look to the new design Treasures nappies. Their website claims “Our new five layer ultra-thin absorbent inner core made from hi-tech fibre makes for a better performing nappy.” Their ‘breakthrough technology’ and ‘non traditional materials’ are presumably meant to attract additional customers and justify a price increase.

The reality is that their old nappies worked. They were well priced and effective which is all I actually want in a nappy. I have had countless leaks from the new ultra-thin nappies during both day and night. Tonight I tried double layering the nappies and her pants; they still leaked (despite her only having a few sips of water before bed!) and I was woken yet again by her feeling cold and chilled in the middle of the night. I’ve already complained to the company (firing off an email at 2.30am yesterday) but that still leaves me having paid for a large box of nappies that have no functional purpose.

I’m frustrated and tired (and regretting that mug of coffee now) by lack of sleep and needing to strip bed sheets in the middle of the night. My ASD daughter does not sleep easily and is very routine focused. To her wake up time means a bottle of formula and cartoons; I know from experience that she will be awake for several hours before I have a chance of easing her into a nap. If I’m super lucky I can sometimes get her back to sleep when she wakes during the night but not once I’ve had to change clothes and sheets.

The question arises why multiple nappy companies are feeling the need to change their design in the first place (and why they haven’t done more product testing before release!). One can only assume it’s because they feel the need to dangle something new and shiny in front of consumers to attract their attention (like we’re nothing more than magpies indiscriminately collecting anything from tinfoil to gold watches) and have forgotten that their core purpose should be deliver something that works. I wish they would instead go with the maxim of ‘If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it’ and instead focus on aesthetics. Why can’t they just release limited edition runs of new prints with collectible cards inside the packs? Tell me all about the wonders of pandas and leopards with accompanying cute prints but have the nappies actually work!